Anco Theatre

254 West 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Anco Theatre

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Comic acting team Lew Fields and Joe Weber closed their music hall on 26th Street in 1904 after nearly a decade and were given a new theatre by their employer, Oscar Hammerstein, after their enormous success playing the Victoria Theatre.

Opened on 42nd Street, the new theatre, designed by Albert Westover, could seat about 770 and was best known for its tiered boxes on each side of the proscenium arch, which could seat over 20. It was also one of the earliest Broadway theatres which contained a fire-prevention system, complete with a pair of 5000-gallon water tanks on the roof, in response to the Iroquois Theatre tragedy in Chicago a year earlier, which killed hundreds of theatre-goers.

The theatre, named the Lew M. Fields, opened with a highly successful musical comedy that ran half a year, but afterwards, Fields sold the theatre to actor/producer James K. Hackett, who named the theatre for himself.

In 1911, William B. Harris took over the theater, and, of course, it was renamed again for him. Showman H.H. Frazee ran the theatre from 1920 until 1922 under his name, but in 1924, its newest name, Wallack’s, was after a long-gone mid-19th century theatre.

In 1930, after 25 years of legitimate theatre, Wallack’s was converted into a movie house, which meant that its simple-yet-graceful turn-of-the-century decor was mostly torn out, including the boxes, dressing rooms and its stage sealed off.

A decade later, renamed the Anco Theatre, the theatre was operated by the Cinema Circuit Corp. chain. It was further vandalized by the removal of one of its two balconies, and its Beaux-Arts facade hacked off. For another nearly half century, the box-like theatre served as a movie house, before being shuttered in 1988, when its interior was totally gutted for retail use.

In 1997, in the wake of the redevelopment of 42nd Street, the former theatre was razed.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 78 comments)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 15, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Welcome to CT, Michelle!

MichelleMaren
MichelleMaren on February 16, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Thanks for the welcome Ed. I was searching for photos of the Anco marquee that featured my picture and came across this site. My pic was supposed to be a take on this Jennifer Beals shot: Flash Dance
While I am grateful for the 2 pics I found here, I would like to find a shot where my face it clearly visible. If anyone has any pictures of the east and/or west sides of the Anco Theater marquee from 1984-86, please share them here. I would really appreciate it. Thanks.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 17, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Sorry can’t help there, Michelle. Coincidentally, the two photos you did find are from my Photobucket scrapbook. The B&W image comes with the permission of the photographer, the talented and gracious Matt Weber. Matt has a website at www.urbanphotos.com and he took many photos of 42nd Street and the Times Square area in the 1980’s. You might consider contacting him to see if, by chance, he has any shots of the Anco marquee from this period that offer a cleare view of your image. Good luck. If I come across anything in my own perusals, I’ll be sure to let you know about it here.

MichelleMaren
MichelleMaren on February 19, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Thanks Ed. I will definitely try to contact Matt Weber. Thanks for the help.

woody
woody on May 6, 2009 at 10:34 am

photo i took in dec 1992 in the very last days of 42nd streets sleazy glory
http://www.flickr.com/photos/woody1969/3508137778/

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm

This was my least favorite of the 42nd Street line-up, and I was not sorry to see it close. It stunk to high heaven and because of its late run bookings and rock bottom prices it seemed to attract an even lower class of patrons than the other houses, if that’s possible! When I was here there was no balcony, only a raised rear mezzanine, like at the new Ziegfeld. But that’s where the similarity ended.

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on May 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I am working on a project to document the history of adult theatres in the US. If anyone has any person memories of the Anco they would be willing to share, please contact me at mjprigge at uwm dot edu

Snooze_King
Snooze_King on August 8, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Back in the ‘80s, when I arrived in TS from the West Coast, the Deuce was always hiring. I went into the employment office and the lady said, “Go apply at the porn theatres. Better still, apply at Show World Center. They’re open 24/365 and they always need mop men. It’s disgusting work, but it pays a little bit of the rent.”

Alanem
Alanem on December 23, 2013 at 8:48 pm

My Dad Paul was the manager of the Anco theater during the mid to late 1950’s. There was a robbery there in 1959 during a showing of Shootout at the OK Corral! He also managed the Prospect theater in the Bronx before that for Cinema Circuit! As far as I can remember, the ANCO played mostly action and adventure films with some Sci-fi mixed in. It didn’t have a candy stand, just vending machines. I think it was painted pink inside!? The usher Chris sold Ice Cream from a tray during the intermission. It was owned by Cinema Circuit. The partners were Mark I. Finklestein and Max Cohen. Cohen’s daughter was ANNA COHEN! So they named it AN—CO after his daughter!

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