RKO 23rd Street Theatre

265 8th Avenue,
New York, NY 10011

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RKO 23rd Street Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This RKO 23rd Street Theatre was on the NW corner with 8th Avenue and had the address of 265 8th Avenue. It was the second RKO 23rd Street Theatre. The first one was the original Proctor’s 23rd Street Theatre, between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue, at 139 West 23rd Street, built in 1888. That Proctor’s 23rd Street Theatre had become outmoded, so RKO purchased the larger and better situated Grand Opera House (formerly Pike’s Opera House, built in 1868) and had architect Thomas Lamb Associates convert it into an ultramodern theatre. Much of the ornamentation on the exterior of the building was removed for the new RKO theatre.

The theatre opened August 4, 1938 with “Having a Wonderful Time” and “Sky Giant”

The theatre closed June 15, 1960, to be demolished for another building. It was destroyed by a fire on June 29, 1960. Later, RKO built what become the third RKO 23rd Street theatre further west on 23rd Street.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 46 comments)

EMarkisch on July 28, 2009 at 7:12 pm

According to the front of the Grand Opera House marquee, the double feature playing on September 3, 1937, the date the photo was taken, was displayed as…


Both were released in mid June of 1937.

kencmcintyre on August 7, 2009 at 4:49 am

Here is another 1937 photo by Berenice Abbott:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 8, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Jerry: The scan is a bit blurry, but Boxoffice Magazine of October 15, 1938, ran an article about the conversion of the Grand Opera House into the RKO 23rd Street, and it has a pair of before-and-after photos showing the foyer and the auditorium.

42ndStreetMemories on June 18, 2010 at 4:46 pm

A belated thank you. Great pix. Funny how I remembered the color of the carpeting. The place meant a lot to us. Jerry

42ndStreetMemories on September 22, 2010 at 8:54 pm

I am doing some research on the theater from the Grand Opera House days to the RKO 23rd St. If you’d like to share some information or memories please post or email me. Thanks. Jerry

oldtimer on June 18, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I grew up in the Chelsea area of NYC. There was the RKO on the corner of 23ST. &8th Ave. There was also the Chelsea between 8th & 9th Ave. on 23rd St. I saw MEn of the Fighting Lady at the Chelsea. The RTko was beautiful. To me as a child it was liking going to a palace.

42ndStreetMemories on June 18, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Oldtimer, I grew up around the corner from the old RKO, my dad was an usher there in the 40s. It truly was beautiful. I remember The Chelsea from the outside but don’t remember going inside. We also went to The Terrace on 23rd Street. When did you attend the old RKO?

The ad shown here should really be under the newer RKO 23rd Street that opened in the 60s.

JwPhillips on November 17, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Thought you all might be interested to know that the box-office street shot provided with this address is actually from the earlier location for this 23rdSt. Proctor’s RKO between 6th & 7th on the west side of 23rd in the middle of that block. I can tell from the buildings being reflected in the glass case displaying the poster for “In the Money.”

Also, “In The Money” was a 1935, mid-August, release. It starred Joan Blondell, Hug Herbert, Glenda Farrell, and it does have a funny bit by Lionel Stander in his usual gravel-voiced character bit: as ‘Butch’ Gonzola. The Grand Opera was still looking for a buyer in 1935 and RKO didn’t convert it until 1938.

JwPhillips on November 17, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Sorry, typo – that’s “Hugh"Herbert. Short (under 90 minute) comedy features were quite the thing for double feature in the 30s. My old man worked for RKO short features as an advance man during this time – before moving back to Paramount.

42ndStreetMemories on November 22, 2015 at 6:24 pm

JwPhillips – the image following “the box office street shot” shows “We’re in the Money” on the RKO 23rd Street marquee. Notice the Grand Opera House designation. I believe the double feature was a re-release.

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