City Cinemas Village East

181 2nd Avenue,
New York, NY 10003

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City Cinemas Village East

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 154 comments)

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 13, 2018 at 6:49 pm

For three out of the past four weeks, the highest grossing movie in the US based on per-screen average has been “2001”. If only Stanley were still alive to see this.

Ericeman
Ericeman on June 14, 2018 at 8:07 am

So it’s been a good long while since I’ve been to Village East and I’m wondering screen size compared between here and the Garden State AMC. This is, of course, in reference to 2001 and I get the feeling AMC might have a bigger screen though that’s only based off of the usual small screen NYC art house experience. Thoughts?

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on June 14, 2018 at 12:32 pm

I’ve not been to the AMC Garden State, but on my 1 visit here, to see the 70mm “Murder on the Orient Express” I estimated the screen width for the movie in that ratio (2.2, just like 2001 in 70mm) at about 34 feet wide, a fairly decent sized screen. Sightlines count too & there are excellent sightlines in the Village East main auditorium. Orient Express was properly matted/masked here. Surround sound was very good, too.

RobertEndres
RobertEndres on June 14, 2018 at 1:56 pm

You should be aware that the Village East main auditorium has a very steep downward angle for projection. The screen which had been onstage when it was a single house was moved forward when the proscenium was bricked up to create the two backstage screens. There is a fair amount of cropping to account for the keystone. I saw a 2.2 70mm print here when the house opened and it looked as if the picture were almost 1.85. They did have lenses that shifted the image up a bit, but one of the engineers I work with has tech checked a couple of 70mm prints here and always laments the crop.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on June 14, 2018 at 3:25 pm

RobertEndres, you are right- the film I saw here didn’t look as wide screen as I expected! Would the keystone effect also affect 1.85 or (and some new films as well as old) 1.33/1.37?

xbs2034
xbs2034 on June 14, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Bigjoe59- I saw The Seagull here a couple weeks ago, and was a bit funny to see the giant G rating on the 2001 poster outside, cause even while it is far from a graphic film, not what people associate with the G rating today.

But it’s a mix of there being no PG-13 rating until the mid 1980s and the MPAA starting to get much stricter during the 1990s that lead to questionable ratings one finds on some older films (as some examples of the changes look at the PG rated All the President’s Men which has language that would trigger an R now, or the formerly G rated Wizard of Oz getting a PG when it was resubmitted for the 3D re-release several years ago).

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 14, 2018 at 6:38 pm

Ericeman: I’m going to the AMC Garden State 16 on Sunday and I’ll ask about the screen size. If nobody knows, I’ll give you my best estimate.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on June 14, 2018 at 9:34 pm

Hello-

I thank xbs2034 for replying. granted films rated PG before the creation of the PG-13 rating the fall of 1984 would certainly get a PG-13 today. but what surprised me was films with a G rating having more than one scene of bare butt nudity and in the case of the 1968 Planet of the Apes a very quick shot of everything where they’re swimming near the waterfall.

Ericeman
Ericeman on June 15, 2018 at 6:08 am

@Bill Sweet thanks! NYC houses aren’t always known for size so it’ll be nice to know if it’s worth it to go back to my old stomping grounds (grew up in NJ!). To be fair though I haven’t been to Village East since seeing The Master so unless the report is WOAH! there’s a good chance I’ll check it out here.

Worth noting if it hasn’t been said already: it’s supposed to be opening at MoMI (a pretty great room, good screen size for the NYC art house scene) and Alamo (can’t speak for screen size here).

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 18, 2018 at 7:40 pm

I would estimate the screen size in AMC Garden State theater #15 in Paramus as 60 feet wide, which was the same size as the screen at the original Stanley Warner Route 4 down the road, which played 2001 many times. Lots of head turning was necessary from the front row, which is a good way to watch 2001. About 30 people were there for the 3:30 PM show on Sunday.

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