Rivoli Theatre

1620 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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Rivoli Theatre

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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 It has been replaced by a black glass skyscraper.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 759 comments)

wally 75
wally 75 on December 22, 2015 at 12:22 am

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

vindanpar on December 22, 2015 at 12:32 am

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 11:49 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 4:02 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 7:53 pm

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

vindanpar on September 26, 2016 at 10:48 pm

WSS played 113 weeks at the Rivoli?

It opened there in I believe Oct of ‘61. Cleopatra opened there in summer of '63.

I guess they weren’t teaching math in ‘66.

And Sound of Music would have been Rivoli’s longest run.

Very odd.

Unless I’m the one to have to take remedial math or my reading comprehension is nil.

I spoke to Wise asking him what happened to the plaque in the lobby dedicated to him listing his films that had played at the theater when they tore it down. He said he hadn’t thought of that plaque since it was put up.

I hope some movie buff stole it and it still exists somewhere.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on September 26, 2016 at 11:49 pm

Sorry, Vindanpar. I don’t understand that first part of your comment. Where does it say WSS played for 113 weeks and what does it have to do with 1966 anyway?

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 26, 2016 at 11:58 pm

There’s a NYTimes article in the photo section that raises those issues.

vindanpar on September 27, 2016 at 7:40 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 9:12 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.

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