City Cinemas Village East

181 2nd 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 theatre in its original auditorium which had 1,252 seats in orchestra & balcony levels. Legend has it that Walter Matthau began his show business career here as a young boy working at the concession counter.

Built in 1925 and opening in 1926, its past is still evident in the Moorish style designs that adorn the outside of the theatre and inside, which are the work of interior designer William Pogany. The ticket lobby has an ornate ceiling and the main lobby that has a concession stand is very ornate, including the ceiling and has Yiddish writing in the decoration. The ornate decorations extend to the exits to the outside, and there are two grand stairways which lead to the balcony of the auditorium where a large Star of David in the domed ceiling 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). Then reopened as a Yiddish theatre until 1945. By 1950, it had reopened as a movie theatre renamed Stuyvesant Theatre, with a seating capacity for 1,082.

In 1971 a short run ‘off-Broadway’ production of “Grease” was performed here before transfering to Broadway where it ran for 9 years (3,388 performances). On November 18, 1981 until January 24, 1982 a pre-Broadway production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was performed at the then renamed Entermedia Theatre prior to its Broadway transfer to the Royale Theatre where it ran for 747 performances and winning several Tony Awards.

The movie theatre also hosted dance, concerts & movies until it closed as a single auditorium in 1988. It reopened in 1992 as a 7-screen movie theatre. Today in the basement below the original ornate auditorium and lobby, four screening rooms have been added in what was originally the orchestra seating area. Seating here is 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, Screen 6;145 & Screen 7;174. The screen on top has wonderful stadium seating, a decent size screen, and is a very nice theatre in itself, with exposed brickwork and some character. However, it is not as beautiful as the main 440-seat Screen 1 auditorium which is located in the former balcony, with stairs down to a lower floor inserted over the circle void where there are 40 seats. As of 2017 this auditorium has 365 seats.

With New York City’s lack of a still-operating historic movie palace, the Village East is the closest thing around. The theatre is listed on both the State & National Historic Registers and its facade and interior, including the lobby and domed auditorium, are designated New York City Landmarks. In 2015 the historic main auditorium’s magnificent plaster ceiling was restored.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 143 comments)

bigjoe59 on May 24, 2018 at 6:17 pm


to markp. I like your witty comment. I don’t see what would have been soooooooooooooo horrible if Nolan had restored the print before making the 70MM prints for the 50th Anniversary. is Nolan saying classic films should never be restored?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 24, 2018 at 6:58 pm

Nolan just wanted a nice analog representation of what 2001: A Space Odyssey looked like to audiences back in 1968 – albeit without the gigantic curved Cinerama screen (no doubt a huge part of the initial 2001 experience). Still, no digital overlays, no color correcting… Just a nice fresh 70mm print off the interpositive as may have been enjoyed by audiences on general release, anyway.. My understanding is that the film is being restored digitally in preparation for a 50th anniversary Blu-ray release later in the year. That will have all the digital bells and whistles applied and make for wonderful viewing at home – and maybe even at the odd cinema in 4K projection, if the powers that be are so inclined. But that end product will not look like a negative to film transfer would have looked in 1968.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 25, 2018 at 2:59 pm

I guess it’s too much to hope for a Smilebox curved screen simulation on the 2018 Blu-ray. How the West Was Won came out spectacularly in that format 10 years ago.

bigjoe59 on May 25, 2018 at 3:54 pm


to Ed S. thank you for your reply. I was fortunate to have seem 2001 twice during its roadshow run at the Capitol on the gigantic curved Cinerama screen. I suppose every viewing of the film in a theater will be judged against those two viewings.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 25, 2018 at 6:42 pm

I’m not sure the smilebox presentation would work well for a regular anamorphic or spherical widescreen film. It does wonders for a true three-strip Cinerama flick like HTWWW or Brothers Grimm, where the viewing plane gets distorted and just doesn’t work in a flat screen presentation.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 25, 2018 at 7:43 pm

Brothers Grimm in Smilebox … sigh. That’s my home video Holy Grail. Too bad there are no plans at all to release it. I should just be grateful I got to see it in Cinerama in 2012.

NYer on May 25, 2018 at 9:35 pm

2001 A Space Odyssey – Trailer(Smilebox Cinerama)

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 25, 2018 at 9:55 pm

That was pretty great NYer!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 26, 2018 at 12:28 am

Then again, I could be wrong! That was pretty spectacular looking, NYer!!!

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 26, 2018 at 8:47 am

Nothing does justice to the Star Gate sequence as well as a curved screen. Maybe Warner Home Video is going to surprise us?

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