Audubon Theatre

3950 Broadway,
New York, NY 10032

Unfavorite 1 person favorited this theater

Audubon Theatre & Ballroom

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Built in 1912 for William Fox’s fledgling film company, the Audubon Theatre & adjoining ballroom was designed by Thomas W. Lamb. The auditorium was on the main floor at the southern end of the building, while the ballroom was upstairs on the northern end of the building.

Known for its spectacular polychrome-terra cotta facade. In a lunette over the main entrance is a beautiful depiction of a ship’s prow, with the head of Neptune over it.

After spending several years playing Spanish language films and being renamed Beverly Hills Theatre, the Audubon Theatre was renamed San Juan Theatre in August 1948, and continued its Spanish language films policy.

Long a center of culture and entertaiment, the Audubon Ballroom is still best-known today as the place where Malcolm X was assasinated in 1965 while giving a speech.

During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the building fell into disuse and disrepair, until it was acquired by Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in the mid-1990’s.

Rather than completely raze the historic landmark, the facade along West 165th Street was preserved, while a new structure erected behind it, where the Audubon Theatre had stood. Known today as the Malcolm X and Dr Betty Shabazz Education & Research Center. Inside the center is a memorial to Malcolm X. Some parts of the Audubon Ballroom still remain in some sort of use.

The ornate terra-cotta facade was meticulously restored and brought back to its 1910’s appearance, making it quite an eye-catching sight.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 29 comments)

Tinseltoes on January 13, 2010 at 1:19 pm

It’s a shame that this now has to be listed under its final name as the San Juan, by which time it was a shabby and decrepit shadow of one of Thomas W. Lamb’s first masterworks as a theatre architect. All histories of Lamb’s career report it as the Audubon, not as the San Juan. Couldn’t that be the main entry name, with San Juan in smaller type along with other names? It would be a showing of respect to Lamb as well as to the theatre’s namesake, the revered American naturalist, John James Audubon.

Tinseltoes on January 14, 2010 at 7:01 am

The change back to the original name is greatly appreciated, but I don’t think that “Ballroom” is required here. They did share the same building, but were always separate business enterprises. One was named and promoted as the Audubon Theatre, and the other as the Audubon Ballroom. The latter served as a dance hall and also rented out for social functions. Similarly, the Alhambra Theatre in Harlem had an Alhambra Ballroom as part of the building, but the CT listing is only as the Alhambra Theatre.

Tinseltoes on February 1, 2011 at 10:30 am

Here’s an exterior photo as the San Juan: View link

bigjoe59 on February 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm

any photos of the theater in its early years as the Audubon?
for instance when “Down To The Sea In Ships” played a neighborhood
engagement after an exclusive 3 month run in Times Square?

Tinseltoes on February 8, 2011 at 6:35 am

Why is this listed as the Audubon Theatre & Ballroom? They were separate and distinct enterprises— the Audubon Theatre and the Audubon Ballroom. The listing should be as Audubon Theatre only.

Tinseltoes on August 12, 2011 at 7:33 am

During its Hispanic phase as the San Juan Theatre, this often presented double features of Hollywood hits in their dubbed Spanish versions. For example, opening for a week on August 12th, 1949, were MGM’s “Le Luz Que Agonize” (“Gaslight”) and “Perdidos En Un Harem” (“Lost In a Harem”). Can you imagine Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Abbott & Costello, and all the other actors jabbering away in Spanish for well over three hours, and probably not even hearing their actual voices? Might have been bliss for patrons who didn’t understand English, but torture (and unintended hilarity) for everyone else.

AlAlvarez on August 12, 2011 at 10:08 am

Pretty much the same as them ‘jabbering away’ in English to many of us.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith on May 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Click here for an exterior view of the Fox Audubon Theatre in 1929.

Tinseltoes on May 24, 2012 at 6:48 am

Here’s a 1980s tax photo showing the now demolished auditorium portion of the building: lunaimaging

AlAlvarez on July 29, 2012 at 8:43 am

The San Juan was still operating in 1977.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater