George M. Cohan Theatre

1482 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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George M. Cohan Theatre

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Built for George M. Cohan, the all-around entertainer of the early 20th century, the George M. Cohan’s Theatre was opened on February 13, 1911. The theatre, located on Times Square on the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street, was attached to the existing Fitzgerald Building. Though the main entrance was off Broadway, the 43rd Street entrance was much larger and more ornate.

Designed by George Keister, who later went on to design other Broadway houses including the Selwyn Theatre and the Earl Carroll Theatre, the exterior was rather plain, with granite and terra cotta decoration around each entrance, but the interior was much more extravagant, done in Italian Renaissance with two sets of balconies, and murals around the proscenium arch and under the boxes depicted scenes from Cohan’s early stage career and his biggest Broadway hits. Murals also lined the long hall connecting the Broadway lobby to the auditorium on 43rd Street, which could seat almost 1,100.

Elaborate gilded plasterwork lined the squarish proscenium arch and faced the fronts of the balconies and six sets of boxes. The general color scheme of the auditorium was gray, purple and silver.

One of the only unpopular aspects of Cohan’s Theatre was its by then outdated columns supporting the twin balconies, which marred the views from several sections.

George M. Cohan’s Theatre opened with a transfer from the Gaiety Theatre, “Get Rich Wallingford”, which was the first of a series of early successes on the theater’s stage. However, by the time Cohan and his partner, Sam Harris, sold the theatre to A.L. Erlanger in 1920, the hits had gotten more infrequent.

To help keep the theatre in operation, the management began screening movies in the early-1920’s on weekends, and while not dark, presenting legitimate fare onstage. While a handful more of minor stage hits occurred during the late-1920’s and into the 1930’s, like “Rain or Shine” in 1928 and 1931’s “DuBarry”, The George M. Cohen Theatre by then was making much more money off its on-screen than on-stage fare, including a long run of the MGM spectacular “Ben Hur” in 1925.

In 1932, the theatre switched over to movies altogether, ending almost two decades as a legit house.

For another six years, the George M. Cohen Theatre was a movie house, though it soon found it was no match for nearby movie palaces like the Paramount Theatre, Rivoli Theatre and the Roxy Theatre, all of which were much larger and more luxurious than the antiquated former playhouse.

The George M. Cohen Theatre was demolished in 1938, along with the Fitzgerald Building, and replaced by stores less than a year later.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

kencmcintyre on March 25, 2008 at 2:46 am

Here is a December 1923 ad from the NYT:

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 25, 2008 at 4:19 am

The Ten Commandments was released on November 23, 1923.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 25, 2008 at 7:36 am

I think that the final name for this was George M. Cohan Theatre. I believe that the “’s” was dropped when Cohan ended his active management of the theatre. The 1923 ad for “The Ten Commandments” shows George M. Cohan Theatre.

RkoRoxy on April 14, 2008 at 7:38 pm

I don’t know how Chaplin could say it was off the beaten path. It was directly across from the Times Building in the square with an entrance right on Broadway. And by 1931, it was in the heart of it all. It was a beautiful Theatre

robboehm on March 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm

The theatre was purchased at auction for $100,000 according to a reference in Lost Broadway Theatres by Nicholas van Hoogstraten.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 15, 2014 at 5:16 pm

George M. Cohen’s Theatre opened on Monday, February 13, 1911.

This is an excerpt from The Sun published on Sunday February 12, 1911.

The opening of George M. Cohan’s theatre will take place to-morrow afternoon when a special Lincoln’s Birthday matinee of “Get Rich Quick Wallingford” will be given. The new theatre is at Forty-third street and Broadway and has a seating capacity of 1,000.

The theatre was designed by George Keister and constructed by the C. L. Grey Construction Company. Its builders say that the entire theatre can be emptied in one minute. The main entrance is on Broadway, a step from the subway. The building is said to be fireproof.

The exterior of the building is in terra cotta, iron and bronze. With the exception of the base and the door piece, all the rest of the building other than the bronze and iron trimmings is of a cream white terra cotta with a new finish, a glaze that gives it a lustre like semi-polished marble. The base is of green granite and the main door piece and the vestibule are finished in a dark green marble.

In the main lobby on Broadway there is a frieze of mural paintings that portrays the history of the four Cohans in various stages of their careers, and in the auditorium above the boxes and the proscenium George M. is portrayed in huge oil paintings giving his regards to Broadway and waving the American flag.

AlAlvarez on January 15, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Welcome home, Lost Memory.

We sure missed you.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 16, 2014 at 9:41 am

Thanks Al. Good to see that your still here. I have missed a number of people on this website. It appears that a few of them have left the website for various reasons but many of the “old timers” are still here.

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