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 385 comments)

Norman_24 on November 12, 2016 at 12:19 am

Can anyone verify if “Maximum Overdrive” screened here in July of ‘85. I believe this is where I saw it.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 12, 2016 at 12:56 am

According to the NY Times review dated July 25, 1986, Maximum Overdrive opened in Manhattan at the Criterion, Broadway and 45th Street; Movieland Eighth Street, at University Place; 86th Street Twin, at Lexington Avenue; and Olympia Quad, Broadway at 107th Street.

It took about 90 seconds to find this information. Now my question: why did you need to know?

DavidZornig on May 15, 2017 at 9:09 pm

1940 & 1955 photos added courtesy of Al Ponte’s Time Machine – New York Facebook page.

DavidZornig on June 15, 2017 at 8:33 pm

1969 photo added via The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit Facebook page.

Coate on June 19, 2017 at 5:42 pm

The Criterion was among just eleven theaters in the United States that installed the then-new Dolby Digital sound system for their engagement of “Batman Returns” which opened twenty-five years ago today. And here’s the link to a retrospective article that commemorates the occasion.

vindanpar on June 20, 2017 at 3:12 pm

That’s a nice evening ‘69 photo including the Paint Your Wagon billboard when Times Square still had a bit of its old time glamour. The tearing down of the Astor and the building that PYW billboard is on(only a couple of years after the tearing down of the old Met, Penn Station, the Paramount…) was catastrophic for the area hastening its 70s descent into the muck and mire.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 20, 2017 at 3:56 pm

I don’t think the tearing down of these theatres lead to the descent of Times Square into vice, but rather the other way around.

vindanpar on June 20, 2017 at 4:05 pm

I should have made myself more specific. I meant the Astor Hotel. Remember you had a lot of great NY landmarks torn down in just a few years as I mentioned above and I think it was catastrophic. These were among the most magnificent and legendary buildings in the 20th century in NY and I believe they were anchors. Wasn’t the building with the PYW sign the Claridge hotel?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 20, 2017 at 4:34 pm

Yes, that was the Claridge Hotel. But by 1969 when “PAINT YOUR WAGON” opened on a Roadshow basis at the State Two, “MIDNIGHT COWBOY” was already showing the world what Times square had become and by January 1970 Loews State would be showing Swedish porn “WITHOUT A STITCH” on Twin One while these hotels were still operating.

vindanpar on June 20, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Already by December of ‘68 all the buildings I mentioned had been torn down and the Astor Hotel was a giant excavation hole(as a boy I looked into it having no idea there was ever such a thing as The Astor.) Of course I know what I’m saying is conjecture. Many downtowns of major cities were experiencing terrible downturns. I just lament the loss of such great NY landmarks and think what if?

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