RKO Alhambra Theatre

2110 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard,
New York, NY 10027

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jlbrooks
jlbrooks on August 29, 2012 at 2:57 pm

My mother worked at the Alhambra in the box office from the mid-fifties until almost the time the theatre closed in the mid-sixties. Spent a lot of time there as a child. I remember that it used to have live shows, like vaudeville. I also remember when Ray Danton and Karen Steel came to the Alhambra to hype their new movie, “The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond”. Lots of history in that building.

Jesse Brooks

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm

So, “Cleopatra” not only nearly sunk Fox, but preceded the closing of the Alhambra, eh? In any event, the restaurant that we thought might have occupied part of the former theater space appears to have closed. I’m unable to determine online what, if anything, has taken its place. Also appears that the bowling alley is located on the 3rd floor of the building. Not sure if that exists in what would have been some of the theater space’s upper reaches.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on September 6, 2011 at 2:39 am

The Alhambra disappeared from the RKO listings after a Thanksgiving 1964 run of “Cleopatra”

ssbyrd
ssbyrd on February 23, 2009 at 11:37 pm

We purchased a framed tile as part of an auctioned box lot. It measures approx. 3" x 5". The tile itself is not marked. There is a label on the back of the frame from SLOANE & COMPANY, NO. 309 COLUMBUS AVENUE, NEW YORK***pictures and picture frames. “From the Alhambra” is written in pencil on the back near the label. We are wondering if it is a “momento” from the RKO Alhambra. Pictures are available if might assist with identification. Any thoughts?

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on February 4, 2009 at 7:47 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 Friday January 26, they appeared at the RKO Alhambra at 10:25 PM.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 17, 2008 at 3:35 pm

The RKO Alhambra was the first and only Manhattan theatre to ever share a movie’s premiere engagement with the midtown Roxy. That happened in July, 1943, when 20th-Fox’s all-black musical, “Stormy Weather,” opened simultaneously at the Roxy (with stage show) and Alhambra (with short subjects) and ran for three weeks. Acording to Variety, the Roxy grossed a “wow” $99,000 in the first week, and the Alhambra (which usually grossed an average of $5,000), did a “whopping” $19,000. The double features that would have played the Alhambra during that time were shifted to the RKO 125th Street, which was normally a sub-run house. Here’s an ad from a Harlem newspaper: View link

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 20, 2007 at 2:24 pm

“When (Ethel) Waters lived in Harlem she recalled that 125th street was still a ‘white boulevard’ and that the theatres on the street were segregated. ‘Colored people could only buy seats only in the peanut gallery in B.F. Keith’s Alhambra, and none at all in the other white show houses’. “

“Despite civil rights statues in northern cities that prevented racial segregation in theatres, the laws were rarely enforced and managers evaded the law. In 1905, two African Americans sued unsuccessfully when they were not permitted to buy tickets to New York’s Circle Theatre. On another occasion black patrons who obtained orchestra tickets were prevented from sitting in the white-reserved section when the manager broke the seats and ordered them to sit in the gallery. Racial segregation in the big-time venues as well as prejudice against black performers contrasted with the circuits’ publicity which celebrated vaudeville as a ‘democratic’ entertainment open to everyone.

from VAUDEVILLE WARS by ARTHUR FRANK WERTHEIM

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 4, 2007 at 7:03 pm

I would agree that the Harlem Auditorium and the Alhambra Theatre are the same property. The owners of the Harlem Auditorium encountered financial problems before ever opening the theatre. Percy Williams took over and re-named it the Alhambra. It became part of his Orpheum Circuit, which at that time (1905) also included the Colonial in Manhattan, the Orpheum, Novelty and Gotham in Brooklyn, and the Orpheum in Boston, Massachussets. The Orpheum Circuit eventually ended up as part of Radio-Keith-Orpheum, which is how the Alhambra became an RKO movie house.

merripit
merripit on December 21, 2006 at 5:05 pm

Well, after a little more research… Though the Auditorium was projected to be finished in March 1903 (NY Times article, 9/19/1902), another article in “Architects and Builders Magazine” states that it was “nearing completion” in Jan. 1904. Another NY Times article (3/9/1905) reported that one of the partners who built the Auditorium was declaring bankruptcy, this after a 6-month strike halted work, and his partner’s subsequent suicide in May 1904; the article goes on to say that “there were no funds to continue the enterprise.” A further NY Times article (5/14/1905) announced the opening the next night (“for a Spring season”) of the Harlem Alhambra, noting that “it was started two years ago, but was not completed owing to a series of litigations whereby the work was held up for a long period.” Descriptions of the two theater include similar decorations, the presence of a rathskeller and other accommodations; so it would seems that the two are identical.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 21, 2006 at 4:47 pm

