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).

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 457 comments)

NYer on October 1, 2018 at 8:58 am

July 21, 1971, found it, thanks.

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.

CConnolly1 on February 14, 2019 at 6:46 am

It’s inconceivable nowadays to consider that a movie like “Funny Girl” could play at one theater from September 1968 through February 1970 and then continue into a wide release. Today’s market (not just movies but so much) feels so temporary and disposable. So much feels undervalued or not valued at all. There are always films worth seeing (thank God) but the majority of the ones being funded by “the studios” are throwaway projects that mean nothing years later. Quick: name one or two films released from 2000 thru 2010 that are classics or ones you can watch over and over again? Now name one or two films released from 1960 to 1970 that are classics or ones you can watch over and over again?

HowardBHaas on February 14, 2019 at 11:02 am

By the time I was visiting NYC as an adult, this theater was divided up & I never saw a movie in it. I did have the pleasure of seeing Funny Girl in a new print at the Ziegfeld in 2001, very appropriate because a bust of Fanny Brice was on display upstairs in a foyer at the Ziegfeld. Last year the Univ of Penn Gazette (alumni magazine) had an article contrasting movies from 1968 or so to current. Classics then, current is not so. My own analysis is that 1980s & 1990s each had far fewer great mainstream films than each of the decades before, but there were still many such great films. But, after the Millennium, mainstream films that are really great hardly exist! There are still excellent “art” films which is what the Oscars mostly nominate & honor. And, the art films are often exhibited in historic movie theaters. Contrast to TV which since The Sopranos arrived in 1999 has had a renaissance of great series. So, no, films are no longer exhibited here or at the Ziegfeld, not at all, and nowhere for many months one film.

MSC77 on February 14, 2019 at 8:42 pm

On the subject of “Funny Girl,” here’s the link to my recent 50th anniversary retrospective for those of you interested in such things.

vindanpar on February 15, 2019 at 2:32 am

I wonder if Funny Girl stayed much longer at the Criterion than it was financially feasible to do so. Columbia already had Oliver set to be its wide release'69 Christmas film for the family trade and they were holding off FG because they didn’t want two big musicals competing against each other. And of course Oliver would do much better at that time. I picture FG playing to empty houses in its last months at the Criterion(my favorite roadshow theater as it was the first one I was ever in and it was a very glamourous event like occasion). One could look at Variety but it was notorious for printing inflated grosses admittedly given to them by theaters.

DanMan on March 18, 2019 at 3:30 pm

On the 148-150 W 45th street side of the theatre, there was a bar & grill and I think that’s where the bar scene from Midnight Cowboy was filmed??

davidcoppock on May 22, 2019 at 6:32 am

The front of the building is now 2 fashion stores(Old Navy, Gap). Whats the name of the restaurant?

DavidZornig on May 22, 2019 at 7:31 am

2018 street view does not show a restaurant. But an address search shows a Haagen Dazs ice cream, formerly Scoops R Us.

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