Criterion Theatre

1514 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Criterion Theatre exterior

The B.S. Moss' Criterion Theatre opened September 16, 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 Enterprises 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” starring Maureen O'Sullivan, on November 30, 1938.

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

With George Montgomery in “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).

On March 20, 1980, the Criterion Theatre was converted into five screens using some space in the former basement lounge. It was taken over by United Artists in 1988. 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 split by United Artists left/right to create two 400 seat auditoriums in early-1990. 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 512 comments)

vindanpar on September 11, 2019 at 4:22 pm

Bigjoe I assure you I am not making this up! I was scandalized. If I knew how to post pictures I would find that image so you could see. Unfortunately the Criterion marquee is a bit in the distance but you get the idea.

Of course when I first walked into the Criterion the first thing I looked for was the program but I didn’t see it! Strange because when I walked in for the Jan revival of MFL earlier in the year there was a guy in a tux selling an abridged version in softcover of the ‘64 hardback.

I’ve learned about Twilight Time limited edition blu rays the hard way. I did get the Japanese edition of Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines because somebody wrote it was the exact same transfer and you could get rid of subtitles. Do you know if this is the same situation for Nicholas? That it is the exact same transfer and subtitles can be eliminated?

I’ve been reading that the kino Lorber Sweet Charity bluray is better than the French blue ray. The problem is they advertised it as the roadshow version yet they left out the entr'acte and exit music. I guess the young people who put these things together don’t know what a roadshow was and don’t really research what that entails. These things exist in earlier video releases of the film. Sloppy.

HowardBHaas on September 12, 2019 at 2:06 am

Please don’t speak in “code” meaning abbreviations! It is taken me awhile to recall that some posts ago “N & A” was Nicholas & Alexandria. Spell out the names of the movies.

HowardBHaas on September 12, 2019 at 2:09 am

Also, thanks ridethetrain for your Sept 4 info here about this theater & your similiar posts on other theater pages. The Intro has been updated.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 12, 2019 at 6:39 am

Maybe the introduction should be updated to mention that those basement theaters we damp little hellholes…

vindanpar on September 12, 2019 at 7:15 am

I assume that’s where the large elegant oval white lounge was on the lower level. Can anybody who remembers the original theater confirm that?

SethLewis on September 12, 2019 at 7:48 am

I saw a couple of movies in the early 80s in the basement screens – badly raked and tight seating even for the times. I do remember the downstairs lounge going back to Is Paris Burning and Patton days. The upstairs screen out of the old balcony might have been the best value for money experience in the Criterion Center days – saw Garp and Cry in the Dark there

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 12, 2019 at 10:27 am

if anyone has a clear picture of the oval and downstairs lounge, now might be a good time to post it.

vindanpar on September 12, 2019 at 10:40 am

Acronyms can be fun to figure out though I get your frustration. On Lynley’s death I emailed a friend about TPA. He had no idea what I was talking about and wrote me an annoyed email calling me inscrutable and asking me to explain it. It seemed pretty obvious to me.

bigjoe59 on September 13, 2019 at 2:48 pm


to my fellow moviegoers who remember the roadshow runs held at this theater and the Loews State, RKO Palace, the Demille, the Warner, the Rivoli and the Loews Capitol.

in reference to vandanpar’s 9/11/19 comment. does any one ever remember a theater running out of souvenir programs? of all the roadshow engagements I attended(in the Set. 1952 to Dec. 1972 period)I never remember a theater running out of souvenir programs.

vindanpar on September 13, 2019 at 3:14 pm

I kind of doubt they ran out. Somebody probably didn’t put them out at that performance and I was foolish not to ask. It was strange because they would usually hawk them like peanuts or hot dogs at the Garden.

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