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 371 comments)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 27, 2015 at 4:14 pm

MFL = My Fair Lady.

Where did you see it?

vindanpar on October 27, 2015 at 8:12 pm

At a multiplex in Hoboken.

Digital projection.

No life to it whatsoever.

If you can’t get the opening credit sequence to this film right, and I consider it one of the best, forget it.

theatrefan on October 27, 2015 at 8:28 pm

If it’s the Bowtie over there it must have been a DCP. Was this supposed to be the restored version?

vindanpar on October 27, 2015 at 9:22 pm

Yes it was the Bowtie and it was the restored version to tie it in with the blu-ray coming out.

It looked no better than the 90’s restoration and the sound was much worse. In fact the sound wasn’t very good even at the Ziegfeld in ‘93.

I guess Super Panavision 70 6 track stereo has deteriorated beyond salvation.

Cimarron on October 27, 2015 at 11:15 pm

Yes, Cinerama was the best in projection technology of the period but, with the visible separation of 3 camera shots compared with todays super hd, today is the obvious choice but, for the late 50’s, early 60’s, Cinerama won hands down…Technology march forward with today’s Cine..No comparison and guess what, It will continue to evolve with improvement on never ending changes…Still like to see the old b&w films in spite. Keep on Truckin!

PeterApruzzese on October 28, 2015 at 8:39 pm

The new DCP is supposed to be stunning wjphen played in 4K based on reports from people who’ve seen it projected properly and the restoration team. They were also able to use the original tracks for the first time since 1964. The track on the 1994 restoration was from dupes.

Coate on November 4, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Given all of the recent chatter here about “My Fair Lady,” I suppose I ought to pass along the link to a recently-published historical article on “My Fair Lady,” which includes an overview of its roadshow release, headed, of course, by the lengthy run at the Criterion. Do give the article a peek if you’re a fan of the film and/or of the roadshow era.

Still Loverly: Remembering “My Fair Lady” On Its 50th Anniversary

PeterApruzzese on November 4, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Great article, Michael. Love seeing that slow rollout and long runs these films had.

DavidZornig on November 27, 2015 at 12:24 am

Two 1958 photos added. “South Pacific” on the marquee.

Cimarron on November 27, 2015 at 8:03 pm

Nice pic’s! South Pacific .. Great Movie!

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