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 It has been replaced by a black glass skyscraper.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 767 comments)

vindanpar on September 27, 2016 at 4:40 am

And the article was written by Vincent Canby who I have no doubt had no interest in fact checking anything about these 2 films mentioned and just copied what was in the handed out press release. Being that this was very recent history didn’t the manager of the Rivoli notice this?

I understand the Rivoli,I believe I read this in an old Variety on microfilm, itself was not happy about letting go of SOM and fought to hold on to it being that it was still so successful.

I can’t understand why the film didn’t have its ‘73 big ballyhooed rerelease there. I was old enough to finally have seen it in one of my favorite movie theaters. You know 'The Sound of Music returns home!’ that kind of thing. Instead it played at the National a theater I didn’t like so I didn’t bother.

The Sand Pebbles is like Zhivago. Why oh why wasn’t it filmed in 70MM? Was it that expensive at that point when other films were still doing it and both Wise and Lean would use it for their next films?

Other films of the era that definitely could have used it were Hawaii, Oliver! and Funny Girl.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on September 27, 2016 at 6:12 am

For the exhibition side of the industry, Vincent Canby was probably the most knowledgeable critic/reporter that The New York Times ever had. Prior to joining the NYT, Canby had many years of experience covering exhibition for Variety and before that for Quigley’s Motion Picture Herald.

Norman_24 on November 27, 2016 at 12:16 am

It should be noted that the owners of the Rivoli / UA Twin pulled a fast one on the City, putting in for repairs and then blasting out one of the theater’s Roman Columns. I worked right across from it at The Brill and watched the workmen take drill to it. As my favorite theater at the time, it pissed me the f*ck off.

Coate on December 31, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Newly-published retrospective article which includes mention of the record-breaking two-year run at the Rivoli. Around the World in 60 Years: Remembering “Around the World in 80 Days” on its 60th Anniversary

paul baar
paul baar on May 30, 2017 at 7:47 am

I Saw Roger Moore in the James Bond epic"Moonraker"in 1979.I loved all the billboard art work around the theater.I have some photos if I could figure out how to post them.It was not my favorite but way better than"View to a Kill.

vindanpar on June 6, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Great Rivoli photos with Moonraker marquee and 7th Av billboard. Thank you!

Only thing is I wish they hadn’t replaced the neon frame of the marquee with the plain boring chrome. Anyone know when it was changed?

I believe it was still there in the early 70s. Same thing happened with the very cool modern Criterion marquee. Again I believed it happened there sometime during the 70s.

robboehm on June 8, 2017 at 1:04 pm

That seemed to be the norm even on Long Island. Cheaper.

vindanpar on February 17, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Frenchman’s Creek photo. Sensational. Imagine that in color. No wonder people were movie crazy. Though to be honest never heard of it.

DavidZornig on May 5, 2018 at 8:00 am

1963 photo added via Gerard Legrand‎. Rear exit of the Rivoli with “Cleopatra” billboard.

vindanpar on May 6, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Great photo of 7th Av Cleopatra billboard for Rivoli.

Don’t know if this is an urban legend or if it happened with the original ad campaign but I read it had to do with the this billboard.

Harrison was not included. He threatened to sue and they painted him in. It does look like he’s an afterthought.

Finally got to see it when they restored it in ‘13. Thought it was terrific. Great Mankiewicz script. 'Egyptian generosity, two heads for the price of one!’ And that final tableau which turns into a painting is a stunner on a large screen.

Lawrence at the Criterion and Cleopatra at the Rivoli. I envy those of you who were going to NY cinemas then.

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