RKO 86th Street Theatre

1284 Lexington Avenue,
New York, NY 10028

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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.


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.

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.

Tinseltoes on March 23, 2012 at 7:48 am

Here is the complete schedule for the Jayne Mansfield tour of RKO theatres: Friday, 3/23/62—Franklin, Royal, Fordham, Coliseum, Regent, 86th Street; Saturday, 3/24/62—Castle Hill, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, Yonkers, Flushing, Richmond Hill, Madison, Bushwick, Kenmore; Sunday, 3/25/62—Strand, Tilyou, Dyker, Prospect.

Tinseltoes on March 23, 2012 at 7:35 am

Fifty years ago this weekend, Hollywood sexpot Jayne Mansfield made a three-day tour of twenty RKO theatres in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Westchester to promote the current engagement of “The George Raft Story,” in which she portrayed a fictional composite of some of his celebrated Hollywood conquests. The RKO 86th Street was Mansfield’s last stop on the first night. She made a brief stage appearance at each theatre, with radio disc jockey Murray the “K” as emcee. Ray Danton played the title role in the B&W biopic, which was running on the RKO circuit with the B&W “Look In Any Window” as the supporting feature.

djc on February 23, 2012 at 11:03 am

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

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.



Tinseltoes on August 6, 2010 at 11:29 am

Here’s a link to some unnarrated newsreel coverage of an invitational screening of the Rock Hudson starrer, “Battle Hymn,” at the RKO 86th Street in 1956: View link

AlAlvarez on March 3, 2010 at 8:29 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 on October 14, 2009 at 3:23 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 on April 13, 2009 at 11:32 am

Some nice shots of two eras here.

View link

View link

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 27, 2009 at 1:30 pm

It’s a sketch for the corner vertical sign which is shown here and dates back to at least 1947, when the photo was taken:
View link

RickStattler on February 27, 2009 at 12:17 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 on February 4, 2009 at 12:00 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.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 14, 2008 at 11:59 am

The theatre’s main entrance was on 86th Street, hence the name. Here are new links to previously posted images. The exterior view was taken in 1947 during the engagement of “The Late George Apley” & “Bedelia”:
View link
View link

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 26, 2007 at 7:46 am

In July, 1959, RKO Theatres, by then a subsidiary of Glen Alden Corporation, sold the 86th Street and four other large theatres to a real estate syndicate called Theatre Realty Company Partnership, according to reports in The New York Times and Variety. No purchase prices were disclosed, but as part of the deal, RKO leased back the operation of the five theatres for a term of 25 years, with options to renew. In addition to the 86th Street, the theatres sold were the Fordham in the Bronx, the Albee in Brooklyn, and the Madison and Keith’s Flushing in Queens.

Bloop on July 11, 2007 at 4:35 pm

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

EastsideEddie on March 22, 2007 at 11:37 am

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 on March 1, 2007 at 1:17 pm

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

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 16, 2006 at 4:47 am

After Marquee published the above photos, someone wrote to the editor that the photo of the mezzanine promenade is from the RKO Proctor’s New Rochelle, and not from the 86th Street. Both theatres were built around the same time, so it seems possible that the photos got confused. I don’t recall if Marquee printed a correction or not.

bazookadave on December 15, 2006 at 10:15 am

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 ├é┬átheatre 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.”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 23, 2006 at 4:39 am

Consumer fraud? In October, 1960, RKO and other nabes ran these two “foreign” features with the dialogue dubbed into English, but failed to mention it in advertising:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 10, 2006 at 6:03 am

The mind boggles at what “special arrangement” was required for this “unusual entertainment scoop” in March, 1961: