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 transferring 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 as the Village East Cinema on February 21, 1991 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 fa├žade 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 160 comments)

Ericeman
Ericeman on June 14, 2018 at 10:08 pm

@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 11:40 am

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.

ridethectrain
ridethectrain on August 30, 2019 at 2:41 pm

Please update, the Village East Cinema opened February 21, 1991

Orlando
Orlando on September 17, 2019 at 3:10 pm

The Village East can be seen in the new film “The Goldfinch” which it subs as the Bowery Theatre (on the Village East marquee) and some auditorium shots (in the balcony of the original theatre). Don’t blink, both scenes run a mere minute. The picture isn’t the bomb the critics claim it to be as I don’t read papers until I see the picture. A drama that should be seen unlike half the trash they throw at the screen these days.

Orlando
Orlando on September 17, 2019 at 3:11 pm

The theatre was playing one film about Glenn Gould.

spectrum
spectrum on July 27, 2020 at 2:19 pm

Open as the Louis N. Jaffe theatre in 1925-1926.

There’s a great article with a photo gallery at:

https://www.6sqft.com/the-urban-lens-inside-the-village-east-cinema-one-of-nys-last-surviving-yiddish-rialto-theaters/

The very ornate ceiling is quite amazing and unique!

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on July 27, 2020 at 3:43 pm

Wonder if Tenet will play here in 70mm as part of select cities on Labor Day weekend before opening at more cinemas in the weeks ahead.

ridethectrain
ridethectrain on July 27, 2020 at 8:29 pm

only if the governor allows the theatre to open

hdtv267
hdtv267 on July 28, 2020 at 1:15 am

Gotta wonder if this dude is on Nolan’s payroll sometimes with this.

Here’s an idea, let’s obsess over everyone doing the right thing so the theatres can re-open in the first place- then can worry about what is playing where and how.

ridethectrain
ridethectrain on September 17, 2020 at 8:38 pm

Please update, total seats 1183 based on City Cinemas Reserved Seat ticketing system

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