RKO 86th Street Theatre

1284 Lexington Avenue,
New York, NY 10028

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Showing 1 - 25 of 36 comments

bazookadave
bazookadave on November 6, 2012 at 9:15 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.

http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b254/davebazooka/gimbelseast1971.jpg

bazookadave
bazookadave on August 5, 2012 at 9:41 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.

tone10029
tone10029 on August 5, 2012 at 2:14 am

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.

djc
djc on February 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm

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

bazookadave
bazookadave on July 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm

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.

http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b254/davebazooka/RKOmarquee2.jpg

http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b254/davebazooka/RKOmarquee.jpg

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on March 3, 2010 at 11:29 am

This theatre was still open in October 1968 when it closed after playing “For Love Of Ivy”. It was replaced by the Gimbels store and the RKO 86th street Twin.

bazookadave
bazookadave on October 14, 2009 at 6:23 pm

WOW that first one jogged my memory!!! Thanks for the link! What a shame to demolish that beautiful theater and replace it with that awful Gimbels East building. Everything for the almighty dollar.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on April 13, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Some nice shots of two eras here.

View link

View link

RickStattler
RickStattler on February 27, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Swann Auction Galleries will be selling the design for the original corner sign of this theater on March 26. We don’t have a date on it, but it’s presumably from a renovation circa 1960-1975. An image can be seen here: View link

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on February 4, 2009 at 3:00 pm

On Friday January 26, 1962, the Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly-Joe DeRita) embarked on a three day promotional tour for their latest feature film, THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES. They were accompanied by “The Herculean Giant” (almost 8 foot tall Dave Ballard) and popular DJ Clay Cole, who was one of the stars of the co-feature, TWIST AROUND THE CLOCK.

On Saturday January 27, they appeared at the RKO 86th Street at 4:55 PM.

Bloop
Bloop on July 11, 2007 at 7:35 pm

Great story! Maybe on E-Bay you can find one?

EastsideEddie
EastsideEddie on March 22, 2007 at 2:37 pm

At the age of ten I saw William Castle’s “Mr Sardonicus” at this theater. Near the end of the film, the lights came up and Mr. Castle walked out onto the stage. He asked the Saturday matinee crowd of screaming kid’s to hold our glow in the dark thumb cards up or down to decide the fate of the villain.
Mr Sardonicus died.
Mr. Castle signed autographs on the thumb cards in the lobby afterward.
I wish I still had mine.
He was a ten year old’s Hitchcock.

William
William on March 1, 2007 at 4:17 pm

Hollywood90038, they are listed under the original name of the theatre, look under the Strand.

bazookadave
bazookadave on December 15, 2006 at 1:15 pm

These have probably been posted here before:

RKO Proctor’s 86th Street marquee:

View link

The Mezzanine Promenade of the RKO 86th:

View link

Both scanned from “Marquee.” Notes for this theatre included:

The  theatre was designed by Thomas W. Lamb and opened on May 16, 1927 with 3160 seats. Operated by RKO from 1929. Redecorated in 1944. Demolished 1960s. Re the Mezzanine photo: “A favorite Thomas Lamb approach and here at the 86th Street with the elegant crystal chandeliers a truly outstanding room. With the potted plants and the fringed lamp shades this view obviously dates from the original opening.”

BrooklynJim
BrooklynJim on June 13, 2006 at 5:00 pm

When “Godfather II” opened in ‘74, I hadda depend on the subway to whisk me to the RKO 86th in record time. I mean, with a 200 minute running time, you don’t want to get shut out for the next performance. I ran like a track star and made it!

A very worthy sequel to the original, some of which I saw filmed on 5th and 51st back in March, ‘71, when I worked at Rockefeller Center. (More on that when I post about “The Godfather” which ran at NY’s State Theater – at Broadway and 45th? – in '72.)

stepale2
stepale2 on March 27, 2006 at 11:07 am

“The World of Henry Orient,” another movie that played at the Radio City Music Hall (as the Easter attraction in 1964) had its very first preview a few months earlier at the RKO 86th Street. It played to a full house and the audience loved it on 86th Street, but it was not such a big hit at the Music Hall, unfortunately.

