Rivoli Theatre

1620 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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Rivoli Theatre

A “sister” to the nearby Rialto Theatre, this lost theatre was a palatial early delight and once one of the grandest theatres on the east coast. The Rivoli Theatre opened December 28, 1917 with Douglas Fairbanks in “A Modern Musketeer”.

In its middle years, the Rivoli Theatre was one of New York City’s finest ‘roadshow’ theatres and was converted to 70mm Todd-AO with a deeply curved screen by Michael Todd for his feature, “Oklahoma!” which had its World Premiere on October 13, 1955 and was shown for 51 weeks. Other World Premieres of 70mm films included “Around the World in 80 Days”(October 17, 1956 and was showcased for 103 weeks), “The Big Fisherman”(August 4, 1959), “West Side Story”(October 18, 1961 and was screened for 77 weeks), “Cleopatra” (June 12, 1963 and was shown for 64 weeks), “The Sound of Music”(March 2, 1965 and was screened for 93 weeks), “The Sand Pebbles”(December 20, 1966), “Hello Dolly”(December 16,1969), “Fiddler on the Roof”(November 3, 1971) and “Man of La Mancha”(December 11, 1972).

The 1950’s deeply curved screen was enormous and generated the illusion of peripheral vision. The Rivoli Theatre, along with the nearby Capitol Theatre, showed event films and both movie houses showed “2001” on their giant screens. Patrons also recall that the sound quality of the six track stereo was as impressive as it’s visuals.

After it was twinned in December 1981, and the curved screen was removed. It became the United Artists Twin from October 26, 1984. One of the last features to play there was Richard Haines' low budget movie, “The Class of Nuke ‘Em High”. It was closed as the United Artists Twin in June 1987.

Where urban blight had at once shuttered, but saved the Rivoli Theatre from development, a turn around in the city’s fortune made the site too tempting for developers. The Rivoli Theatre, one of the greatest of all New York City theatres, was demolished after closing in June 1987. It has been replaced by a black glass skyscraper.

Contributed by Richard Haines, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 786 comments)

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 29, 2018 at 8:21 pm

I just remembered that I have a souvenir programs for THE ROSE and TOMMY.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on July 30, 2018 at 5:31 pm

Hello-

thanks to Ed S. et all for your replies about souvenir programs. I was particularly interested in the prime roadshow period from the Oct. 1955 premiere of Oklahoma to the Dec. 1972 premiere of Man of La Mancha. during this period the studios still opened continuous performance films in single exclusive engagements. so generally how big did a non-reserve seat film have to be to have a souvenir program?

speaking of which the last souvenir program I bought at a theater was a specially designed souvenir program for the limited 2 week run of Hercules at the newly renovated New Amsterdam Theater.

vindanpar
vindanpar on July 30, 2018 at 9:32 pm

How many weeks did LaMancha play at the Rivoli? The reviews were so dire I didn’t even bother going. I believe tickets could be bought up until Memorial Day of ‘73 by mail and the film didn’t even make it to Easter.

Also the prime roadshow period I would say ended with Oliver and Funny Girl opening in ‘68 and running reserved seat through '69. After Dolly ended its engagement in early summer of '70 at the Rivoli NY had its first summer without a reserved seat movie since the mid 50s. Even Fiddler by the summer of '72 was playing reserved performances rather than seats in a number of markets.

The last Times Square roadshow I went to was N&A in early ‘72 at the Criterion at a Saturday mat and it was very empty. Sadly for some reason while Loew’s State and the Astor Plaza and even the National would get major first run Hollywood product the Criterion ended up with what I would consider exploitation product. Why this happened I have no idea but it was a very fast fall from the glory days of Funny Girl.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 30, 2018 at 10:36 pm

MAN OF LA MANCHA played for about 18 weeks. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF played for a year and outgrossed both FUNNY GIRL and OLIVER!.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 30, 2018 at 10:42 pm

The roadshow run of LAST TANGO IN PARIS at the Gotham (Trans Lux East)outgrossed YOUNG WINSTON, NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA and MAN OF LA MANCHA.

vindanpar
vindanpar on July 31, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Fiddler was an anomaly in that roadshow musicals and epics were pretty much dead at that point. In ‘69 and '70 there weren’t any successful roadshow films that opened. Patton was a successful film but it didn’t seem to run very long at the Criterion on roadshow. By the summer of '70 it was playing in the suburbs.

And a number of films that were planned to be roadshow were cancelled or if completed changed their marketing strategy and opened continuous run. So by ‘71 Fiddler was a one off and as I said started to play reserved performances in a number of markets. And even though it had reserved seats it was playing from the beginning for all intensive purposes continuous performances on Saturday and Sunday with extra matinees during the week as opposed to Funny Girl and Oliver’s more traditional schedule.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 31, 2018 at 12:44 pm

After the huge success of M.A.S.H, 20th Century-Fox realized that they could market PATTON to the anti-war youth market by rushing it out into wide release. They took it out of roadshow early and cashed in. The “A Salute to a Rebel” catch line had already been abandoned earlier in the run. They later re-released them as a double feature.

vindanpar
vindanpar on July 31, 2018 at 5:58 pm

OK that explains it. I’ve mentioned before that I was walking with my father in front of the Criterion-maybe it was March 17 ‘70 when we went to see the parade and Airport at Radio City- and the Criterion had a huge sign out front saying the performance was sold out. I think that’s why I was surprised it was playing in the suburbs that summer. I thought it would have a long roadshow run.

But then Kubrick predicted a two year run on Broadway for 2001.

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on September 12, 2018 at 7:21 pm

This was the place to see “Jaws” if you lived in the big apple. Despite its mono soundtrack and 35mm projection, Jaws played almost everywhere during its run and became the first major blockbuster and made even more on home video when it hit laserdisc first in 1978 and on VHS in 1980 along with Jaws 2 after succesfull reissues.

vindanpar
vindanpar on September 12, 2018 at 7:52 pm

I never saw a non 70mm film either genuine or blow up at the Rivoli. When showing a Panavision 35mm print like Jaws did they fill the curved Todd AO screen with the image or was it projected with borders making the screen smaller?

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