Murray Hill Cinema

160 E. 34th Street,
New York, NY 10016

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M Hill

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Originally opened as the Murray Hill Lyceum in 1893. By 1926 it was listed as the 34th Street Theatre with a seating capacity of 600.

Later known as the Murray Hill Theatre, this was a moderatley sized cinema that sort of mirrored the Sutton uptown and the former 34th Street East down the block. It was remodeled in 1959 in a ‘Moderne’ style to the plans of architect Benjamin Schlanger. This theatre was about to be renovated again when in 1986 while screening the film “Psycho III” the ceiling collapsed. Fortunately, no one was injured. The theatre was shut down and eventually demolished.

It was rebuilt as a quad with the same name but in the style of the City Cinemas 1-2-3 on 59th Street. This, too, was short lived, as Loew’s Kips Bay 14 opened up in 1999. Two years later as business diminished for this and the Loew’s 34th Street Showplace down the street, they felt no need to continue operating. The theatre was closed in 2002 and demolished to make way for a high-rise apartment.

Contributed by jamal savage

Recent comments (view all 52 comments)

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on January 16, 2011 at 10:26 am

Not quite a gut remodel, Al. They built a smaller auditorium within the old opera house. The first time I was in there was the night the ceiling fell down, I was working at CI&II we got the news and rushed down there. The ceiling over the balcony had come down and a large section of that then slid down the incline into the orchestra. I couldn’t see much at that time due to the heavy cloud of dust and there were no lights operable.

Several months later, I was given the key and sent down there to retrieve a buttermat and some other stuff. I took a big flashlight because nobody knew if Con Edison had shut off the power. By that time the entire ceiling was down in the orchestra. At the top of the side walls there was a vast amount of space between where the ceiling had been and the roof. There was enough space that another auditorium could have been built up there. Also, along the sides were the side sections of old horse shoe balcony of the ancient theatre. Snooping around further, I found that in the projection booth there was an old rickety wooden stairway going up to that balcony. That whole structure up there was made out of wood and there was evidence of past fire damage. There was old fabric wall covering straining to stay on the walls along with the old light fixtures. Below this balcony was another, but it was hidden behind the side wall of the cinema. Below that, on the ground level was the exit alleyway from the cinema. This was all on the west side of the building, the east side was similar, but inaccessible, and the ground level was the men’s room, ushers and porter room.

When they readied the place for temporary operation I drew the short straw and was assigned to be the manager. A new ceiling had been installed but instead of putting it in its original position they put it all the way up near the roof, leaving the old balcony’s exposed. In addition to installing the screen we had Geo. Moulinos mask off all that upper area and walls with drapery.

When that was finally shut down to be made into the quad, THEN they did do a complete gut, I was in there when it was just 4 walls and the roof.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 16, 2011 at 11:17 am

Thanks for that Dave-Bronx.

Here is a relaunch ad:

Note the claim about the birth of NYC exhibition having occurred on 34th Street.

View link

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on January 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Wow I never saw that ad. Do you know the date and what paper it was published in? Thanks.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm

October 9, 1959.

I am pretty sure it was Variety.

Astyanax
Astyanax on January 17, 2011 at 5:22 am

Had been to the Murray Hill several times before it was turned into a quad. In its early years as a Rugoff house it showcased foreign filsms – saw a bouble feature of Repulsion & il Bombole (the Dolls). Later it became a Premiere Showcase outlet daydating the Astor & the Trans-Lux East for United Artist product.

Don’t recall the original seating, but never visited th MH after the quadding since I imagined that the theraters would have been too cramped. Makes sense now that the first renovation only occupied half of the theater.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 19, 2011 at 2:19 pm

This is where I saw “2001, A Space Odyssey” in the late 1960’s. While I did visit this theater several other times, I will always remember it for providing me with the tremendous eperience of viewing this very special film.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on February 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm

This Boxoffice Magazine has photos and an article of the remodel;

View link

Smeeglereegle
Smeeglereegle on November 13, 2011 at 10:57 am

I worked at the Murray Hill from ‘79 to '82 along with my friend peterdamian (see earlier posting), in the years that I attended film school. I started with the film “JAWS 3-D,” and then “Animal House.” I shot part of my thesis film in the main entrance and outside of the theater. (Someday I’ll post the footage!) Even though our boss, Mr. Bradley was very strict, we really were a family there. There was also quite a history of tragedy at that theater. Aside from the fire in the earlier days of the building, and the ceiling collapse during Psycho III, our friend and co-worker, John, committed suicide there on May 21st, 1980. So sad.

SeaBassTian
SeaBassTian on September 4, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I used to patronize this place quite often in the 90’s. By the time I arrived the decor was very white, stark, almost clinical. Ironically, I believe it’s now an NYU Medical Center. I caught Here on Earth in spring 2000.

jackbauer24
jackbauer24 on February 9, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I remember my father used to work as a manger there back in the mid 1970’s. I remember seeing many films there including the movie Rollercoaster. I liked how the Murrary Hill had there outer doors painted to match the film they were showing at the time. Does anyone remeber my father who worked there in the mid 70’s and was the manager?

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