8th Street Playhouse

52 W. 8th Street,
New York, NY 10011

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1964 Interior Shot

Opened February 1, 1929 as the Film Guild Cinema. It was renamed 8th Street Playhouse on May 14, 1930. The loss of this theater is one of the saddest movie theater tales. A neighborhood house, in the 1970’s the theater 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 theater 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.

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.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 105 comments)

nick810 on October 25, 2013 at 1:42 am

Does anyone know if the 8th St. Playhouse has a full stage?

Mikeoaklandpark on October 25, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Nick 810,It did not. It had a screen in the wall.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I seem to recall there might have been a bit of a platform stage in front of the screen, but certainly nothing by way of theatrical facilities. Didn’t stop a hell of a show from going down in front of numerous Rocky Horror screenings, back in the day! If my memory is correct, it was no more than a slight, raised platform, maybe a few inches above the floor ahead of the first row. I could be completely mistaken about that.

Mikeoaklandpark on October 27, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Ed Solero, it was kind of like the original shadow box screens at GCC when they first opened. They did not have masking like most Ruggoff theaters they had just a single strip that came down from the ceiling. Very strange.

bradmarcus on October 18, 2014 at 6:59 pm

The picture sure looks like the beloved 8th Street Playhouse. Aside from going to multiple screenings of “Rocky Horror”, Vestron films held several premieres there. I had the “pleasure” of watching “Parents” and “Lair of the White Worm” in a celebrity-packed theater. The place had character. It was also 2 doors down from the hottest recording studio and more than once while waiting for Rocky Horror or after, I saw the Stones and others coming and going.

dallasmovietheaters on February 8, 2016 at 7:04 am

The Film Guild Cinema launched February 1, 1929 with “Two Days.” It was conceptualized by Symon Gould – one of two people along with Michael Mindlin commonly cited for the art film movement shown in decidedly non-palatial diminutive theater – and architected by Frederick Kiesler. His sketches including the four screen concept is in photos. On May 14, 1930, the theatre changed to the Eighth Street Playhouse. It announced just one month later that it would usher in early experimental television as part of its programming mission.

randytheicon on June 2, 2016 at 1:28 am

RHPS didn’t play there for 15 years…it opened in July 1978 and closed in late summer 1989, after UA sold the theatre to City Cinemas and moved “Rocky” to the Eastside on 3rd Ave. In spring 1991 it returned to the Village at Movieland 8th St., where it played until Nov. 1995.

Robert R., the correct order of ownership in the 1980s was: independent (Steve Hirsch) until July 1986, when Hirsch died; B.S. Moss Theatres (1986-88); UA (1988-89); and City Cinemas (1989-91). UA had taken over Moss and its theatres, including the Art/Movieland 8th St. down the street. Then, UA began divesting itself of single screen locations to concentrate on multiplexes, and the Playhouse was sold to CC.

Bogframe on November 23, 2016 at 10:29 pm

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!

DavidZornig on December 24, 2018 at 1:32 am

Circa 1946 photo at the bottom of this link about the neighboring Village Barn.


Bloop on November 1, 2019 at 11:01 pm

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.

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