Rivoli Theatre

1620 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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Rivoli Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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 It has been replaced by a black glass skyscraper.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 838 comments)

Coate
Coate on January 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm

RSM3853…I’d hate to think your effort will go to waste if folks choose not to read them because they dislike the layout or question the accuracy/comprehensiveness of the information. Using Wednesday dates is your prerogative, of course, but I think it will lead to confusion. Some titles are listed a week late (CLEOPATRA, for instance) and I suspect it’s because you used Variety, which reports grosses a week after the reporting period.

Having spent numerous hours researching JAWS for a retrospective article, I can state that I found no theaters that opened it on Wednesday, June 18th, 1975. I found all “first wave” openings were Friday, June, 20th (but I guess you should list it as the 18th if you insist on using the “Wednesday of the opening week” approach).

You don’t need to re-type everything. It’s the Cinema Treasures application that is causing the jumbled paragraph layout. To create a list, simply paste in your title, then follow it with two spaces and a hard return, and it will create…

10/17/56 Around the World in 80 Days
10/01/58 South Pacific
04/01/59 Compulsion…

RSM3853
RSM3853 on January 6, 2014 at 8:37 am

Thanks for the info – what I’ve been doing is copying entire lists of films (not just single titles) from Excel and pasting them in.

I have not been counting “invitation-only charity premieres” such as those held for roadshow films, but the week that the regular paying-public got to get into the theater…I found a lot of these were on Tuesday evenings, which is why some of my dates are a week later…and yes, I used Variety a lot, but I would subtract 6 days from the date on the city report.

robboehm
robboehm on February 5, 2014 at 7:13 am

World Premiere of “Modern Times” February 5, 1936 with performances beginning the next day. Ad posted in photo section.

rivoli157
rivoli157 on March 18, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Just uploaded photos of the marquee and front of theatre during the engagements of STAR!, HELLO, DOLLY! and JUSTINE. Taken in 1968 and 1969

Cimarron
Cimarron on March 27, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Pic of World Premiere ad “The Snake Pit” added to Photo Section.

paullewis
paullewis on April 7, 2014 at 2:07 pm

“Replaced by a black skyscraper” This would also apply to the Roxy and Capitol, three of the finest and most famous movie palaces ever built, denied to future generations through sheer greed of developers and a city administration blind to it’s unique heritage.

robboehm
robboehm on April 8, 2014 at 7:08 am

And now a venue of a different sort is also succumbing to developers, Roseland Ballroom.

markp
markp on April 8, 2014 at 7:51 am

I hate that black skyscraper every time I pass it. Same for the Roxy site. And Roseland, I was just there a year ago for the opening night party of “Motown the Musical”. Another shame that one is gonna bite the dust too.

bufffilmbuff
bufffilmbuff on April 14, 2014 at 11:37 am

I recently watched the movie SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, where you can see some ads in the street for the Rivoli and OKLAHOMA! But there is a scene in a theater here which looks very much like the picture of the Rivoli posted on AMERICAN WIDESCREEN MUSEUM. Does anyone know if this scene was shot in the Rivoli… and if not does anyone know what theater it was. Thanks.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 16, 2014 at 5:25 am

The shot of Tony Curtis, as Falco, watching Hunsecker’s sister enter the theater, was filmed at the corner of W. 54th Street and Sixth Avenue. The bar and restaurant behind him is now the site where the New York Hilton is located. That would make suggest the theater itself was the original Ziegfeld Theatre. However, neither the interior shots of the theater, nor the exterior showing the sister entering (and later the Marty Milner character in the outside foyer) were shot at the Ziegfeld.

Suggesting it was the Ziegfeld actually makes sense, since at the time of the filming, that theater had been used by NBC as a television studio. But the exterior shots are of a different facade, just judging from the windows and storefront immediately to the right of the marquee.

As for the Rivoli, by this time (1957) the interior had already been streamlined for its wide-screen road show retrofit. The interior shots in the film show far too much original vintage ornamentation to be the Rivoli – not to mention the design around the proscenium is a bit different. I don’t know where they filmed those shots, but it is definitely an old movie palace that had been retrofitted for direct-throw wide-screen projection (you can glimpse the new booth, cut into center of the loge, in the background), just not the Rivoli.

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