Henry Miller's Theatre
124 W. 43rd Street,
8 people favorited this theater
Previously operated by: Nederlander Organization
Architects: Harry Creighton Ingalls
Previous Names: Park-Miller Theatre, Avon-at-the-Hudson, Xenon, Shout, Kit Kat Klub
Located across W. 43rd Street from the Town Hall Theatre, actor Henry Miller opened his Georgian-style playhouse in 1918, and it was immediately hailed as one of the most beautiful and luxurious theatres to ever open on Broadway.
The 950-seat theatre was designed by H.C. Ingalls. Its two-balcony auditorium resembled more a movie palace than a traditional legitimate theatre, with plentiful use of marble, gilding, and, from its domed ceiling, a massive crystal chandelier.
The Palladian-style red-brick facade featured the theatre’s name inscribed above a trio of arched windows and a pair of huge urns set in niches above which were medallions with representations of the Greek Muses.
During its early years, Henry Miller’s Theatre had difficulty finding a hit, but by 1926, a several-month long run of Noel Coward in his self-written play, “The Vortex” became the first on the Henry Miller’s stage. 1926 was also the year Miller died, but the theatre remained in his family.
In the early-to-mid-1930’s, while many other Broadway houses were on the decline, switching to movies, burlesque or use as radio studios, Henry Miller’s Theatre began to really hit its stride.
From the 1930’s until the early-1960’s, the theatre enjoyed its golden years, and the list of actors who played on its stage is impressive: Helen Hayes, Leslie Howard, Lillian Gish, Douglas Fairbanks, and Ruth Chatterton.
In 1967, the Millers sold their playhouse to the Nederlander Organization, who, despite assurances it would continue on as a legitimate house, leased it for screening movies, beginning in 1969, with the premiere of Andy Warhol’s “Lonesome Cowboys”.
However, art movies didn’t stay around long at the theatre, renamed first the Park-Miller Theatre, then Avon-at-the-Hudson (after the real Hudson Theater was shuttered). It quickly became one of the most well-known gay porn theatres in the city, which remained open until 1977, when its owner at the time, Seymour Dunst, announced that the theatre would be restored to its original glory and return to legit.
Instead, in 1978, it was reopened by Howard Stein as a disco called Xenon after a $2 million renovation. In this era it competed with Studio 54, and Jellybean Benitez was the resident DJ. Xenon was featured as a location scene in the 1981 movie “Nighthawks” staring Sylvester Stalone. After the disco closed in around 1984, it remained dark for a while, then reopened as another successful disco named Shout in the late-1980’s.
It reopened in the mid-1990’s, for a stage revival of “Cabaret”, and renamed the Kit Kat Klub, in following the 1930’s era German theme of the show. It also received a gaudy remodeling to turn its interior into something like the musical’s title venue.
The successful run of “Cabaret” ended when a crane working on construction next door collapsed, closing 43rd Street for over a month. “Cabaret” transferred to the former Studio 54 where it carried on its successful run. The house was dark again for a short time, before reopening in the fall of 2001, under its original name, with the popular musical “Urinetown”.
Sadly, Henry Miller’s Theatre was closed in late-January, 2004 and was torn down in March 2004 (except for its landmarked facade). A large office tower was constructed on the site and includes a new theatre space named Stephen Sondheim Theatre.
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Recent comments (view all 71 comments)
The Harris? Is there a theater behind that front wall? I think you mean the Lyric and Apollo, which kept the 42nd and 43rd Street facades and many architectural ornamentation, but lost their roofs and everything else and were gutted to the ground; a brand-new theater was constructed on the site, much as the Miller was.
The Selwyn? That was truly a renovation, since the auditorium is intact and was extensively renovated back to its original look. The lobby did collapse during construction and was rebuilt.
I’m not familiar with the New Yorker. Care to elaborate?
I am sorry for the confusion; I was referring to the Harris and Selwyn in Chicago, not New York. The New Yorker I was referring to was in Toronto. See my comment of September 15. I was giving examples of theaters whose facades remain but have entirely new theaters behind them. Thanks for bringing up the Lyric and Apollo; they two are good examples.
Argah; I meant too, not two.
was in here a few times when it was th Park-Miller, porn house. Returned many years later, when it was the Kit Kat Klub for the 1990s revival the legit tuner “Cabaret”
I remember seeing “Boys in the Sand” at this theater. It was the first main stream male porn film,and was highly advertised in local papers.Because it did very well at the boxoffice, many other male films soon followed.
This was the first porno theater I ever tried to enter — I was about 15, and the manager at the door wouldn’t let me in, saying “You don’t wanna know what goes on in here.” But I really did want to know…!
Alas, it wasn’t until Cabaret opened here, decades later, that I finally passed through these hallowed portals.
The Henry Miller Theater was also the home of one of New York’s most celebrated Disco’s “Xenon” from 1978 to 1984. Later it was the home to another popular Disco called “Shout”. Xenon was the only club to rival Studio 54 which was also housed in an old theater, the Gallo Opera House on 54th Street. Other celebrated theater Discos were Palladium (Academy of Music) on 14th Street, The Saint (Loew’s Commodore) on 2nd Avenue/6th Street, Club USA (The Forum) Broadway & 49th. They were all incredible structures and all but Studio 54 have been lost.
I went there once when it was Xenon, circa 1981. Beautiful building. Sad that it is gone now. I remember the coat check girl was dressed in leopard skin.
The write up should probably note the reason Cabaret left Henry Miller’s was because the building was shut dawn when a crane working on the construction of 4 Times Square next door collapsed, leading to 43rd St being closed for just over a month. Although they were able to reopen, Roundabout Theatre Company, which was producing it, scrambled to find another theatre and lucked out when they were told that Studio 54 was available. Studio 54 was a bigger venue, and the show was such a hit that moving it and turning it into an open-ended run filled the company’s coffers for years. Heck, it played there for so long that Roundabout was able to buy Studio 54 outright.
Meanwhile the only reason Urinetown even played in Henry Miller’s was because the show’s dystopian setting fit the aesthetic of a ruined theatre. It wasn’t supposed to be there long, but proved to be a surprise hit and extended.
But even then, the theatre was a mess, and was going to be demolished anyway. That the tower that replaced it incorporates a theatre behind the facade was largely done because of a combination of zoning inducements (much like the Gershwin and Minskoff in their respective buildings, including the theatre allowed the tower to be built taller under special Theater District zoning rules) and the urging of Anita Durst, who is a theatre supporter.
I saw Urinetown there. The whole facade of the building was totally covered and there was a protective covering over the sidewalk. The chandelier was still in place but it was in protective netting.
As far as the Sondheim build is concerned, it’s awful. The place has no ambience or leg room.