Roxy Theatre

153 W. 50th Street,
New York, NY 10020

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Roxy Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then one look at photos of this palatial movie palace is worth about a million. Often cited as the most impressive movie palace ever built, the Roxy Theatre was called “The Cathedral of the Motion Picture” by its creator and namesake, Samuel ‘Roxy’ Rothafel. Roxy was arguably the greatest showmen of his time and he built a theatre that has seemingly outlasted his own legend.

With its 6,214 seats and multi-tiered balconies, the Roxy Theatre was the showplace of New York City and of the nation. Construction began on March 22, 1926 and it opened on March 11, 1927 with a world premiere presentation of United Artists “The Loves of Sonya” starring Gloria Swanson. It was designed by architect Walter W. Ahlschlager of Chicago (who also designed New York’s Beacon Theatre), with interior decoration by Harold W. Rambusch of New York. Its rather modest entrance at the corner of the Taft Hotel building disguised one of the most cavernous lobbies ever built and a magnificent auditorium that has lived on in its patrons' imagination. Whatever adjectives can be used for the Roxy Theatre, they all fail to signify the theatre’s achievement.

The Roxy Theatre was equipped with three Kimball organs. The auditorium organ had 29 ranks installed under the stage and 3 ‘fanfare’ ranks above the proscenium. This magnificent instrument had three consoles. The main console had 5 manuals and was opened by organist C.A.J. Parmentier, while the two 3 manual consoles were opened by organists Dezso Von D'Antalffy and Emile Velazco. There was also a Kimball organ in the Grand Foyer Rotunda which had 3 manuals and was opened by organist Lew White. A 2 manual Kimball organ was located in the theatres' recording studio located on the roof above the proscenium. There was an 110-piece Roxy Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Erno Rapee.

Sadly, the decline in attendance that had begun in the 1950’s spilled over into the early-1960’s and the Roxy Theatre closed with Dirk Bogarde in “The Wind Cannot Read” which began its run on March 9, 1960. Despite numerous protests, it was razed in the summer of 1961. In its place sits a nondescript and unremarkable office building. The neighboring Taft Hotel survives to this day (now the Michangelo Hotel) and is the only evidence that this epic structure was ever here. A TGI Friday’s restaurant occupies the theatres' original entrance.

The legacy of the Roxy Theatre is almost as impressive as the theatre itself once was. The name ‘Roxy’ has since adorned movie theatres, nightclubs, restaurants and a host of other establishments around the world all attempting to give to their patrons what Roxy always brought to his own: entertainment.

The end of the Roxy Theatre signified the beginning of the end for thousands of movie palaces across the country. With its destruction, New York City began to destroy its past for urban renewal and the city, and movie palaces, have never been the same.

Contributed by Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 1,145 comments)

vindanpar
vindanpar on June 25, 2017 at 9:15 am

There are so many places to read about his going there and the inspiration of that photo for both him and Harold Prince. I honestly couldn’t tell you as I’ve already read so many different books and articles. I was going to all the original productions of their musicals being very young at the time and I saw Follies twice which was everything they say it was. I went to the first Wed mat after the opening(it was Easter week ‘71. Bought my ticket that Monday going to see A New Leaf at the Music Hall) and it seems people left the theater in a kind of shock it was so momentous. I’ve never had any desire to see a revival.

You might to read in a number of places about the creation of the musical and a good place to start would be the Time magazine cover story in a library. I believe it also contains the Swanson photo.

Sorry the movie is Hangover Square and the Herrmann score inspired Sondheim to write the composer and Herrmann wrote back

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on June 25, 2017 at 9:26 am

Thanks. I’ll start looking around. I’m so jealous that you saw the original Follies! That’s awesome.

vindanpar
vindanpar on June 25, 2017 at 9:33 am

I feel lucky to have seen all their original productions back then. A level of genius that was awe inspiring. When Broadway was first for New Yorkers after which the tourists followed.

The Disneyfication of Times Square, the wiping away of all the great remainng movie theaters and the evening length theme park musicals are now for me heartbreaking.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on July 2, 2017 at 11:50 am

Hello-

I always connect souvenir programs with roadshow engagements. to which did this theater ever hold a traditional roadshow engagement?

also were there any other BIG regular release films
that opened here that had souvenir programs.

Joseph
Joseph on July 2, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Only traditional roadshow was windjammer. However at certain periods in the roxy s history. Mezzanine seats were were reserved and available in advance. Special events like premieres had reserved seating. Souvenir programs were available for the robe, razor’s edge, all about eve, king and I, carousel, no business like show business, Lil Abner. Big circus and others.

Joseph
Joseph on July 2, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Also the egyptian, and farewell to arms.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on October 2, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Roxy is no longer included in “Famous Theaters” on the home page of the Photos Section. A new image has been uploaded here

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on October 13, 2017 at 7:50 am

Today marks the 67th anniversary of the world premiere of “All About Eve” at the Roxy Theatre. An ad has been uploaded here

alexbraid
alexbraid on October 21, 2017 at 3:58 am

Cole Porter’s song ‘You’re the Tops’ contains the line “ You’re the pants on a Roxy usher”.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on October 22, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Hello-

to Comfortably Cool. the ad for the premiere opening of AAE was neat. did I misunderstand the ‘ ad? I got the impression from the info in the lower left hand that it was a reserved performance engagement.

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