Loew's Capitol Theatre

1645 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Loew's Inc.

Architects: Thomas White Lamb, John J. McNamara

Styles: Adam

Previous Names: Capitol Theatre, Loew's Cinerama

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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 1,064 comments)

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on June 15, 2022 at 3:18 pm

You were lucky Bill to get to see this grand theater.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on June 15, 2022 at 3:26 pm

I agree with Mike. By the time I started, as a visitor from Philadelphia, seeing movies in NYC in the late 1980s, all the grand Midtown 70mm roadshow movie palaces were gone or chopped up (the Criterion & Embassy 2-3-4 ex DeMille). This theater was long gone.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2022 at 3:33 pm

I was lucky to have seen the Capitol. I also got to see Nicholas and Alexandra at the Criterion. But I missed the Roxy, the Warner Cinerama, the State, the DeMille. Strange for a 67-year-old to say this, but if only I were a few years older…

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2022 at 3:50 pm

My dad loved the Capitol. He went there all the time in the Big Band years. He took me to see 2001 that day, but he was a little disappointed because the theater had been completely transformed into something else than what he remembered from the ‘40s.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2022 at 4:42 pm

I forgot the Rivoli. I saw Jaws there in 1975. It was years after the roadshow glory days, but at least it was still standing.

vindanpar
vindanpar on June 15, 2022 at 8:15 pm

The Warner Cinerama orchestra had been what it was for years with just the balcony walled off turned into the Penthouse. The Rivoli had moments where it recalled its roadshow glory when it showed the 70MM GWTW and 2001 in the ‘70s. (GWTW had its original 70MM roadshow run there in ‘67-'68.)

I think if I had known these theaters as they originally stood I would have been disappointed as well by their widescreen transformations. A poster said after he saw Oklahoma in Todd AO at the Rivoli he was angry at the altering of the theater and never went in it again. I totally understand that but what I would have given to see all those Todd AO films there.

People who were born at the turn of the 20th Century or shortly after and lived in NY City and lived into their 80s saw these theaters being built, filling up, then being multiplexed(if that)and then torn down. If you were 19 when you saw the Capitol open you were 68 when you saw it being torn down. If you were 27 when the Roxy was built you saw it torn down when you were 60.

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on June 16, 2022 at 3:23 pm

I was lucky Howard I got to see Divine Madness at the Criterion in 70MM before it was twinned and several films, 70mm, scope and flat at the Rivoli before it was twinned. The State and Warner were already twinned. I have many fond memories in the Astor Plaza and Ziegfeld too

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 16, 2022 at 3:33 pm

vindanpar: I got to see most of the Warner Cinerama because I saw Krakatoa East of Java at what was then called just the Cinerama, in 1969. As I recall, it really was quite a big theater, even without the balcony.

vindanpar
vindanpar on June 16, 2022 at 4:48 pm

Bill Huelbig: Yes it was! Their musical 70MM festival was great. Don’t know if you went to any of them. Lucky you to have seen Krakatoa there but I remember that great billboard in Times Square. And the sound system was incredible. I was in the Penthouse a couple of times and that former balcony was huge. I’m not sure if it was that large during the roadshow era. They might have made it smaller (like they did the Capitol)then opened it up to its Strand size when it became a single theater.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 16, 2022 at 5:29 pm

I didn’t go to any of the 70mm musicals, but I wish I had. I also wish I’d sat closer to the screen for Krakatoa. With Cinerama, the closer the better. When The Exorcist was blown up to 70mm, I saw it here. The sound was overwhelming. But one big drawback: the warning bell on one of the projectors was broken and it went off continuously. Whoever was in the booth that day obviously didn’t care. Or, it couldn’t be fixed. Good thing the movie was so loud.

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