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 1,158 comments)

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 25, 2017 at 8:38 pm

Famous Theatres that still exist and Famous Theatres that once were are two different topics, and maybe Cinema Treasures should address that.

Cool, I am happy that you still see a Roxy at TGI Fridays on 50th Street and 7th avenue. I don’t.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on June 29, 2017 at 8:44 am

I’m pleased to find that the Roxy has been returned to its rightful place in the “Famous Theaters” section. And now that the NYC Ziegfeld is being converted into non-theatrical use, perhaps its slot could be used for an “atmospheric,” a beloved architectural style so far overlooked in the “Famous Theaters” section. I would nominate John Eberson’s Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, TX, which has been well-preserved and still operating as a performing arts center.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 29, 2017 at 10:17 am

That makes no sense. If the Roxy building without a theatre inside can be listed why would the Ziegfeld building be removed? Also, what about the Paramount?

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on June 29, 2017 at 3:03 pm

The “Famous Theaters” photos section seems biased. All ten theaters are either in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. And not one “foreign” theatre, even though CT membership extends all over the world.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 29, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Good point. So take out the Roxy and put in the Karl Marx in Havana, Cuba.

vindanpar on June 29, 2017 at 10:23 pm

Alvarez this is why I never read your responses to my posts. Ouch!

Please stay away from the Ziegfeld page! I expect to be put on the wheel.

bigjoe59 on July 2, 2017 at 1:50 pm


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 on July 2, 2017 at 2:35 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 on July 2, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Also the egyptian, and farewell to arms.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on July 13, 2017 at 6:51 am

Why has the Roxy again been removed from the “Photos of famous movie theaters” section? Replacing it with the Kings in Brooklyn doesn’t make sense. The Roxy had a far greater impact on architecture and exhibition than the Kings.

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