Roxy Theatre

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

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Roxy Theatre

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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 1,135 comments)

vindanpar on June 13, 2017 at 3:25 pm

I don’t know where to ask for general info but I know this theater gets a lot of traffic so I thought I’d ask it here: How does one look up a closed theater on this site? It used to be easy. I’m sure it still is but I haven’t figured it out. I just get active theaters.

Also how do I post a photo?

Thanks for your help.

DavidZornig on June 13, 2017 at 3:55 pm

If you know what city the closed theater was in, go to the page of an open theater in that city. Then click on that city’s name in the tool bar above the name on that theater’s page. A map will appear with another tool bar below it. Closed will be one of the options in that tool bar.

To post a photo, click on Photos of the given theater. Once in that section, go to the bottom and click “Add New Photo. The next screen will given you two boxes two description to fill out. Then click under the word Photo where it says "Browse…” That will open the sources on your computer where your own photos are stored. Pick and click on your photo, and your file name will appear next to that box. Choose the type of license that applies, then click the “Upload Photo” box at the bottom of the page.

vindanpar on June 13, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Thank you! Things were so much easier in the old days.

HowardBHaas on June 13, 2017 at 5:56 pm

You can directly type in your device’s browser the theater’s name, city and this site- Roxy New York City and the theater’s page will appear- rather than looking for an open theater, a map, etc.

vindanpar on June 13, 2017 at 6:46 pm

I’ve been simply Googling Astor Theater NY and the CT page pops up as an option. I thought there was an easy way from the home page which there was a few(maybe more?) years ago. I’m not sure why now you can only easily get current movie theaters first time out. Thanks.

DavidZornig on June 13, 2017 at 7:18 pm

For both open and closed theatres I usually use Google first, typing Cinema Treasures, Theatre name (if i know it) and the city. It usually pulls up the Photos page of most of the theatres as well, so I can do a quick check to see if what I am about to post is already there. I only search within CT, if I am having trouble locating obscure or missing theatres, that may have been listed under other names.

MarkDHite on June 13, 2017 at 8:00 pm

Agreed. Google is much more efficient and faster than CT’s own search engine.

MarkDHite on June 13, 2017 at 8:03 pm

Also CT’s listings are often under the current or most recent name rather than the original name when a theatre has gone under different names. Can be confusing.

vindanpar on June 13, 2017 at 8:41 pm

If I google Demille Theater NY I first get Psycho at the Demille on a Hitchcock site and my second listing is Embassy 1,2,3 on the CT page. If I put Demille Theater into the CT search engine I get ‘no matches found.’ If I put in Embassy 1, 2, 3 same thing. Maybe the CT search engine can be refined?

DavidZornig on June 14, 2017 at 5:06 am

If you were to Google just “Cinema Treasures DeMille”, the Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre would be at the top of the list. Which states in the first sentence without even clicking on it that the name had been changed to the DeMille in the early `60’s. Second would be a photo that was titled DeMille Theatre, on the Embassy page. There is a certain amount of deductive reasoning that has to be applied, because CT only lists the AKA names once on the page of a given theatre. If they refined their search engine to include all the previous names of all the theatres that that applied to, it would possibly lead to double postings of the same theatres if they couldn’t be found. Rather than preventing it. Since most come up automatically in Google searches in most cases. The only thing I wish CT would do, is make it so e-mail notifications go out when comments are added under photos, and when new photos are added themselves.

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