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 It has been replaced by a black glass skyscraper.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 940 comments)

bigjoe59 on August 31, 2020 at 10:00 pm


to vindanpar- I read with interest your recent post about the roadshow engagement of Star at this theater. I am both a roadshow engagement buff(I’m in my 60s) and a Julie Andrews devotee. I saw the film say a month after it opened. I do remember liking it. whether I’d like it today is another matter. I have always enjoyed listening to the soundtrack album first on Lp then on cd. I have always hoped for a perfectly remastered Blu-ray disc of the original roadshow cut.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 1, 2020 at 1:13 am

Joe, based on your previous posts, it appears to me, and I mean this in the nicest way, that you do seem to have the worst taste in movies…

vindanpar on September 4, 2020 at 2:57 am

So I reread my post. If Star had been a hit and Dolly opened at the Criterion where would Patton have opened? I see it at the DeMille.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on September 4, 2020 at 3:20 pm

“Patton” premiered at the Criterion Theatre on the night of February 4th, 1970, which is half-a-century ago.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on September 10, 2020 at 4:27 am

Mike (saps) although I agree with your review of “STAR!” and Bigjoe’s taste in film, I must also admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the widescreen train-wreck that was the 1973 musical “LOST HORIZON” and often watch it again and again and would love to see a remastered print of the original mess. Sometimes our treasures are what they are.

bigjoe59 on September 10, 2020 at 8:07 pm


to Al A. and Mike(saps)on your witty comments on my taste in films. last Fall two films were released that garnered critical praise and both won Oscars. I saw them after all the critical praise had been around for a while and as I was leaving the theater I thought to myself- what were the critics smoking when they were watching the films? either that or REALLY strong brownies. in other words beauty as they say is in the eye of the beholder.

vindanpar on September 10, 2020 at 8:57 pm

I saw LH when it opened at Loew’s State 1. Watching The Things I will Not Miss on youtube is a guilty pleasure of mine a good song with what was he thinking staging by Hermes Pan. And then Question Me an Answer is another shocker. I saw Bobby Van in No No Nanette when it opened and again when he returned to it after filming the movie. It ain’t the same man I tell you. Watch him and Helen Gallagher dance to You Can Dance With Any Girl At All on youtube. I don’t believe he ever lived down tap dancing on grass. I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole James Shigeta’s elaborate take on the importance of family as the foundation of society. It has to be seen to be disbelieved. Checkout Living Together Growing Together on youtube as well. I like that they wear 70s mustaches in Shangri La.

vindanpar on September 23, 2020 at 1:38 pm

On the day the box office opened for Fiddler I went that morning. School was closed that day due to a severe storm that made my school inaccessible. Went to a Sat matinee in Nov and it was a sold out performance so it was the only time I saw every seat in the theater filled. Maybe it was filled for action and exploitation films but I don’t know as I had no interest in seeing them which sadly kept me out of the major Times Square houses for long periods at a time. Had it been the 60s I would have been spending a lot of time in them exulting in the showmanship of their roadshow presentations. Just missed them.

Hal Prince had produced the original stage production of Fiddler so we had him to thank for the film at the Rivoli. A block north was his original production of Follies at the Winter Garden(one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my life and I have refused to see any production of it since) and then a couple of blocks north of that the original production of Fiddler was still playing at the Broadway Theater. It was as if Prince owned Broadway as a thoroughfare from 49th St to 53rd St. Though I never knew him and saw him only once I miss him enormously and his contributions to the theater. He was a giant on the cultural scene of which there are none today and despite dying in his early 90s I thought he would go on like his mentor George Abbott living to the age of 107. I couldn’t imagine NY without him. Taken from us far too soon.

And by the way he also produced the original production of West Side Story providing the Rivoli with another one of its longest running hits. Dear god the talent that existed.

vindanpar on September 27, 2020 at 11:52 pm

vindanparvindanpar on September 27, 2020 at 3:48 pm (remove) I’m going to put this here as I don’t know where else to put it that gets some kind of traffic and this theater was named after all after the Rue de in Paris.

This is for Kinospoter who lately is doing a great job putting in all these pictures of cinemas in France.

What about the Palais Garnier? It would be interesting to know how many films opened there even if they did not have runs nor could it have ever been considered a cinema. I know of two-Gance’s Napoleon and Wyler’s Funny Girl of which newsreel footage of the premiere is on youtube. Maybe these were the only two?

bigjoe59 on February 15, 2021 at 11:40 pm


in the photo section is an article about the closing of The Sound of Music’s roadshow engagement to make way for The Sand Pebbles. Sallah Hassenein the Vice President of UA theaters at the time is quoted. it also mentions that although the Rivoli had a good relationship with Fox Hassenein and two others exhibitors had filed a $6 million lawsuit against Fox for giving them an “inferior product” in Cleopatra. Cleopatra ran here on a healthy roadshow engagement of 63 weeks. Cleopatra is one of my all time favorite historical epics. plus it was nominated for 8 Oscars and won 4. plus Bosley Crowther the John Simon of film critics named it one of the 10 Best Films of 1963. so I don’t understand by what angle Hassenein deemed the film an “inferior product”?

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