Fine Arts Theatre

128 E. 58th Street,
New York, NY 10022

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A small art house on 58th Street between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue. It was built on the site of the old Café Society Uptown, and was first operated by Richard Davis, who later became a film importer. The theatre had a plain nondescript interior. It was said to be the first theatre in the country to be designed specifically for motion picture and television presentation. Seating was proved in orchestra and balcony levels.

The Fine Arts Theatre opened on October 15, 1951, with the United States premiere of the British made Ealing Films comedy “The Lavender Hill Mob” starring Alec Guinness, which ran for more than eight months and established the theatre as a formidable rival to the nearby Sutton Theatre and Plaza Theatre. The supporting feature was Disney’s ‘real life adventure’ “Nature’s Half Acre”. Fellini’s “The Nights of Cabiria” had its US premiere here in October of 1957. The Fine Arts Theatre was one of the premier art houses in New York City during the 1950’s and succeeding decades. In 1964, Davis sold a long-term lease on the Fine Arts to the Walter Read Circuit for $1.5 million. It eventually became a chapel, under the jurisdiction of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in 1978. The chapel has since closed, and the building appears to be boarded up.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 51 comments)

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on June 8, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Al, that zoning restriction did indeed apply, but I don’t think Pathe was aware of it at the time. They knew of its past as a theatre, which is why they inquired about it.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on June 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Once Pathe exited the theatre at 4 W58 it went to Loews and was re-named Fine Arts, but the Loews name was never on the sign, unlike every other Loews theatre in the history of the world.

SethLewis
SethLewis on June 8, 2013 at 6:45 pm

The Fine Arts had some interesting first run bookings in the 60s and 70s…the very first run of Mel Brooks' The Producers (my mom and I went on the first Monday at 11am), The Charge of the Light Brigade in road show (school trip on a Saturday morning), Fritz the Cat (day dating with the Victoria on Broadway), Truffaut’s Two English Girls… A neat little cluster of theatres with a similar purpose and audience – the Plaza, the Festival and the Fine Arts

Astyanax
Astyanax on June 8, 2013 at 10:35 pm

This venue was unique in its ability to showcase foreign films as well as serious commercial fare. Women In Love, Day for Night, the Duelists, Stolen Kisses & Le Voleur all premiered here. The Walter Reade Organization’s Continental Releasing unit used this screen as a prime outlet.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on June 9, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Hello-

i’m wondering how many of my fellow posters attended all 3 roadshow engagements hosted by this theater-A Man for All Seasons, The Charge of the Light Brigade and The Trojan Women.

The Fine Arts is the only art house that i can
think of that hosted more than 1 roadshow engagement.

Garth
Garth on August 8, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Thanks to Astyanax for mentioning “The Duellists”. I saw the film when it first premiered in 1977, and since according to the Ny Times archive it only played here, I now know I visited the Fine Arts at least once. The description says it closed in ‘78, if true, it’s a shame.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on March 17, 2014 at 6:50 pm

to Al A.–

you have been most helpful in the past so i have another question for you.i know time does funny things with one’s memory but i am 99% certain that “The Trojan Women” starring Katherine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, Genvieve Bujold and Irene Papas open at this theater on a reserved seat engagement or at least a reserved performance engagement Nov.of 1971. i just read the book “Movie Roadshows: Limited Run Reserved Seats Engagements 1911-1972”. the author Kim Rolston includes reserved performance engagements as well. yet TTW is nowhere to be found in the book. unfortunately its not the only inaccuracy in the book.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on March 17, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Yes Bigjoe59, it was three shows a day with reserved seats and should probably have been included.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on March 18, 2014 at 3:19 pm

to Al A.–

as always thanks for your assistance. I knew my memory wasn’t that faulty. just out of curiosity do you know the book? its fascinating for me since i well remember reserved seat runs. as I stated there are many inaccuracies in the book. whether this is a result of inadequate research or the proof reader being drunk, who knows? for instance in the chapter on the 60s author Rolston states that Gypsy(which looks and sounds great on blu-ray) opens on roadshow runs but doesn’t state where. it certainly didn’t in Manhattan.

if I could contact Rolston I would ask why was The Trojan Women left out? there is an appendix which lists films that during pre-production and production were intended for reserved seat runs but weren’t released that way. so obviously he did a certain amount of research which makes the omission of The Trojan Woman bizarre.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on March 18, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Bigjoe59, I do know the book, and while it makes for very entertaining reading, it does have some sloppy research. Perhaps Rolston can produce an updated version with a errors corrected and a more consistent definition of what he considered a “Roadshow” and in what country.

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