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 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 450 comments)

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on August 30, 2018 at 6:36 pm

They did vindanpar. I was completely annoyed.

MSC77
MSC77 on September 18, 2018 at 12:12 am

“Funny Girl” premiered here 50 years ago today. It would go on to play 72 weeks.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on October 1, 2018 at 4:33 am

Included in views from 1971 of Times Square and other parts of Manhattan at the “Forgotten NY” website here

vindanpar
vindanpar on October 1, 2018 at 4:57 am

Looks like the red neon frame on the marquee was still up at this point for Willard before they got rid of the neon and replaced it with silver aluminum. This means I saw it but had forgotten. It looked great surrounded by the Bond’s neon. And with the Gordon’s Gin spectacular above it was the last of the old great Times Square blocks.

Believe it or not I heard two different people in the late 70s/early 80s when I was walking on the opposite side of the street when they saw the decrepit disrepair the site was in say ‘I never thought I’d see that block look like that.’ I myself would have loved to be going to the Criterion during the roadshow era. Just the marquee announcing some big buget epic or musical must have been exciting.

NYer
NYer on October 1, 2018 at 8:34 am

vindanpar …. did you see “Willard” at the Criterion? I know when it opened it was across the square at the New Penthouse while The Criterion had “The Brotherhood Of Satan”. Maybe it was pick up for a week or two, I just can’t find it. Just curious when that photo was taken.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on October 1, 2018 at 8:46 am

“WILLARD” moved over to the Criterion in late July 1971.

NYer
NYer on October 1, 2018 at 8:58 am

July 21, 1971, found it, thanks.

vindanpar
vindanpar on October 1, 2018 at 9:00 am

No. The only second run I remember seeing was Superman when it moved over from its long first run at the Astor Plaza. Then I saw Aliens which was the last film I saw there before it was twinned.

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