Park Lane Theatre

1726 First Avenue,
New York, NY 10128

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Designed by Eugene DeRosa, the Park Lane was a larger version of his Gallo Opera House (now Studio 54) and was built at the same time. The Park Lane was financed by the Universal Theatre Circuit, which bowed out before opening and sold it to independent exhibitors Charles O'Reilly & Al Gould. The theatre was the largest ever built east of Third Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, but considered too near to the entertainment zone on East 86th Street to qualify for movies in their first neighborhood runs.

The Park Lane first opened on February 17, 1927, with “Lunatic At Large” on screen plus a self-produced stage revue featuring singers, dancers and a symphony-sized orchestra conducted by Julius Meyer. Programs changed three times a week, but after several months of low attendance, the policy switched to a feature movie, short subjects, and recitals by the Park Lane’s Wurlitzer organist. With the coming of “talkies”, the Park Lane changed to double features, but still weeks behind the area’s leaders— Loew’s Orpheum and the RKO Proctor’s 86th Street.

In 1932, the owners went bankrupt, and the Park Lane was purchased by Sol Brill’s Isle Theatres circuit, which sold it in 1938 to the Brandt chain. Still showing late-run movies, it survived the WWII years and in 1946 underwent a name change to the Gracie Square Theatre. Brandt changed the policy to double bills of second-run foreign movies, but it didn’t boost attendance. The arrival of home TV was the final nail in the coffin. The Gracie Square was permanently closed and eventually demolished for a high-rise apartment building.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

jeffg718 on April 29, 2005 at 5:50 pm

In this photograph (top) you can see the Park Lane Theatre.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 18, 2005 at 5:31 pm

The name changed from Park Lane to Gracie Square on October 30, 1947, with the opening of the subsequent-run “Brute Force.” Instead of the conventional companion feature, the theatre introduced “The Gracie Square Variety Show,” a one-hour compilation of shorts and cartoons. The selection would change each time that the feature movie did, but patrons weren’t happy and the Gracie Square soon became just another “dualer.”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on June 22, 2007 at 6:46 pm

I tried rejuvenating one of the NYPL photos and was surprised to find that it was in color. I was also surprised to discover that the theatre was situated so near to a gasoline station (on the corner with 90th Street), which I thought would have been prohibited by safety laws. The double feature displayed on the marquee is “Green Hell” & “A Child Is Born,” both first released in January, 1940. The photo would have been taken later than that, since the Park Lane was a subsequent-run house:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 31, 2008 at 7:14 pm

This is a new direct link to the photo mentioned above. The Park Lane’s interior was similar to architect Eugene De Rosa’s Gallo Opera House, which was built around the same time on West 54th Street and still exists as a “legit” theatre under the name of Studio 54: View link

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 2, 2008 at 6:27 pm

For lack of a photo of the Park Lane’s auditorium, I’m posting this one of the same architect’s Gallo Opera House, which was built at the same time and very similar. The Park Lane opened on February 17th, 1927, and the Gallo Opera House in November. The Gallo opened later because opera companies operated on a limited, seasonal basis. Due to more legroom between the rows, the Gallo had fewer seats than the Park Lane, which was a movie palace designed to pack in as many customers as possible: View link

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