Joyce Theater

175 8th Avenue,
New York, NY 10011

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Joyce Theater

This former Chelsea movie house opened as the Elgin Theater in 1942, designed by architect Simon B. Zelnik in elegant Art Moderne style with seating for 600. It was located on 8th Avenue, at W. 19th Street. Later, the Elgin Theater screened Spanish-language films, and still later, revival and cult films. The Elgin Theater ended its movie house days as an adult theater. However, even as an adult theater, midnight movies, including “El Topo”, “Pink Flamingos”, and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, continued to be screened. Community pressure forced the Elgin Theater to close in the 1978.

In 1982, architect Hugh Hardy was hired to convert the completely gutted interior of the Elgin Theater into a 472-seat dance performance space, while preserving and restoring the beautiful Moderne facade and marquee of the theater.

The venue was renamed the Joyce Theater, for the daughter of one of the main benefactors of the renovation of the theater. Today the Joyce Theater is considered one of the city’s main dance performance spaces, and hosts audiences of over 140,000 each year.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 51 comments)

johncabell on May 25, 2008 at 8:52 am

There was a balcony, and in those days smoking was still allowed up there. There was also a house cat in residence for most of the time I worked there.

edblank on May 25, 2008 at 9:31 am

Thanks, John and Warren. That all adds up for me. As a nonsmoker, I would never have made my way up a full flight of stairs to the balcony to sit among smokers. But a few steps up to enjoy stadium seating back then – definitely.
I was only at the Elgin three or four times, always for revivals in the pre-video era. But I remember it being one of the NYC theaters where I was cold to the bone during at least winter visit. I have to assume it was run on the cheap in those final years.

johncabell on May 25, 2008 at 12:34 pm

It was not an overhang. The balcony was raised above the street-level lobby, which made it possible to have these extra rows. Going through the balcony was also the only way to get to the projection booth.

CSWalczak on July 27, 2010 at 6:05 pm

This article reports that the Joyce’s current principal tenant may have to leave due to proposed rent increases though apparently the name of the theater would remain the same: View link

Willburg145 on July 5, 2011 at 7:00 am

If the theater is vacated by the dance company I am sure the building will be torn down and a new apartment complex will take its place. It’s sad but given the value of the land it is no surprise. I have no inside knowlege and am merely making an assumption.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 5, 2011 at 9:19 am

I would have to agree with you, Willburg145. Particularly since the interior was gutted and only the facade remains intact.

NeonSky on September 10, 2012 at 11:48 am

I am looking for a photo of the old Elgin Theater for a documentary. Might anyone have one? It would be hugely appreciated. Please let me know at: . Thanks!

burdelleaste on August 18, 2013 at 12:26 am

Every time I attend a dance performance at the Joyce I always think of the Elgin. Among the many movies I saw there I will always most strongly associate this theater with the first time I saw “El Topo.” Never saw ‘Rocky Horror" there, having burnt out on that experience at the 8th St,. Playhouse.

Ben Davis
Ben Davis on March 24, 2017 at 11:10 am

A chapter devoted exclusively to the Elgin is included in my recently published book, “Repertory Movie Theaters of New York: Havens for Revivals, Indies and the Avant-Garde, 1960-1994.” It’s listed on Amazon and

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