Just looking at the photos on the site Lost posted a few days back for the Pier 2110 Restaurant located in the Alhambra building, it looks as if the interior was completely gutted. Unless the restaurant occupies some space in the building other than the former theater area.

merripit
merripit on December 21, 2006 at 4:01 pm

Intrigued by this question I dug through old binders and found a printout of the “Atlas of the City of New York”, 1906 edition, showing the location of the “Alhambra” at the southwest corner of 7th Avenue and 126th Street, which was the location of the Auditorium noted in the NY Times article. It was right next to the Harlem Opera House, which was also a McElfatrick design from 1889. I’ll keep checking to see if there is anything in print about the one becoming the other.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on December 20, 2006 at 3:40 pm

I don’t know if this will help or not, but this is a piece from the NY Times September 19, 1902.

“NEW UPTOWN THEATRE.; Harlem Auditorium at Seventh Avenue and 126th Street to Be Completed by March Next.

A theatre to be known as the Harlem Auditorium is to be erected by the Harlem Auditorium Amusement Company at the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Street, on the site utilized in recent political campaigns as Camp McKinley and Camp Low. Nelson Roberts, who has been identified with theatre interests in Pittsburg and in this city with Koster Bial, will be general manager and director".

That would give the Harlem Auditorium an opening year of 1903 vs the 1905 date for the Alhambra.

KenRoe
KenRoe on December 20, 2006 at 3:31 pm

JeffryB; I believe they are different theatres. The American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915 lists the Auditorium Theatre, 80 W. 125th Street, New York. I can’t find it listed under this name on Cinema Treasures.

merripit
merripit on December 20, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Is the Alhambra the same as the Harlem Auditorium? I have a drawing of the Auditorium by the McElfatricks that looks very much like the photo of the Alhambra posted by KenRoe.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on December 3, 2006 at 5:27 pm

An address shows the Pier 2110 Restaurant located here. This is their website.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 3, 2006 at 12:31 pm

This theatre had at least two “alternate” names that aren’t included in the introduction: Keith’s Alhambra and RKO Alhambra. In fact, the main name should probably be RKO Alhambra, as it was famous for many decades as the RKO flagship for Harlem (the equivalent of Loew’s Victoria).

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on December 3, 2006 at 11:39 am

This vintage postcard shows Seventh Avenue and the B.F. Keith’s Alhambra. It was mailed in 1916. The marquee says “Opens Labor Day, Sept. 1.” Since Labor Day occurred on September 1 in 1913, this image could be from that year.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on May 7, 2006 at 5:58 pm

The former Alhambra Theater is going to become a seafood restaurant called Pier 2110 which opens in May of 2006. Also, this website claims that a bowling is also coming to this address.

KenRoe
KenRoe on May 7, 2006 at 4:33 pm

Here is a July 2003 photograph of the former Alhambra Theatre in Harlem:
http://flickr.com/photos/kencta/142133303/

ThePhotoplayer
ThePhotoplayer on February 24, 2006 at 6:43 pm

Matt: Jerry Lewis appeared at 27 RKO theatres over 2 days promoting his new film. I have the complete schedule, itinerary and photos.

anomie666
anomie666 on February 23, 2006 at 9:52 pm

Please disregard my earlier post. I see these theaters were all in the New York area and I guess he did do a day long promotional blitz.

anomie666
anomie666 on February 23, 2006 at 7:59 pm

Bob, why are you posting the same thing for many different theaters? I don’t think Jerry Lewis was able to clone himself and appear at 10 or so theaters on the same day.

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on February 23, 2006 at 6:54 pm

To promote his new film “The Ladies Man,” Jerry Lewis appeared on stage at this theater on July 13, 1961.

euphrades
euphrades on February 1, 2006 at 1:20 pm

The lobby is gone. I remember how beautiful it was as a teenager in the ‘60’s. With the re-birth of Harlem I hope there will be some real efforts but forth to restore the remaining (?) theatres/cinemas.
Old and solid is ALWAYS better than new and plastic.

LuisV
LuisV on January 31, 2006 at 9:23 pm

It’s great to hear that the ballroom has been restored, but does anyone have any pictures, before or after? I passed by the other day and from a distance the building had an abandoned look. Does any remnant of the lobby exist?