Loew's Capitol Theatre

1645 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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Loew's Capitol Theatre

The Capitol Theatre was located where the Paramount Plaza stands today, directly across Broadway from the Winter Garden Theatre.

Opened October 24, 1919 with Douglas Fairbanks in “His Majesty, the American” (United Artists first production) plus on stage Ned Wayburn’s “Demi Tasse Revue” which featured Mae West early in her career. It was equipped with an Estey pipe organ which had a 4 manual console and 35 ranks opened by organist Dr. Mauro-Cottone Melchiorre. The Capitol Theatre, operated by Major Edward Bowes was initially not a great success and closed on June 1, 1920. It was taken over days later by Samuel Goldwyn who installed S.L. ‘Roxy’ Rothafel to program the theatre and it reopened with a Goldwyn picture “Scratch My Back” starring T. Roy Barnes. In July 1923 the Estey organ console was replaced by one with illuminated stops and a horseshoe design and 12 more ranks of pipes were added to the existing 35 ranks. It was advertised as ‘Broadway’s Finest Organ’.

It was taken over by Loew’s Inc. in 1924 and became the flagship movie palace for MGM Films. The Loew’s Capitol Theatre hosted world premiere’s of many now classic films. The theatre presented movies and stage shows except from 1935 to 1943 when no stage shows were included in the program. The shows were too expensive to produce during the Great Depression and were only revived when World War II brought an economic boom. In 1952 stage shows ceased to be held. A larger, 25ft x 60ft wide screen was installed for the June 1953 engagement of “Never Let Me Go” starring Clark Gable.

In 1959 the Loew’s Capitol Theatre was modernized to the plans of architect John J. McNamara and re-opened on December 25, 1959 with Yul Brynner in “Solomon and Sheba”. The movie palace became a Cinerama showplace in 1962 with a huge 33ft x 93ft wide screen.

World Premieres of 70mm films included “Cheyenne Autumn”(December 23, 1964), “Doctor Zhivago”(December 22nd, 1965), “The Dirty Dozen”(June 15, 1967) and “Far From the Madding Crowd”(October 18, 1967).

The Loew’s Capitol Theatre auditorium was never twinned or divided into more than one auditorium. In 1968 the Capitol Theatre was playing the Roadshow engagement of “2001:A Space Odyssey”. The movie was transferred to the Warner Cinerama Theatre, and the Loew’s Capitol Theatre closed, and was demolished.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 1,024 comments)

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on August 18, 2020 at 5:05 am

If you look at the timings of the overture and exit music, the time between shows is probably more like 22 minutes. Pretty tight turnaround, no doubt, but the 5:15 show probably rarely sold out and there was a healthy 40 minute break before the evening show to pick up trash and straighten up.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on August 18, 2020 at 6:51 am

The Capitol was being marketed as Loew’s Cinerama at the time, with “How the West Was Won” running nearly 40 weeks by the Thanksgiving holiday. Seating capacity was reported as 1,552 in trade journals… I never attended a Broadway stage play or reserved-seat movie that started exactly at the time stated on tickets.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 18, 2020 at 10:17 am

That’s great info, Archive! Mind if I ask what the source is? Just curious.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on August 18, 2020 at 11:05 am

Thanks, Archive. Do you have the percentage of screen fill for Planet of the Apes, the final 35mm film to play the Capitol?

For 52 years, my memory of 2001 on that screen was the most overwhelmingly huge movie experience of my life. Now I find out it was only filling 90%! 🙂

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on August 18, 2020 at 2:20 pm

I did have that issue of Life magazine. In fact, I still have it. It’s been my favorite movie since I first saw it, and the way things are now, I don’t think it will ever be replaced.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 18, 2020 at 3:08 pm

I hope we will soon have the opportunity to see it again on a big screen

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 18, 2020 at 3:11 pm

Hello-

to Archive, thanks for the detailed info. I was lucky enough
to have seen 2001 twice during its roadshow engagement here.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on August 18, 2020 at 3:22 pm

I concur with Mike (saps). Too bad it will never again be THAT screen. Even 90% of it.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 18, 2020 at 3:48 pm

Hello-

to MarkDHite- I thank you replying to my posts about HTWWW in an intelligent adult manner. all replies should be written in such a manner.

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on August 19, 2020 at 8:16 pm

Thanks, you just caught me where I live: the day-to-day minutiae of operating a great movie palace. No detail too small!

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