Roxy Theatre

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

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Roxy Theatre

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.

On September 1, 1953 the Roxy Theatre was equipped with CinemaScope and a curved screen 65ft wide and 26ft tall was installed to screen a formal international showing of “The Robe” starring Richard Burton. The world premiere of the movie was held at the Roxy Theatre the following evening. Sadly this brought an end to stage shows as part of the program. On April 9, 1958 it was equipped with Cinemiracle to screen “Windjammer” on a curved screen 100ft wide and 40ft tall. 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 1960 and demolition was completed by the end of 1960. In its place sits a nondescript and unremarkable office building. The neighboring Taft Hotel survives to this day (now the Michelangelo Hotel) and is the only evidence that this epic structure was ever here. A TGI Friday’s restaurant and a KFC restaurant now occupy 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 1,209 comments)

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on August 2, 2020 at 8:29 am

The full movie is also free on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLbgta6CgO8

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 2, 2020 at 10:09 am

Also a little off topic, LOL, how does one italicize or bold a word or comment? I have looked for instructions on the site, to no avail.

walterk
walterk on August 2, 2020 at 11:27 am

You have to use html code. That’s why cutting and pasting links gives you a link you can’t open unless you cut and paste it. A hassle, but a little searching will show how. I’d show you here,but they wouldn’t show up:-). There are about a dozen keystrokes to make a working link, and only a half dozen to italicize. Hope this helps.

vindanpar
vindanpar on August 2, 2020 at 11:28 am

I’ve always wanted to see this movie simply because it closed the Roxy. did the people in the audience know it was the last night of the Roxy or did it close without being announced? I wonder how many people were there.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on August 2, 2020 at 12:07 pm

The Roxy deserves to be returned to its rightful place in the “Famous Movie Theaters” feature on the main PHOTOS page. For whatever reason, the Roxy was removed to make way for the former Loew’s Kings when rejuvenated for performing arts.

stevenj
stevenj on August 2, 2020 at 1:21 pm

I scanned from my copy of Ben M Hall’s book The Best Remaining Seats and uploaded to Photos the Roxy’s final day ad for The Wind Cannot Read.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 2, 2020 at 2:15 pm

Hello0

speaking of the late but great Roxy. the only souvenir program I have from a film that debuted at the Roxy is for The Robe. I found it in a memorabilia shop say 20 years ago. does anyone know of any other films which debuted here which had souvenir programs? thanks in advance.

Joseph
Joseph on August 2, 2020 at 2:56 pm

Te souvenir programs, roxy sold many over the years including: Wilson,RAZORS EDGE, ROBE, ALL ABOUT EVE, CAROUSEL, LING AND I, EGYPTIAN. A FAREWELL TO ARMS, LIL ABNER, KING AND I, BIG CIRUS. A,THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESSES, all come to mind

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 2, 2020 at 3:03 pm

Hello-

to Joseph thanks for the info. of the ones you mention the only souvenir program I have as stated was for The Robe. its interesting I’ve never come across the others you mention either in memorabilia shops or online.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 2, 2020 at 3:11 pm

Hello- as stated in Joseph’s Aug.1st post how was the roadshow engagement of Windjammer “disastrous”? was it the Cinemiracle projection or no one came? I would think using a HUGE theater like the Roxy for a roadshow engagement not a good idea.

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