Elysee Theatre

202 West 58th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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Actor-turned-playwright John Golden was a former architecture student and designed the layout for his self-named theater himself in 1926, although the main designs were by architect Harrison G. Wisemean. Built across the street from Jolson’s Theatre, on 58th Street, the Golden’s facade was almost severely plain-looking but inside, it was something out of Old Spain.

The 885-seat theater included a balcony, a very narrow, unadorned lobby, a full orchestra, and a square-shaped proscenium. The general color theme of the auditorium was originally olive and gold, and contained wrought-iron chandeliers and the house curtain was decorated with an illustration of a Spanish galleon.

After nearly a decade of legitimate theater, Golden was forced to sell off his theater due to the Depression, and in 1935, it was taken over by John Cort, who renamed it Cort’s 58th Street Theatre, and featured mostly stage comedies.

However, within a year, Cort gave up the theater, and it began to screen foreign movies, under the name of the Filmarte, and shortly thereafter, as the Fine Arts.

In 1942, it was renamed yet again, as the Concert Theatre, and presented its first live act in seven years, a comedy called “Of V We Sing”, which played very briefly. A year later, the theater became a house of worship, as the Rock Church, and seating was increased to over 1,000.

However, by 1946, the church was gone, and it was named Cort’s 58th Street once again. However, rather than a return to legitimate theater, as was planned, it was instead leased by the ABC network as a radio studio for a number of years, before again returning to foreign feature films in the late-1940’s, this time under the name the Elysee Theatre.

In 1955, ABC returned and used it as a television studio until it closed in 1985. It was demolished a few months later.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 27 comments)

KGordonMurray
KGordonMurray on April 11, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Yes, Blankety Blanks was taped at the Elysee Theatre, more correctly referred to as ABC Studio TV-15 by that time. The pilot was shot Monday Feb 10, 1975. The series itself only lasted 10 weeks though.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on March 3, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Stopped showing movies in May 1949 with the classic “Carnival In Flanders”

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on June 14, 2010 at 5:45 am

The first run of “Carnival In Flanders” was also the opening film when it became a cinema in 1936.

RichardWilson
RichardWilson on August 24, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I believe a small part of the Elysee Theater is still standing and integrated into the Choir School. It appears to be the “narrow, unadorned lobby” referred to in the main description, since it looks very old with a possibly Moorish design of the original building. As I recall, the lobby was on the right hand side of the theater. I attended a taping of “The Dick Cavett Show” here in about 1970, when I was a college student. 15 years later, I had the good fortune to work as a writer for Mr. Cavett on his short-lived USA Network series in 1985.
– Richard Wilson

KGordonMurray
KGordonMurray on September 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Regarding Mr. Wilson’s post: my recollection of the Elysee’s site was one of complete demolition. I worked for ABC-TV at the time and curiously passed by one afternoon to ‘say good-bye’ to what was our stalwart Studio TV-15. There was nothing left. I would love to believe there is extant Elysee architecture still occupying 202 W 58 St., but I think it unlikely. Oh! How I would love to be proved wrong! I also attended Mr. Cavett’s show there and later on made many visits during “The $20,000 Pyramid” era. How lucky you were to have worked with Mr. Cavett!! A brilliant writer.

edschuster
edschuster on November 11, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I was the manager of the Elysee Theatre for about a year in 1952. A major show then was “Stop the Music,” and they had some very fine guest singers. I’ll never forget sitting in my office and hearing an angel’s voice from outside and below. I rushed out to hear Sarah Vaughan singing “Tenderly.” But my most memorable moment was a benefit for Adlai Stevenson, especially after the show when Tallulah Bankhead rushed into his body declaring, “Darling, I’ve been working my bones off for you.” I’ve never seen a more startled gentleman. (Eisenhower also did a tape there.)

jimmo531
jimmo531 on August 8, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Why was this theater re-named, for the second time from “Cort’s 58th Street Theatre” to “The Elysee Theatre” in the late 1940s? Does anyone know this?

Did the theater owner)s) of that time have some affinity for the Elysee Palace in France and/or did the architecture of the building in any way resemble the French palace? Or did the owner(s) just think that a good name for a venue showing foreign films?

Ed Miller
Ed Miller on November 21, 2014 at 4:47 pm

I’m sorry, but I must beg to differ about the information here regarding the John Golden/Cort Theater. I had an office job at 220 West 58th Street in 1973-74 (that building was recently demolished) and next to it was “The Dick Cavett Theater,” which had previously been the Golden/Cort. I walked that block this past summer, and I could see the remains of the Golden/Cort, though there’s no marquee, and the entrance doors have been surfaced over. (I saw Lucille Ball, as Cavett’s only guest, in this theater, when she was publicizing her movie, “Mame”.)

Ed Miller
Ed Miller on November 21, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I just checked Google Maps, and the John Golden/Cort/Elysee/Dick Cavett Theater is still standing, exactly where I described it in my previous post. It is the building on the far right in the picture at the top of this page, and if you look at the Google Maps image of August, 2014, the theater is the building covered with scaffolding.

KGordonMurray
KGordonMurray on November 21, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Alas, Mr. Miller, your recollection of what you believe to be the Elysee/ABC Studio TV-15 is mistaken. The structure you cite in your above posts is not, nor was it ever at any time, a part of the Elysee. It’s an adjoining building. Please trust me on this. I’m a former ABC-TV employee…I assure you there isn’t a single remnant of that theatre still standing on 58th St. I saw the deep hole where it had once stood. I have in my possession 14 blueprints of the Elysee from various periods during ABC’s ownership. These include structural changes, dressing room makeovers, seating configurations and so on. The Elysee stood on what is Block 1029/Lot 37. That lot measures 75-feet wide by 100-feet 5-inches deep. It (and the theatre, of course) is a simple rectangle. As you know—having seen Lucy there (what luck!) the theatre’s orientation was north to south (i.e.; the front entrance on 58th St—the back wall of the stage oriented south of 58th). The building to its west (the one you point out) isn’t a part of the lot; the theatre’s west wall adjoined it. Mr. Miller, as I indicated above in Sept 2010, I so wish it were true that the Elysee—or even a piece of—still stood. It doesn’t and hasn’t since 1985. The St. Thomas Choir School now sits on “Block 1029/Lot 37”.

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