8th Street Playhouse
52 W. 8th Street,
23 people favorited this theater
Previously operated by: B.S. Moss Enterprises, City Cinemas, Rugoff & Becker, United Artists Theater Circuit Inc.
Architects: Eugene DeRosa, Frederick Kiesler
Functions: Medical Center
Styles: Streamline Moderne
Previous Names: Film Guild Cinema
Opened February 1, 1929 as the Film Guild Cinema. It was renamed 8th Street Playhouse on May 14, 1930. The loss of this theatre is one of the saddest movie theatre tales. A neighborhood house, in the 1970’s the theatre began playing offbeat independent and revival films. It originated the seven nights a week midnight show policy.
“Rocky Horror Picture Show” may have premiered at the nearby Waverly Theatre, but this is where it became world famous playing 11 years every Friday and Saturday night. The 3-D festival in the 1980’s saw lines of hundreds of people for every show. I remember “The House of Wax” being held over for weeks. They ran 3-D prints of movies that had not been seen in the original format since the 1950’s like “Kiss Me Kate” and “Bwana Devil”.
There were also horror festivals, Judy Garland tributes and a summer of virtually every film New Line Cinema ever produced. When the owner passed away, the theatre was taken over for awhile by City Cinemas who booked first run movies there. When the Village East opened, City Cinemas pulled out of the 8th Street Playhouse and also the Quad Cinema. The death came at the end when United Artists took over and totally mismanaged going revival and second run and then closing it during the middle of a festival on November 26, 1992.
It sat closed and falling apart until it was converted to a video store. When its marquee was torn down Greenwich Village lost one of its true landmarks. By 2019 it was in use as doctors practice.
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Recent comments (view all 111 comments)
I was a RHPS cast member, so I remember that there was a kind of stage that was two to three feet high and about the same wide. Under Steve Hirsch, it was a wild place to see a movie. There was a perpetual blue cloud over the auditorium, and I’m sure echoes of the goings-on in the ladies room still echo in the Beth Israel clinic that inhabits the space now!
Circa 1946 photo at the bottom of this link about the neighboring Village Barn.
I was only here 2 times. Once to see Rocky Horror in 1980 and once to see The Clash in “Rude Boy” . Ironic that I MET the Clash when they were recording “Combat Rock” in Electric Lady in 1982 (!) . I waited outside for them to arrive because The Village Voice said that they were in town. I called Electric Lady and asked “What time do they get there?” The person that answered said “8 0'clock”. LOL. I guess they were not worried about stalkers in 1982? They all signed for me as they entered. Such a shame that this place is GONE. I just cannot believe it.
October 1981 photo added credit NYU Archives.
What year did this close? We can amend the Intro to include that info.
It closed in 1992.
I loved this theater so much. Everything about it was special. Just walking down 8th street and spotting it in the distance gave me a thrill. I think the first movie I saw here was the first run of Hairspray. At the time I lived midtown east and worked at Tower Records at Lincoln Center so I didn’t go downtown a whole lot to see movies unless it was for something I couldn’t get closer. In the Fall of 88 I started NYU so I was right near it and my attendance increased.
I recall convincing a group of my fellow freshman theater students to come one night to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show because I’d heard how amazing the live show was, but I didn’t realize it was pretty much on its last legs and was less than exciting, and everyone thought I was crazy for suggesting it. Saw many other films here such as Running on Empty (which moved me so much, I remember crying the entire way back to my dorm), Driving Miss Daisy, Pretty Woman, Reversal of Fortune, etc. I mostly did matinees so I rarely was there when there was a crowd.
A most unusual proscenium. Was it ever adapted for ‘scope ratio?
Theatre closed November 26, 1992
It was used as the NYU film school screening theater in the 60’s and 70’s.