City Cinemas Village East

181 2nd Avenue,
New York, NY 10003

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City Cinemas Village East

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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 116 comments)

xbs2034
xbs2034 on December 3, 2015 at 12:08 am

I would hope with nearly 100 theaters nationwide for the 70mm Hateful Eight, they would have at least one other Manhattan location as well. I saw The Master in 70 here, as well as some other films from time to time, but not my favorite layed out theater and a bit on the inconvenient side (close to an hour by public transportation/walking from Union Square) to get to.

If there isn’t anything close by, may wait the two weeks for the DCP wide release, as with family travels and plenty of year end releases, never can catch everything I want right during the holiday season anyway. Though the overture/intermission and six or so extra minutes (apparently a lot of landscape shots included here, and I’m a sucker for beautiful landscape shots in films) of the road show version are very tempting.

cmbussmann
cmbussmann on July 26, 2017 at 11:29 am

Dunkirk in 70mm at Village East was quite impressive.

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on July 27, 2017 at 11:17 am

That’s great news. Is the 70mm screen larger than the 70mm at amc in paramus?

markp
markp on July 27, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Its even better at the Regal E Walk on 42nd St

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on November 13, 2017 at 4:31 am

I visited this theater for the 1st time on Saturday. In the historic auditorium (# 1) I saw “Murder on the Orient Express” shown in 70mm. It is only being shown in 70mm in LA & NYC (including in NY at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square but when I clicked online, not in the large Loews auditorium there). The ticket lobby ceiling is gloriously ornate. The main lobby or foyer as described in the Intro (I helped with the text) & the historic auditorium is, as Ross indicated in the Intro, like a Golden Age Hollywood movie palace! The stadium seated auditorium provided for great sightlines. Surround sound was very good. There are also some classics shown on some Wed evenings, sometime in 35mm. This 2017 article has great photos https://www.6sqft.com/the-urban-lens-inside-the-village-east-cinema-one-of-nys-last-surviving-yiddish-rialto-theaters/

xbs2034
xbs2034 on November 13, 2017 at 9:24 am

I didn’t see Orient Express here (did at Lincoln Square) however I have seen The Master on 70mm as well as a couple digital presentations on the main screen here in recent years, and it’s a great screen.

The other screens here are pretty small and not nearly as nicely decorated. So one nice touch is for about a year now City Cinemas' website and Fandango specially mark those main screen showings under “Jaffe Art Theater” for easy information in case someone wants to see a movie on that screen.

markp
markp on November 13, 2017 at 5:22 pm

xbs2034 I am the projectionist running it at Lincoln Square. What show did you see it? I am one of 3.

xbs2034
xbs2034 on November 13, 2017 at 7:42 pm

I was lucky enough to get to go to the first showing Thursday at 7pm. The presentation was great.

markp
markp on November 14, 2017 at 5:04 am

xbs2034, I wasn’t there for that one. I was at Radio City watching the Christmas Spectacular. (My wife is a dresser there). I’m doing all the matinees everyday plus fri and sat night. Our picture does look good, I must admit.

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