8th Street Playhouse

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

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8th. Street Playhouse exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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 15 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 103 comments)

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on April 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Yes, that is the Playhouse Theatre in Great Neck (Nassau County, Long Island). I compared the photo to one published in The New York Times on July 11, 1982, as part of an article about the Playhouse being converted into a performing arts center. The NYT photo shows a bare stage being used for a rehearsal, but the surrounding decor is exactly the same.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on April 26, 2011 at 11:35 am

Fifty years ago today, John Cassavetes' improvisational “Shadows,” shot in B&W 16mm with a hand-held camera, moved exclusively to Rugoff’s 8th Street Playhouse after a surprisingly successful Broadway premiere engagement of four weeks at the Embassy 46th Street.

geogrif
geogrif on January 20, 2012 at 10:56 am

No telling what that bland facade used to be. But the Film Guild Cinema interior, by modernist architect/designer Frederick Kiesler in the 1920s, was amazing. A photo is here: http://www.kiesler.org/cms/index.php?lang=3&idcat=36

lfreimauer
lfreimauer on January 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Saw 15 chapters of a Batman serial there in one day in the 1960’s. J Carroll Nash played a Japanese villian.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on February 3, 2012 at 11:32 am

The theatre first opened as the Film Guild Cinema on the night of February 1st, 1929, according to a report in the next day’s New York Times. The revered American writer-activist Theodore Dreiser was among the notables attending. The opening feature was the Soviet/Ukraine-made “Two Days,” with support from shorts including Charlie Chaplin’s 1916 two-reeler “One A.M.” and experimental amateur films from America and the Soviet Union. The NYT noted that “The theatre itself offers several interesting points of conjecture, including the darkened planes of the side walls, which will be employed in the future as part of the screen. By flashing pictorial matter on the side walls, the management hopes to create in the audience more of an illusion of three dimensions than the flat-screen can hope to give. But nothing of this sort was tried last night.” Management was by the Film Arts Guild, which had been holding screenings at rented venues before building its own cinema at 52-54 West Eighth Street.

Desbiens
Desbiens on June 10, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I use to work at the 8th St. Playhouse in 79. I worked there and Crazy Eddies. I sure would like to see some people from that time 79. Maybe someone who worked there. I lived at One Christopher in the Village.

nick810
nick810 on October 24, 2013 at 8:42 pm

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

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on October 25, 2013 at 7:15 am

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

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 25, 2013 at 4:10 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
Mikeoaklandpark on October 27, 2013 at 11:35 am

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.

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