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The Gaiety Theatre was opened by Klaw and Erlanger in 1908 at Broadway and 46th Street, designed in Louis XV style, containing two balconies, boxes, and a large proscenium arch. Seating a little over 800, the Gaiety Theatre was designed by the firm of Herts & Tallant, the duo also behind the New Amsterdam, Liberty and Follies-Bergere Theatres (better known as the first Helen Hayes Theatre, and before that, the Fulton).
Home to numerous successful legitimate shows in its first nearly two decades of operation, such stars as Helen Hayes, John Barrymore and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. all appeared onstage during this time. The Gaiety eventually switched, like so many other Broadway houses, to movies in 1926 (except for a short-lived foray into musical stage shows in 1931-2). In the mid-30s, in addition to movies, the Gaiety began to present burlesque acts, and soon the Gaiety was the city’s premier burlesque house, even hosting the occasional big-name Hollywood act onstage, like Abbott and Costello.
In 1942, an attempt at reviving vaudeville at the Gaiety Theatre failed, and later the same year, the theater was renamed the Victoria Theatre, and returned to movies.
In the 1970’s, the Guild Theatres chain acquired the Victoria Theatre and renamed it the Embassy 5, being their fifth house in the Times Square area.
By the late-1970’s, however, it had closed. Despite the efforts of preservationists, the theater met the wrecking ball in 1982. During the demolition, however, a section of the 46th Street facade collapsed into the street, forcing its closure for more than two days.
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