8th Street Playhouse

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

Unfavorite 21 people favorited this theater

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 in 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.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 109 comments)

bradmarcus
bradmarcus on October 18, 2014 at 10:59 am

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
dallasmovietheaters on February 7, 2016 at 11:04 pm

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
randytheicon on June 1, 2016 at 5:28 pm

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
Bogframe on November 23, 2016 at 2:29 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
DavidZornig on December 23, 2018 at 5:32 pm

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

http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-village-barn.html

Bloop
Bloop on November 1, 2019 at 4:01 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.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on December 2, 2019 at 8:23 pm

October 1981 photo added credit NYU Archives.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on December 14, 2019 at 8:59 am

What year did this close? We can amend the Intro to include that info.

kieran10
kieran10 on September 3, 2020 at 11:37 pm

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.

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