Criterion Theatre

1514 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Criterion Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The B.S. Moss Criterion Theatre opened September 1936 with Kay Francis in “Give Me Your Heart”. Designed in the Art Moderne style with 1,700 seats on part of the site of the old Olympia entertainment complex. This originally included Loew’s New York Theatre and Roof (Cinema Treasures theater #15178), and the earlier Criterion Theatre (Cinema Treasures theater #16481) which was built in 1895 as the Lyric Theatre.

All were demolished to make way for the Criterion Theatre, retail stores and the International Casino nightclub. B.S. Moss built the Criterion Theatre, but in 1938 leased the theatre to Loew’s for 20 years. The first film to open at Loew’s Criterion Theatre was MGM’s “Spring Madness” on November 30, 1938.

Due to divestment of theatres because of antitrust litigation, in 1949, the Criterion Theatre reverted back to B.S. Moss. The last film to be shown by Loew’s was “He Walked By Night”, which opened on February 5th 1949. During that engagement, Loew’s returned management of the Criterion Theatre to B.S. Moss who then operated the theatre until the 1980’s, when it was leased to United Artists Theatre Circuit.

With “Fort Ti”, a Columbia movie that opened on May 29th 1953, the Criterion Theatre claimed to be the first theatre in the world to project a 3-D (with glasses) feature on a giant wide screen, with streophonic sound and color by Technicolor.

The Criterion Theatre was host to numerous premieres. After the World Premiere of “The Ten Commandments” on November 8, 1956, that movie was shown (with reserved seats) for 17 months. The US premiere in 70mm of “Lawrence of Arabia” was held on December 15, 1962. World Premieres of other 70mm films included “South Pacific” (March 19, 1958), “My Fair Lady”(October 21, 1964), “Thoroughly Modern Millie”(March 21, 1967), “Funny Girl”(September 19, 1968) and “Patton”(February 5, 1970).

In March 1980, the Criterion Theatre was converted into five screens using some space in the former basement lounge. Additional seating was added in the front of the former seating area of the balcony so that a new upstairs auditorium had 1,041 seats. The new auditorium in the former orchestra seating area had 1,037 seats, but was later split left/right to create two 400 seat auditoriums. The basement houses seated 156, 198, 193 and 248.

The Criterion Theatre finally closed in the spring of 2000 and was gutted internally to become a massive Toys R Us store, which itself closed in December 2015. A restaurant occupies the space that held the movie screen and the first rows of the original orchestra seating section.

Contributed by William Gabel, Don Weber, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 421 comments)

vindanpar on December 29, 2017 at 7:50 pm

My Fair Lady.

If you look at the pricing for tickets in advertisements it will give you a cheaper price for let’s say the first ten rows of the orchestra. However for Funny Girl the orch only has one price. I believe I’ve seen this as well for other roadshow films at other theaters but as I mentioned it was not regular policy and perhaps done infrequently.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 29, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Vindanpar, you are correct. It seems the first six rows, for some reason, were deemed too close to be full priced for MY FAIR LADY.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 29, 2017 at 8:10 pm

I suspect that in the era when audiences sat on the floor in front of the screen to watch “2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY”, front row at “FUNNY GIRL” was no longer an issue.

vindanpar on December 29, 2017 at 11:01 pm

I doubt the women’s theater parties and middle aged patrons were doing weed at Funny Girl though it was ‘68 so who knows.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 30, 2017 at 7:30 am

Streisand sure was, so maybe some in her audience did as well.

davidcoppock on December 30, 2017 at 9:54 pm

Whats the restaurant called?

DavidZornig on December 31, 2017 at 5:59 pm

1956 premiere of “The Ten Commandments at the Criterion.

vindanpar on January 28, 2018 at 11:27 am

As per the Half a Sixpence ad posted by Comfortably Cool. I remember the Sunday before the premiere watching Ed Sullivan with my family and Ed announcing the premiere and having Steele stand up from his seat in the audience. The premiere was televised on a local NY channel as many of the big road show openings were at the time. Mayor Lindsey hosted the Funny Girl world premiere which seemed kind of odd from the same theater. I assume these were all disposed of as I’ve never seen them again. At least the ones from NY. The local stations might simply gotten rid of them which is too bad.

While Sixpence was a hit at the Astoria in London and the American love affair with English pop culture hadn’t yet run its course(Oliver!) Sixpence for some reason immediately laid an egg at the Criterion. It did so poorly from day one Variety figured out that whoever did these things the manager of the Criterion or the studio was grossly inflating the box office figures. I think it lasted close to 3 months and it must have been doing it for contractual reasons and playing to very small audiences in the large Criterion.

This was though the kind of film had it opened at the Music Hall would have been a big hit there. It’s certainly watchable unlike the Music Hall’s Easter film that year.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on January 28, 2018 at 6:07 pm

So, what was the Easter show that year…?

vindanpar on January 29, 2018 at 2:49 am

The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band. And as a boy I like Sherman Brothers Disney movies and listened to the soundtrack as a kid. Didn’t see it though until I was an adult and found it dire. Couldn’t even sit through the whole film.

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