Rivoli Theatre

1620 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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Rivoli

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 It has been replaced by a black glass skyscraper.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 924 comments)

vindanpar
vindanpar on January 8, 2020 at 5:03 pm

That very shallow stage looks like a very crowded off Broadway theater production supported by a symphony orchestra in front of it. It must have looked like a postage stamp in the mezz and balcony.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on January 9, 2020 at 8:23 am

A resident orchestra and simulated sound effects were standard procedure at the Rivoli and most midtown “deluxers” during the silent era. The exceptional thing about the “Old Ironsides” engagement in 1926 was wide-screen Magnascope projection for the spectacular outdoor scenes.

vindanpar
vindanpar on January 9, 2020 at 10:52 am

The thing about Magnascope was that it was very grainy wasn’t it? When the Music Hall after it ended its movie stage show policy showed some old films at 11am on weekdays, a single film for an entire week, I saw Good News and Showboat with what I assume was magnascope projection. Much larger than for example the screen size used for the week long run of Singing in the Rain in ‘75. That was a very small screen indeed but the image was brilliant in its definition and colors. Good News and Showboat on the much larger screen however were very grainy and soft looking in comparison.

vindanpar
vindanpar on January 9, 2020 at 10:52 am

The thing about Magnascope was that it was very grainy wasn’t it? When the Music Hall after it ended its movie stage show policy showed some old films at 11am on weekdays, a single film for an entire week, I saw Good News and Showboat with what I assume was magnascope projection. Much larger than for example the screen size used for the week long run of Singing in the Rain in ‘75. That was a very small screen indeed but the image was brilliant in its definition and colors. Good News and Showboat on the much larger screen however were very grainy and soft looking in comparison.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on January 9, 2020 at 3:25 pm

Hello-

the link to the interview with Kennedy doesn’t seem to work but I did read the interview when the link was first posted. it seems just that he book was going to have a negative viewpoint. his statement referring to Hello Dolly as a “well dressed dinosaur” is the epitome of a left handed compliment. granted Streisand should have been twice the age she was but in terms of her performance Streisand WAS every inch Dolly Levi. I still don’t get the comments about “over produced” musical numbers. one of the things I liked about the film was its lush production numbers. to criticize a film version of Hello Dolly for “over produced” numbers is just plain bizarre.

also in the interview Kennedy refers to Doctor Dolittle as an “ugly bomb”. I always liked the film. plus the recent restord/remastered Blu-ray disc from Twilight Time is A++. people who have never seen the film and are just aware of its somewhat off reputation after viewing the Blu-ray disc will wonder what all the naysayers were talking about.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 9, 2020 at 7:36 pm

The whole slant of the Kennedy book is that Studios were failing to replicate the box office success of “THE SOUND OF MUSIC” by repeating that standard of sweet corn. In that, he is right.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on January 10, 2020 at 2:01 pm

Hello-

to Al A.– as you said in a previous post Kennedy’s book begins with a negative slant so I shouldn’t be surprised by what he says in the book. in your last post you say “in that he is right”. well kind of if you’re talking strictly about box office returns maybe.after The Sound of Music finished its record run at this theater the studios released Oliver, Funny Girl and Fiddler on the Roof all on roadshow engagements. for instance many people consider FOTR the greatest musical ever made.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 10, 2020 at 2:21 pm

bigjoe, Kennedy’s focus was more on the expensive Roadshows that tried to mimic “THE SOUND OF MUSIC” elements and failed. Movies like “STAR!”, “DOCTOR DOLITTLE” and “SONG OF NORWAY” from 1965 to 1972.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on March 27, 2020 at 12:54 pm

Rivoli marquee at 22:20 in video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpXnEvW0XD0&fbclid=IwAR2GTsgBZEZuZ87EDtbKV6j1ULsIXc8zGMuKNKgRCSl387N6hynE9UQ2axQ

DEFG
DEFG on March 28, 2020 at 6:29 am

52 years ago. Attended morning preview screening (quality presentation check). At the time, never gave it a thought that this theatre would no longer exist today. Screening was “2001: a space odyssey” for upcoming popular magazine article. By the way, I hope all who frequent this site are well.

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