Broadway Theatre

1445 Broadway,
New York, NY 10018

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20,000 Leagues

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The seventh theater to bear the name Broadway Theatre (the first was, ironically, opened in 1837 on Canal Street!), this playhouse was built in 1888 at Broadway and 41st Street for producers Frank Sanger and T. Henry French. It sat around 1,700, and was decorated in a mix of Baroque Renaissance and Moorish styles, inspired by the popular Casino Theatre which opened a few years earlier at Broadway and 39th.

The Broadway Theatre was designed by the firm of McElfatrick and Sons, whose later Broadway efforts included such famous houses as the Empire Theatre, Hammerstein’s Olympia Theatre and the Hudson Theatre.

The theater featured a somewhat generic facade on Broadway, in a five-story red brick office building with little indication of was inside, until a vertical marquee was added in the 1910’s. The elegantly decorated auditorium, with its large proscenium arch, six sets of boxes and twin balconies, featured such touches as antique copper chandeliers, gilded plasterwork around the proscenium, the box and balcony fronts and murals on the ceiling and balcony walls.

After a string of owners during its first decade or so in operation, and many successful runs (including the first stage version of “Little Lord Fauntleroy”, in 1889, and the final stage appearance in New York of famed actor Edwin Booth in 1891), the Broadway Theatre was acquired by the Shuberts in 1909. They ran the theater for several years before Marcus Loew took over the aging showplace as a silent movie house. In 1919, the Keith-Albee vaudeville circuit began to lease the Broadway Theatre, while continuing to present motion pictures, as well.

However, by the late-1920’s, competition from a number of newer and far larger movie houses nearby spelled the end for the Broadway Theatre, and in 1929, the theater was demolished.

This Broadway Theatre should not be confused with the current theater of the same name at Broadway and 53rd, originally the Colony Theatre, but renamed Broadway Theatre in 1930.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 15, 2006 at 10:57 am

This theater was a “House of Hits” for the first 20 years or so of its existence – the site of many popular musical shows. It was a leading B'way theater during that period. When it became a vaude-filmer, it did not have the same cachet, because of newer and better theatres opening to the north. An interesting point about it is that its right exterior sidewall was very very similar to the left sidewall of the Tremont/ Astor Theatre in downtown Boston, also designed by McElfatrick, which opened in 1889 and which was demolished in 1983.

William
William on April 21, 2006 at 8:20 am

In 1908 it was acquired by B.S. Moss it was a film and vaudeville house until it was razed in 1929.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 27, 2006 at 10:25 am

The old Broadway Theatre is listed in the 1897-98 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide. The seating capacity is given as: Orchestra: 626, Balcony: 436, Gallery: 538, Total: 1,600 seats, plus boxes. The proscenium opening was 36 feet wide x 36 feet high. The stage was 48 feet deep. The theatre was on the ground floor and had both electric and gas illumination. The house orchestra had 24 members.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 30, 2007 at 10:51 am

B.S. Moss took over the Broadway Theatre in April, 1919. After closing it for a week of redecoration and refurbishment, Moss re-opened the Broadway as a motion picture theatre on May 2, 1919, with the NYC premiere engagement of “The Unpardonable Sin,” starring Blanche Sweet, according to a review in The New York Times of 5/3/19. Background music for the feature and supporting short films was provided by the Broadway’s symphony orchestra, under the direction of S.W. Lawton.
…Many decades later, I had the privilege of meeting Blanche Sweet, who by that time was 87 and lived in a tiny apartment in NYC’s Murray Hill district. She was surprisingly petite, and slightly hunchbacked from age, but she had the vitality and sense of humor of a young person. She also had a remarkable memory, and kept me mesmerized for three hours during an interview for my biography of stage star Marilyn Miller, who had been a close personal friend.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on April 27, 2009 at 11:01 am

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1916)

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Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on June 13, 2012 at 10:34 am

Here’s a two-page trade ad from 1925 featuring the Broadway Theatre. After it was demolished, B.S. Moss moved the name to his Colony Theatre, which is still operating as a playhouse called the Broadway: archive

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