Criterion Theatre

1514 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Criterion Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Criterion Theatre opened September 1936 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 (Cinematreasures theater #15178), and the earlier Criterion Theatre (Cinematreasures 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, 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 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 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 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. 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 356 comments)

RSM3853 on December 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Films at the Criterion in Times Square from 1956-1975. Only first-run openings listed — the date is the Wednesday of the opening week. 11/07/56Search for Paradise 03/19/58South Pacific 10/01/58The Old Man and the Sea 12/10/58A Night to Remember 02/11/59Sleeping Beauty 05/20/59The Young Philadelphians 07/01/59Anatomy of a Murder 10/21/59They Came to Cordura 12/16/59Suddenly, Last Summer 04/13/60Who Was That Lady? 06/29/60Strangers When We Meet 09/11/60All the Fine Young Cannibals 10/12/60Surprise Package 11/09/60Girl of the Night 12/21/60Pepe 06/21/61The Guns of Navarone 10/18/61The Devil at 4 O'Clock 12/20/61The Innocents 01/31/62Sail a Crooked Ship 02/21/62Walk on the Wild Side 04/11/62Experiment in Terror 06/06/62Advise and Consent 07/25/62The Notorious Landlady 09/19/62Damn the Defiant 10/17/62Requiem for a Heavyweight 12/12/62Lawrence of Arabia 11/13/63Take Her, She’s Mine 12/18/63The Victors 02/19/64Seven Days in May 05/13/64What A Way to Go! 08/19/64Kisses for My President 09/16/64The Secret Invasion 09/30/64Woman of Straw 10/18/64My Fair Lady 06/22/66Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 11/09/66Is Paris Burning? 02/08/67Tobruk 03/22/67Thoroughly Modern Millie 12/13/67Valley of the Dolls 02/21/68Half a Sixpence 05/08/68Blue 06/12/68Rosemary’s Baby 09/18/68Funny Girl 02/04/70Patton 06/24/70Myra Breckinridge 07/29/70Move 09/23/70Tora! Tora! Tora! 01/20/71My Fair Lady ® 03/31/71Waterloo 06/23/71McCabe and Mrs. Miller 08/04/71The Brotherhood of Satan 08/25/71Let’s Scare Jessica to Death 12/08/71Nicholas and Alexandra 05/24/72The Possession of Joel Delaney 06/14/72Portnoy’s Complaint 08/02/72Four Flies on Gray Velvet 08/23/72Blacula 11/22/72Rage 12/13/72The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean 02/07/73The Train Robbers 05/09/73Hitler: The Last Ten Days 06/13/73Super Fly TNT 07/18/73Scream, Blacula, Scream 08/15/73Cops and Robbers 09/19/73Save the Children 12/19/73Magnum Force 02/06/74McQ 03/13/74The Super Cops 03/13/74The Black Six 05/15/74Black Eye 06/12/74Uptown Saturday Night 10/02/74The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 12/25/74Freebie and the Bean 02/05/75Report to the Commissioner 03/19/75The Yakuza 05/07/75Mandingo 08/20/75The Exorcist ® 10/08/75Let’s Do it Again 12/17/75The Killer Elite

wally 75
wally 75 on December 27, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Rivoli has JAWS summer of 75' strating in June I think the Criterian had Mohogany at the same time…

SethLewis on December 28, 2013 at 6:29 am

Great list 56-75…as a kid the only ones I saw here were the road shows Is Paris Burning and Patton…in the refitted multiplex Raging Bull, Sharky’s Machine on the small screens, Rambo 3, Garp, Die Hard 2, A Cry in the Dark on the bigger ones

Cimarron on March 20, 2014 at 6:38 pm

1936 Pic of Criterion added to Photo Section

Coate on October 21, 2014 at 11:02 am

Happy 50th! “My Fair Lady” had its world premiere at the Criterion on this day in 1964 (and went on to become the theater’s longest-running engagement).

odilon on June 5, 2015 at 6:40 am

To RSM3853…So, “South Pacific” replaced “The Ten Commandments”? In São Paulo, Brazil, South Pacific opened the “Astor” a luxury cinema theater, in 1960….The Ten…was only shown in 1959…remaining for 37 weeks at the cinema “Ipiranga” in downtown, and then many more weeks at other places. In present days, the movies…are released in the same time they open in the USA, in some cases…a few days BEFORE…thank you for your great information.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 5, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Why is “THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE” suddenly showing up first on RSM3853’s December 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm post instead of “THE TEN COMMANDMENTS”. This was never a Cinerama house.

odilon on June 6, 2015 at 8:00 am

Really….The Ten Commandments opened on Nov 7, 1956, at the Criterion. NY Times published the review the next day. In BRAZIL, where I live, we say the “day” first, then the month…and, of course, last, the year…So – when I read… 11/07/1956 I am “tempted” to look like…11 of July of 1956… I have to make “up my mind” and transport myself to the USA…

odilon on June 6, 2015 at 8:00 am

Really….The Ten Commandments opened on Nov 7, 1956, at the Criterion. NY Times published the review the next day. In BRAZIL, where I live, we say the “day” first, then the month…and, of course, last, the year…So – when I read… 11/07/1956 I am “tempted” to look like…11 of July of 1956… I have to make “up my mind” and transport myself to the USA…

vindanpar on June 6, 2015 at 10:03 am

I’d like to thank the individual who posted the covers of the souvenir programs of the roadshow attractions that played at The Criterion during its' heyday in the 50s and 60s. Unfortunately I was too young to go Times Square during this era. By the time I was old enough this great prestigious movie house was reduced to showing horror and exploitation films. All the more astonishing because the nearby Loew’s State and Astor Plaza were still getting top Hollywood films. I would be curious to know why the management of this beautiful theater couldn’t get top product and drove it into the ground. Its multiplexing was horribly done and heartbreaking.

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