City Cinemas Village East

181 Second Avenue,
New York, NY 10003

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City Cinemas Village East

Viewing: Photo | Street View

City Cinema’s beautifully restored Village East was once the home of Yiddish theater in its 1,200-seat auditorium. Legend has it that Walter Matthau began his film career here as a young boy working at the concession counter.

Its past is still evident in the Moorish designs that adorn both the inside and outside of the theater. Yiddish writing outside the lobby and a large star of David in the dome of the main auditorium further infuse atmosphere into the historic building. By the late-1930’s it was operating as a movie theatre, named Century Theatre (listed as (Closed) in 1941 & 1943). By 1950, it had reopened as a movie theatre renamed Stuyvesant Theatre, with a seating capacity for 1,082.

Today in the basement below the original ornate theater and lobby, four screening rooms have been added with seating provided in screen 2;187, screen 3;179, screen 4;130 and screen 5;66. A further two screens have been added on the former stage area of the theatre, which are stacked one on top of the other. The screen on top has wonderful stadium seating, a decent size screen, and is a very nice theatre in itself. It is not as beautiful as the main auditorium, but does have exposed brickwork and some character.

With New York City’s lack of a still-operating historic movie palace, the Village East is the closest thing around.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 93 comments)

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on May 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Here’s a 1937 view as the Century Theatre: lunaimaging

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 30, 2012 at 4:48 am

So, it seems Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, “The Master,” has been scheduled here for a 70mm engagement. Please tell me that the 70mm projectors are for the original 1200 seat auditorium?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 31, 2012 at 5:32 am

The theater’s official website has a few photographic glimpses of the original auditorium.

I’m sure this must have been mentioned elsewhere in this thread, but it appears that the main room no longer seats 1200. In fact, that capacity seems to have been greatly reduced, due not only to the installation of wider, high-back seats, but the conversion of the orchestra level to stadium-style seating sloping steeply from the base of the stage right up to the facing of the old balcony.

The site notes that auditoriums range in capacity from 70 to 370 seats, and nowhere does it mention anything about having 70mm projection equipment (likely due to a general lack of demand for that kind of facility).

Edward Havens
Edward Havens on August 31, 2012 at 10:56 pm

The Village East Cinemas website used to have a rental pricing chart which listed the seating capacity of each theatre. According to that chart, the main house has (or had, in 2003) 444 seats.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on September 1, 2012 at 5:36 am

The balconies shown in the website’s photos are still open?

We will delete the “1200 seats” from the Intro.

Macalincag
Macalincag on September 14, 2012 at 6:38 am

They have installed two 70mm projectors for PTA’s ‘The Master’. One of them for theater 1.

They’ve had to get a lot of parts to get these projectors up and running as they haven’t been used in 20 years.

LouRugani
LouRugani on October 30, 2012 at 5:28 pm

This was the location for the film-theatre sequence in “Unfaithful” (2002). (“Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” was the feature in the storyline.)

techman707
techman707 on April 4, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I worked as a projectionist there in 1968 and 1969. They had strip shows and ran porn films in between the stage shows. They filmed “The Night They Raided Minsky’s” in 1968. In 1969, the play “Oh Calcutta” opened.

The theatre also went under the name of the Murray Schwartz Theater.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on April 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm

As I recall, the original projection/sound package we bought for the new 7-plex included Simplex 35/70mm machines in the main house and the largest house in the cellar, along with the 6-channel mag stereo Dolby processors, I don’t think digital had made its debut yet. The other 5 screens had Simplex 35mm machines and 4-channel Dolby processors. Plus, we got one professional grade 16mm machine with xenon lamp, I don’t recall the brand, that was set up to interface with the automation and audio systems in at least 2, if not all the screens in the cellar. Ralph Donnelly was booking the place at the time, and he made the rounds at Cannes and other prominent film festivals, and several times came back with a low-budget independent film that he thought was promising but had only 16mm prints.

Garth
Garth on December 2, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I saw “All is Lost” here today but arrived late and didn’t have time to look around. There were curtains on the screen, something I haven’t seen in 35 years. I shall return to inspect the historic theatre and try the popcorn.

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