104-106 W. 39th Street,
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Previously operated by: Shubert Brothers Theater Company
Architects: William Albert Swasey
Previous Names: Lucille LaVerne Theatre, Assembly Theatre, Reo Theatre, Labor Stage, Cinema Dante, Cine Met, Cine Verdi
The Princess Theatre was a joint venture between the Shubert Bros., producer Ray Comstock and actor-director Holbrook Blinn. It was built on a narrow slice of land on W. 39th Street, just off 6th Avenue, and sat 299, one of the smallest Broadway theatres built when it opened in early-1913. The architect was William A. Swasey, who had designed the Winter Garden Theatre two years earlier.
Originally planned as a venue for short, one-act dramatic plays, the Princess Theatre instead became a showplace for light musical comedies, from 1915 into the early-1920’s. It also screened movies during 1915-1916.
Though fairly drab on the outside, looking like a six-story office building except for its marquees and gaudy electric sign over the main entrance, the Princess Theatre was quite elegant inside. A blend of Georgian and French Renaissance styles, the auditorium contained fourteen rows of seats, twelve boxes off the proscenium arch, and was hailed for its excellent acoustics and sight-lines. The decor included Neo-Classical inspired plasterwork and antique French tapestries hung from the side walls.
In 1922, drama returned to the Princess Theatre for another seven years, but, unfortunately, success did not, and after a brief stint as the Lucille LaVerne Theatre in 1928, the Shubert Bros. sold the theatre.
In 1929, the New York Theatre Assembly took over the Princess Theatre and renamed it the Assembly Theatre. However, within half a year, the theatre was closed, and remained unused until 1933, when it reopened as the Reo Theatre, and was, like so many other former legitimate houses, now being used as a movie theatre.
A year later, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) acquired the theatre, and used it as a recreation center for neighborhood workers.
However, in 1937, legitimate theatre returned to the theatre, now called the Labor Stage, in a big way, with “Pins and Needles,” which was the longest running Broadway show of the day, running for 1,108 performances. When the show moved to the Windsor Theatre, the ILGWU reclaimed the theatre briefly as its recreation hall.
In 1947, movies returned to the theatre, now renamed the Cinema Dante, screening foreign features. A year later, it got another name change, the Cine Met, and in 1952, yet one final name, the Cine Verdi.
By the mid-1950’s, the old Princess Theatre was on the outskirts of the theatre district, and in 1955, the little theatre was torn down.
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