Adonis Theatre

839 8th Avenue,
New York, NY 10019

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Adonis Theatre exterior

Opened in September 1921 as the Tivoli Theatre.

In 1975 it became one on New York’s most popular adult all male film theatres, the Adonis Theatre, which operated successfully until it was closed in 1989, and business transferred to the Cameo Art Cinema on 44th Street. The Adonis Theatre was demolished in 1995.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 110 comments)

rlrl2010 on May 30, 2013 at 6:58 pm

back in 77 when i was 15 i went to the city a few times on my own. i asked my mom what was so bad/dangerous about the Times Square area/theater district, after all id been on 7th Ave and Broadway and tho i noticed a lot of porn/XXX places especially around the upper 40’s, it didn’t seem particularly dangerous tho not the nicest place either

my mom said it wasn’t 7th/Broadway that was the problem, it was the ‘sidestreets"

so then, was the area by the Adonis considered the “sidestreets”?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 1, 2013 at 9:55 pm

The Holiday Inn is what I was remembering, thanks rlrl2010.

I don’t recall Seventh Ave or Broadway being so dangerous back in those days, either. It was definitely more tawdry, and, in my opinion, a lot more interesting, but I wouldn’t call it dangerous. Aside from the porno theaters and adult book and video shops, there were also the noisy (and more dangerous than the street) pinball and Fascination arcades, the dance-hall barkers, strip joints, greasy-spoon holes in the wall, tourist-trap gift and electronic shops, street drummers, street dancers, street corner preachers, three card monte rip-off artists, and the pose-for-a-portrait artists – the last of these may be the ONLY group that seems to have survived the transformation to “Family Destination.”

There was a period in the late ‘80’s, before the area had “bounced back,” where I found certain stretches along those two thoroughfares to get a bit more intimidating. I remember once going to a play at the Virginia Theatre on W. 52nd, just off Seventh – this is maybe 1988. After the show, I wanted to walk with my date down to Times Square proper and take a poke around my “old stomping grounds.” As we crossed into the upper 40’s, the pedestrian traffic along Seventh really thinned out, and it was quite eerily dark and quiet for a block or two. The site of the old Rivoli Theatre was a vacant and fenced in lot, and the sounds of the usual city hustle and bustle just sort of fell away behind us, so that all we really could hear were our footsteps. I remember finding myself nervously looking over my shoulder until we got to 47th and the crowd thickened again by Duffy Square.

As for the side streets between Seventh and Eighth Avenues – well, this is where the overwhelming majority of legitimate theaters were located. I don’t know that they were ever all that dangerous, really, except for maybe the darker streets, like 41st and 43rd. I seem to recall a lot of dope dealing went on down those quieter side streets. Forty Second was anything but dark, but was certainly notorious as a rather threatening strip. It never stopped me from going to see a double feature there, but I was certainly sure to have my wits about me and tended to be even more cautious about approaching the western edge of the block near Eighth Ave. Things definitely got more dicey down by the Harem, the Empire and Anco theaters.

Eighth Avenue, where the Adonis was located, while not technically a side street, was definitely more peripheral to the theater district – and decidedly more dangerous and foreboding a place. There was (and still is) but one, lone, legitimate theater located on the west side of Eighth Avenue, the former Martin Beck at W. 45th Street. Aside from that theater, the strip was mostly porn palaces, adult shops, old bars, crappy diners, flop houses, strip clubs and hookers. Lots and lots of hookers. From the dirty 30’s, past the Port Authority, and right up through the ‘40’s and lower 50’s. I rarely found myself on Eighth Avenue, except to catch some flicks at the Hollywood Twin, when it was a revival house for a few years. And aside from a family dinner on Joe Allen’s once or twice when I was a young child, I don’t remember ever venturing west of Eighth in that part of town, until maybe 10 or 12 years ago.

rlrl2010 on June 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm

yes i was thinking the Martin Beck was located in one of the worst locations—45th street just west of 8th Avenue back in those days. and Ed you answered my question about those characters that were hanging around the firehouse (now the Biltmore condo)—it was a flophouse thats what it was, that boarded up structure

rlrl2010 on June 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Ed I remember the Hollywood it was just across the curb from the flophouse hotel the Sherman (which is now an Econolodge). When you went to the Hollywood did you feel uneasy with the outside atmosphere? I don’t know why but i found 46th, 47th street north and 8th do be even creepier than further down toward the Port Authority.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 2, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I sorta did, rlr2010. I usually planned my viewings at the Hollywood during daylight hours. Particularly, since the majority of the time, I went there alone. When I used to go catch movies at the 42nd Street grind houses, it was typically with friends, so I wasn’t quite as concerned about the hours – although, even there, we always tried to get an early start! Particularly after our first couple of visits.

rigleemv on April 18, 2014 at 5:34 am

i have one of the 4 hanging chandeliers (eight feet with etched glass “wings”) from original Tivoli…for sale

robboehm on April 18, 2014 at 6:57 am

Wow that’s something. There were four? So many lost treasures.

Adonis on May 9, 2015 at 12:00 am

@rigleemv..I don’t remember them well..Perhaps if I saw them.. Anything else from the Adonis? Statues? Signs?..It was a beautiful theater, one of the top 10 in the City back in the day (size)..Juliani and Bloomberg who destroyed all the cultural centers, and true diversity of the City, should be run out of town on a rail. They were controlled by real estate moguls, developers and contractors. The same groups that sit in the MTA board To benefit their empires. They made NYC like Ohio or offense..But they killed and destroyed what made NY,NY..Now they can’t wait for the Chinese to take over..I guess..and they want it to look like China, w/ all these bicycles and lanes, that benefit few…Such a theater should have been saved..It was one of the jewels of NYas was the stage Deli…They destroyed many of the cities old historical theaters that many people could go in, experience their beauty and enjoy them..and they gave us office towers and stores that give nothing back to the people. The idea of giving the people things they can enjoy especially aestheticaly has been replaced with how much money can we make from this…and lets please these small but very vocal militant groups like bicycle riders (mostly non New Yorkers)…

curmudgeon on May 9, 2015 at 8:02 am

Adonis, couldn’t agree more. Not restricted to NY however. Here in Melbourne Australia, EVERY single screen cinema (Downtown) has been demolished and only 2 multiplexes serve a city of over 4 million! Of course, multiplex complexes (sterile viewing rooms (sans screen tabs, and mostly with no masking) abound in the suburbs. Without our beautiful and brilliantly lit cinemas of old that attracted audiences from near and far with their outstanding Front Of House (marquee) enticements, exclusive runs and advance bookings, this city, at night,lacks the excitement and buzz that late night trading cannot compensate.

inourwords on August 20, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Hello all. I am currently looking for people to submit stories/memories from their days at the Adonis. Please take a look at this link and if you are so compelled, share your story/memory with us. We want to preserve this important queer history. Submit Story Here:!adonismemories/c1g38

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