Geo. M. Cohan Theatre

1482 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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robboehm
robboehm on March 22, 2011 at 9:35 pm

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

RkoRoxy
RkoRoxy on April 14, 2008 at 10:38 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

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 25, 2008 at 5:46 am

Here is a December 1923 ad from the NYT:
http://tinyurl.com/yva4ej

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 17, 2006 at 1:19 pm

Just to revive a year old thread, here’s an image of those crowds lining up for Chaplin’s “City Lights” in 1931:

Balcony 50 cents

I presume the shot was taken down 43rd Street. Note the billboard on the side of the building in the lower portion of the photo, advertising the film (Chaplin’s surname is barely legible).

Here are some vintage interior shots I snagged off the ibdb.com site:

Foyer
Rear of house
Side boxes

The short two-line history of the theater provided on the ibdb page contradicts the introduction above by Bryan Krefft in that it states the theater was sold to Joe Leblang in 1915 and adds that his widow “forfeited” the building to the mortgage holder in 1938 – who promptly leveled the structure.

RobertR
RobertR on July 28, 2005 at 7:11 am

Here is a picture from 1933 showing movies
View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 4, 2005 at 6:13 am

Charles Chaplin rented this theatre for the New York premiere run of his City Lights beginning on February 6, 1931. In his 1964 My Autobiography Chaplin recalled:

“The only [theatre] available in New York was the George M. Cohan Theatre with a seating capacity of eleven hundred and fifty, and that was of the beaten path and considered a white elephant. It was not even a cinema house. I could hire the four walls for seven thousand dollars a week, guaranteeing eight weeks rental, and I would have to supply everything else: manager, cashier, ushers, projectionist, stagehands and the expense of electric signs and publicity. As I was financially involved to the extent of two million dollars—-and my own money at that—-I might as well take the full gamble and hire the theatre.”

Astounded that United Artists had hardly publicized the opening at all, the angry Chaplin took out half-page ads in the New York papers:

CHARLES CHAPLIN
AT THE COHAN THEATRE
IN
CITY LIGHTS
CONTINUOUS ALL DAY AT 50 CENTS AND ONE DOLLAR

Chaplin wrote:
“I spent $30,000 extra with the newspapers, then rented an electric sign for the front of the theatre costing another $30,000. As there was little time and we had to hustle, I was up all night, experimenting with the projection of the film, deciding the size of the picture and correcting distortion. The next day I met with the press and told them the whys and wherefores of my making a silent picture. (…)

“At the premiere the picture went off very well. But premieres are not indicative. It is the ordinary public that would count. Would they be interested in a silent picture? These thoughts kept me awake half the night. In the morning, however, I was awakened by my publicity man, who came bursting into my bedroom at eleven o'clock, shrieking with excitement: ‘Boy, you’ve done it! What a hit! There’s been a line running round the block ever since ten o'clock this morning and it’s stopping the traffic. There are about ten cops trying to keep order. They’re fighting to get in. And you should hear them yell!’”