RKO 86th Street Theatre

1284 Lexington Avenue,
New York, NY 10028

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RKO 86th Street Theatre

This theater was located in Yorkville on Lexington Avenue, on New York City’s upper east side. It was built in 1926, opening on May 16, 1927. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 3 manual, 15 rank organ. It was taken over by RKO in 1929. It was closed in October 1968 with Sidney Poitier in “For Love of Ivy”.

It was demolished in early-1969, a Gimbels department store was built on the site, which in turn has been replaced by an apartment building.

Contributed by Jean

Recent comments (view all 39 comments)

bazookadave on July 27, 2011 at 11:54 am

Stripped down to its steel frame, It appears that the old marquee now used for Duane Reade is being renovated or demolished. This marquee was for the smaller RKO movie house that was built into the Gimbels East Ibuilding that replaced the original RKO 86th. If I recall correctly, this smaller theater was supposed to make up for the loss of the palace.



djc on February 23, 2012 at 11:03 am

Anyone remember the old RKO on 58 St-3 Ave acroos from Alexanders

tone10029 on August 4, 2012 at 11:14 pm

This was a really cool “twin "theatre.It was there for a long time.In the summer of 1978,my two older brothers,some little league freinds and myself saw"Jaws 2"on its opening weekend.I remember the police were there to help control the crowd.I also saw "Alien”,“Gremlins”,“Superman III”,and “The Untouchables"at this great theatre.

bazookadave on August 5, 2012 at 6:41 am

It wasn’t this theater. You may be remembering the small RKO replacement theater that is now Duane Reade. The original building at this site housing the RKO 86th Street was completely demolished in the late 1960s, then replaced by Gimbels East, which included a small RKO theater meant to replace the lost movie palace.

bazookadave on November 6, 2012 at 6:15 am

Here is a picture of the Gimbels East department store in 1971. This is the bland modern building that replaced the original RKO 86th movie palace, which was completely demolished in 1968/1969. The marquee lower left is the new smaller RKO theater that was supposed to make up for the loss of the original RKO on the site.

After Gimbels closed it stores, this East 86th location was stripped down to its steel skeleton and renovated as the current luxury apartment house. The theater became the Duane Reade that is there today. The marquee was finally removed in 2011.


bigjoe59 on July 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm


looking at pics of the original movie palace I noticed an incorrect caption. one of the 2 pics posted by Al A. on April 13, 2009 gives a date of June 1965. now the marquee is advertising My Fair Lady. the film opened at the Criterion the fall of 1964 and i doubt its roadshow engagement had ended yet.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 18, 2016 at 2:01 pm

bigjoe, that was a link to another website, not a photo posting. “MY FAIR LADY” went wide in June 1966.

Orlando on February 27, 2017 at 11:08 am

The RKO 86th Street wasn’t demolished in 1965 as the heading says, It was closed in late October 1968 with “For Love Of Ivy”. Demolition probably occured in early 1969. The top description should be changed to 1969!

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