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on February 23, 2006 at 11:39 am

To promote his new film “The Ladies Man,” Jerry Lewis appeared on stage at this theater on July 12, 1961.

bazookadave
bazookadave on November 7, 2005 at 11:45 am

Here’s the site of the former RKO 86th. The RKO 86th was completely demolished to make way for the Gimbel’s East department store building. The building in this picture was originally that store, which was closed in the 80s and stripped down to its steel frame, then refurbished into this apartment building. On the far lower left can be seen the marquee for what is now a Duane Reade. I remember that this was a movie theater during the 70s and into the late 80s, but it was not the original RKO palace.

View link

View link

RobertR
RobertR on October 30, 2005 at 6:50 pm

This Universal release of “The Chalk Garden” played 86th Street after Music Halls 8 weeks. Ever notice any movie that played Radio City was always described as record breaking when it went out on a wide release?
View link

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on July 12, 2005 at 7:11 pm

The building presently occupying the site of the old RKO Proctors 86th Street IS the Gimbels building. Gimbels went out of business about 86 or 87. I was still living in the neighborhood and watched as it was stripped down to the frame with only the concrete floors remaining. Some NYC law says when a vacant property is sold the asbestos has to be removed, and apparently this building had lots of it. When the exterior walls were removed you could see into the auditorium and also see the raked floor as though it was a cross-section architectural drawing. Through all this, the RKO marquee remained, all wrapped up in plastic, on the 86th St. side of the building. Once the offending asbestos was removed, the narrow section was built on top of existing frame, and the brick walls and windows installed (Gimbels was windowless) and the interior rebuilt as apartments with the entrance on 87th St. By the time the theatre was getting ready to re-open, Cineplex had taken over. The RKO marquee had been similar to that of the old RKO Warner-Cinerama-Strand on Times Square: a million little light bulbs cascading down the front of it and across the ceiling to the entrance doors. Cineplex re-did it, and of course it had to have the pink neon, and it was only slightly less dull than the way Duane Reade has it now.

I had heard that Clearview did not want to give up this theatre, but when they received the lease renewal it was put aside and forgotten about until it was too late – so the landlord signed Duane Reade.

bazookadave
bazookadave on July 12, 2005 at 3:33 pm

Wow finally I found this theater listed here…it is the one I remember from childhood on the upper east side, my mom took me to see a movie here and then it was demolished. Riding by the 86th street façade either in a bus or a car, we looked out and saw the marquee being dismantled but there was apparently a movie still showing because patrons were buying tickets and going inside. This was sometime in the 1960s, I was very young at the time. The marquee stands out in my memory as radiating the color red, either its light bulbs were red, or parts of the marquee’s structure were red. Later of course Gimbel’s occupied the site, and I clearly remember the department store’s opening days as being crowded and hectic.

I asked my mom what movies she saw here and she answered that she can’t even remember last week, and I expect her to remember stuff from the 60s? But after a while she said she thought the film she remembered taking me to see was “Heidi.”

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on July 8, 2005 at 11:45 am

yes, yes, exactly—these photos are great, from the aerial view of the street corner showing the two marquees, to the view of the audio=torium from up-front and rear. But no photo can capture the dusky glow of the house while a film was showing. It had marvelous lighting.

br91975
br91975 on March 4, 2005 at 11:02 am

I had a feeling the building which housed the Park & 86th Street Cinemas and Gimbel’s were separate entities; thanks for the clarification, Warren, and for clearing my suspicions. The former HMV space is presently occupied by Best Buy. (HMV, which once had a strong presence with five stores throughout Manhattan – including one at the former Embassy 72nd Street site – has since pulled out of the New York market.)