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Designed by architect Charles Cavenaught and opened in 1901 by Charles Evans and W.D. Mann in Columbus Circle, the Circle Music Hall was designed to present “high class, polite vaudeville” aimed towards middle-class families who at the time called the surrounding area home. However, a neighboring church objected to an entertainment venue so close, and after a nearly-year-long legal battle, the church won out, and Evans and Mann were forced to change their venue to an orchestra hall, which the neighboring populace was not interested in. It was closed by the end of 1901.
In 1902, an agreement was reached with the church and the Music Hall became the Circle Theatre, now under new management, presenting only legitimate theater.
Within a couple years, however, legitimate was out, and vaudeville in. By 1905, when the Colonial Theatre nearby began presenting vaudeville acts, the Circle Theatre switched to burlesque, as well as the occasional early motion picture presentation.
In 1906, the Circle Theatre was completely remodeled by Thomas W. Lamb, raising the auditorium’s roof, adding a second balcony and rebuilt the Broadway facade in stately Neo-Classical style. The same year, the Circle Theatre returned to legitimate theater.
The Circle Theatre’s final legitimate act was in 1909, which was a complete failure, and the Circle Theatre went back to vaudeville and burlesque acts. Loew’s Inc. ran the Circle Theatre as one of its movie houses from the late-1910’s until 1931, when it was closed. It was operated for the next few years as an independent movie theater, until a bomb was exploded there in 1935 during a labor dispute, causing massive damage to the lobby and box office.
The Circle Theatre was gutted in 1939 and rebuilt as the Columbus Circle Roller Rink which survived until 1954 when most of the western side of Columbus Circle was bulldozed for the construction of the New York Convention Center.
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