Nova Theatre

3589 Broadway,
New York, NY 10031

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Harris Theatrical Enterprises, Lesser Theatre Services

Architects: George Frederick Pelham

Functions: Retail

Previous Names: Bunny Theatre, Dorset Theatre, Tapia Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Nova Theatre

Opened in around December 1913 as the Bunny Theatre. The name ‘Bunny’ has over the years been incorrectly attributed to early film star John Bunny, but this is not the case. The Bunny Theatre was built for Carl E. Schultze, an artist and creator of the popular ‘Foxy Grandpa’ comic strip, which he signed with his pen name ‘Bunny’ and a drawing of a rabbit. Across the top of the façade, a stone inscription read the name ‘Bunny’, and on each side of the name was a rabbit head. By 1930, there was also a 702-seat Bunny Roof Theatre operating here. Schultze died in 1939, and by 1941 it had been renamed Dorset Theatre when it was operated by Harris Theatrical Enterprises. It retained the Dorset Theatre name until at least 1958. It was later renamed Tapia Theatre.

The Tapia Theatre was purchased in 1978 by Adriana & Ramon Nova and was renamed Nova Theatre following a refurbishment. In 1983 it was being operated by Lesser Theatre Services. The Nova’s would later pass it over to their son Jesus Nova and the theatre was triplexed. Although the Bunny Theatre’s sign is gone, remnants of the original exterior and interior remained. The very top of the building’s façade remained as originally built.

Sadly, the Nova Theatre closed in late-August 2002 and was gutted. Jesus Nova went on to operate the Coliseum Theatre (former RKO Coliseum Theatre, now demolished) at W. 181st Street & Broadway. A 99 cent store has opened in the former Bunny Theatre building. In the Summer of 2009, the decorative façade was taken down.

Contributed by Ross Melnick, Cezar Del Valle

Recent comments (view all 94 comments)

dallasmovietheaters on January 23, 2016 at 4:00 pm

When Bradberry and Brandon opened the Bunny Theatre in 1913, the seating capacity was 1,300 but also housed a roof garden fanned by the Hudson River where patrons could also watch features using the very same Powers projectors 88' away from the screen as in the indoor theater. An 88 note Photoplayer was in the orchestra pit to entertain the gathering crowds. And in less than a year, the Bunny Program Guide had 1,500 subscribers to keep potential patrons up to date on forthcoming shows

jordanlage on June 21, 2016 at 9:38 am

This theater was apparently known as the Tapia for a while, at least in the 1970s. Anyone know why it was named that and then changed to the Nova? Simply new management renaming it?

StevenOtero on July 2, 2017 at 5:48 am

Article about The Tapia Theater.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 5, 2018 at 10:50 am

By late 1996 this theatre was clearly listing four titles with full schedules in the NYT Weekend Movie Clock. Does anyone know if it was really ever a quad or were the show times simply a smoke screen for double-booked screens?

Ace on April 5, 2019 at 5:02 pm

@ Al Alvarez: The Nova topped out as a three-screen theater; your theories may be right.

On another note, have been doing some research on Upper Manhattan theaters and stumbled upon a February 19, 1979 issue of New York Magazine. They wrote a one-page article on what was then NYC’s longest-standing movie theaters, one of which was the Nova. They mentioned the Nova family taking over the (former Tapia) theater the previous year (1978) and spending eight months and thousands of dollars refurbishing it. Should the overview be updated?

Ace on July 16, 2019 at 7:55 pm

As of July 2019, the 99-cent store that has occupied the former Nova Theater’s space has closed. This entire side of 147th/Broadway has been extensively leveled and re-developed at the behest of Columbia University (which owns the real estate), with the former theater space being the only remnant of what once were a collection of low-rise buildings.

Wonder if the space will get a new tenant or face the wrecking ball?

ridethectrain on July 4, 2021 at 1:14 pm

Please update, theatre closed July 18, 2002

Ace on October 10, 2021 at 1:41 pm

@ridethectrain Having lived in the neighborhood the same summer it was closed, I recall the Nova closing in late August 2002, just before Labor Day. “XXX” (released 8/9/2002) was one of the last movies that premiered there.

The lobby photos I’d uploaded are from July 2002 however.

ridethectrain on October 11, 2021 at 11:23 pm

How was this theater divided into 3 screens

eddie5959 on January 26, 2023 at 2:15 pm

I was suppose to had went to see Boyz N The Hood at the Bunny back in 1991 I was in a cab with my girlfriend at the time and we had a argument and we never made it to the theater we ended up watching it on a VHS tape.

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