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 It has been replaced by a black glass skyscraper.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 754 comments)

DavidZornig on November 23, 2015 at 9:35 am

1925 photo added courtesy of the Quality Retro Oldies 1900s-1970s. Facebook page.

moax429 on November 23, 2015 at 1:28 pm

techman707, September 14, 2014 at 10:18 A.M.: “Thanks to the consent decrees beginning in 1940 onward, the Loews/MGM relationship was ended. Not only did it HURT the industry (including the independent exhibitors), it forced Loews to shut down, sell or permanently close HUNDREDS of theatres across the country. Today, ANYTHING GOES. With everything going on today, we will either wind up with NO THEATRES, or ONE COMPANY running virtually every theatre that’s left. Does a particular company or two come to mind? And finally, does ANYONE care?”

Yes, Techman, at least one company comes to my mind: AMC. But, mercifully, they pulled out of the Lansing, Michigan area (where I now live) in the early 90’s. (Let’s hope they don’t make a comeback here!)

And yes, indeed, I do care. It would be nice to see some of the independent, old-time movie houses saved and updated so future generations can enjoy them. (Three examples of these in my area are the Eaton Theater in Charlotte, Michigan, which now has two screens – one in the former balcony area – but with all-digital projection; the Sun Theater, a single-screener in Grand Ledge, Michigan, also now all-digital; and another Sun Theater, this one in Williamston, Michigan and is another single-screener with digital projection.)

And the Consent Decree you were referring to was decided by the Supreme Court in 1948 in United States vs. Paramount Pictures, Inc. The Court ruled that the movie studios owning their own theaters was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Here is a link to an article about that at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v.Paramount_Pictures,Inc.

This should shed some light on why, in the example you mentioned, Loew’s had to divorce MGM from their holdings and why the other studios who owned theaters had to do the same.

vindanpar on November 23, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Thanks for the recent pics of the Rivoli at twilight in the early 60s. Wish I had been around then to go to these roadshow movies. I’m sure I would have gone multiple times.

Going to a multiplex to see contemporary movies does absolutely nothing for me. A DVD at home will do fine.

Myron on December 21, 2015 at 12:50 pm

A poster claims that she saw The Sound of Music in 1965 when she was a little girl at the Radio City Music Hall. She is mistaken; it was the Rivoli I am sure. Radio City never presented long epics with intermissions as the RCMH included a stage show with the Rockettes. A 4 hour long show was never allowed.

wally 75
wally 75 on December 21, 2015 at 9:20 pm

I was in high school when I saw the Sound Of music Myron, and you ar right it was at the Rivoli NYC. I remember saying to myself how I would like to manage it some day….1975 I did.

wally 75
wally 75 on December 21, 2015 at 9:22 pm

PS: To the left my picture with Redford and George roy Hill…The Great Waldo Pepper.

vindanpar on December 21, 2015 at 9:32 pm

I posted on the Music Hall page. That woman was correct but she got the year wrong. It was ‘75.

And the Music Hall did indeed show long epics with their stage shows. Not only SOM, but also GWTW, 2001 and Dr.Z. And though I didn’t see the other films SOM had its intermission as well.

JackIndiana on March 14, 2016 at 8:49 am

Movies I saw at the Rivoli included JAWS, which was quite a thrill on that gigantic screen. THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (I think I saw it there), THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, THE GAUNTLET, CAPRICORN ONE, MOONRAKER, 1941, WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM, THE ISLAND and BUSTIN' LOOSE. I saw a few after it was twinned including GHOST STORY, the two CONAN movies, PSYCHO II and TANK. The only movies I saw there after it was renamed the United Artists Twin, were BACK TO SCHOOL and THREE AMIGOS. NYC could really use a place like the Rivoli and Loews Astor Plaza again.

bigjoe59 on August 18, 2016 at 1:02 pm


many years ago I attended the opening day performance of A Bridge To Far. as an added treat Joseph E. Levine was outside the Rivoli in a comfy chair greeting people as they bought tickets.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 18, 2016 at 4:53 pm

I also saw A Bridge a Too Far at the Rivoli, but no Joe Levine…:(

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