Henry Miller's Theatre

124 W. 43rd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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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 theaters to ever open on Broadway.

The 950-seat theater was designed by H.C. Ingalls. Its two-balcony auditorium resembled more a movie palace than a traditional legitimate theater, with plentiful use of marble, gilding, and, from its domed ceiling, a massive crystal chandelier.

The Palladian-style red-brick facade featured the theater’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 theater remained in his family.

In the early-to-mid-1930s, 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 theater 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 theater, 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 porn theaters in the city, which remained open until 1977, when its owner at the time, Seymour Dunst, announced that the theater 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.

After the run of “Cabaret” ended, 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 theater space.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Brian Wilson

Recent comments (view all 72 comments)

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on September 16, 2010 at 1:01 am

For the sake of consistency though, this theater should still be listed as Closed/Demolished, as all that remains is the restored facade. What happened to to the Henry Miller is identical to what happened to the former New Yorker Theatre in Toronto – the facade was retained, but everything else behind it is all new and the place is now the Panasonic Theatre, which is not listed as the current name of the theater here on CT nor as an aka for the New Yorker. Neither would be reasonable to say that Cinestage/Selwyn and Michael Todd/Harris still exist in Chicago though their facades remain as part of the Goodman Theater.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on September 16, 2010 at 8:43 am

CWalcak, most classic theatres that operate as multiplexes today have little or nothing left of the original interior shell.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on October 6, 2010 at 5:44 pm

AlAlvarez: what you say is certainly true, but in the case of those multiplexes, at least the outer shell or much of it remains as well, perhaps, as the facade, and there have been many other cases where a theater’s interior has been gutted to the walls and a new theater interior built. But in the case of the Miller, the Harris, the Selwyn, and the New Yorker, all that remains of them are their front walls (albeit some very magnificent front walls), which I do not think is enough to say that that the new theaters built behind them are rebuilds or renovations. If all that is needed to preserve a theater is the survival of a wall, then there is at least a possibility perhaps one day we will have a Paramount theater back at Times Square. (Well, we can dream can’t we?)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 6, 2010 at 6:13 pm

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?

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on October 6, 2010 at 6:24 pm

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.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on October 6, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Argah; I meant too, not two.

rivoli157
rivoli157 on November 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm

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”

tonyguy
tonyguy on May 31, 2013 at 3:21 pm

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.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 31, 2013 at 5:24 pm

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.

LuisV
LuisV on June 3, 2013 at 9:37 am

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.

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