Loew's Avenue B Theatre

72 Avenue B,
New York, NY 10009

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circa 1948 photo

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Loew’s Avenue B Theatre is part of one of the great rags-to-riches stories of showbiz history. Movie mogul Marcus Loew erected it on the very site of the tenement building where he was born. Needless to say, his birthplace was demolished to make way for the luxurious 1,750-seat theatre, which was designed by Thomas W. Lamb and first opened on January 8, 1913, with vaudeville as its main attraction and movies thrown in just as fillers.

The Avenue B Theatre was the top Loew’s house on the Lower East Side until the mid-1920’s, when the circuit took over the Commodore Theatre on Second Avenue, which was a much busier area for entertainment and shopping. The Avenue B Theatre was reduced to playing movies at the end of their Loew’s circuit run, and remained so until its closure around 1957-58.

I don’t know if anyone operated the theatre after that. It was eventually demolished and replaced by a nursing facility.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

jrobertclark
jrobertclark on August 8, 2007 at 4:39 am

Wow, I lived on the block (No. 46) in 1983-84, then at 246 E 4th St during 1984-85,and had no clue there used to be a lavish Loew’s up the street. Thanks, guys!

kc2dhj
kc2dhj on August 20, 2007 at 11:29 am

I spent many saturdays 7 sundays in the early 50s in that wonderful place. My friends and I would go around the corner on 5th street that sold a big brown greasy bag of french fries for 15 cents and would stay watch a double feature, a action serial, and 25 cartoons.
I laugh now when I think of how many times my mother would come to get me and bring me home, boy would I get it. It was a simple white building, and still remember the lion heads that stood out of the wall.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on November 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Good story of how Marcus Loew built the theatre at the site of his birth.Good history.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on November 30, 2009 at 10:08 am

From the 2005 post above:

Marcus Loew said “This is the most pretentious of the houses on our string, because my better judgment was over-balanced by my sentimentalism and my longing to do something better here than I ever did before.”

Up to the 1930’s “pretentious” meant “luxurious” and did not have the negative connotations assigned to the word today.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on June 28, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Too bad the photos do not work anymore.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on May 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Marcus Loew was born on this date in 1870.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on February 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

The Avenue B had a large organ built by M. P. Moller, their opus 1947 with four manuals and 31 ranks. It is interesting that the organ records state “contained many used parts, $5,700.” You gotta laugh, Marcus Loew builds a spectacular new theatre on the site of his childhood home, but let’s see if we can’t save a few dollars on that organ, okay?

I also find reference that Wurlitzer sold a little 2-manual, 3-rank organ to “Avenue B Theatre, New York, NY” in 1926 (opus 1372). Was there another hall with the same name? Maybe this was a lobby organ? Another mystery!

cinemajosie
cinemajosie on February 22, 2015 at 5:01 am

The Loew’s theater was demolished to build the nonprofit Cabrini Nursing Home that served low-income elderly on the lower east side. A couple of years ago Cabrini was forced to close and sell, couldn’t even get a lease extension that would allow them to build on another site, and had to move some 100 patients to other facilities. The new owner has converted the building to luxury apartments, known as Bloom62.

HAL9000
HAL9000 on May 28, 2015 at 3:14 am

It’s mentioned in Tom Wolfe’s first book, ‘The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby’ (1966), in a piece called ‘Putting Daddy On’. He accompanies a friend named Parker (who seems to be an advertising executive) down to Avenue B to seek out Parker’s son, who has dropped out of Columbia:

“Here is Parker with his uptown clothes and his anointed jowls, walking past the old Avenue B cinema, a great rotting building with lions' heads and shattered lepers' windows…Here is this ripening. forty-six-year-old agency executive walking along amidst the melted store fronts…Everything is collapsing under New York moss, which is a combination of lint and soot.”

robboehm
robboehm on May 28, 2015 at 10:05 am

Uploaded a 1948 photo of the Avenue B which appears on the Wurlitzer site and a sketch of the fa├žade courtesy of mcny.org.

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