55th Street Playhouse

154 55th Street,
New York, NY 10022

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Showing 1 - 25 of 84 comments

NYer on May 20, 2013 at 8:50 am

There was a discussion of a lost film here called “Him” and if it actually played here. I’ve been doing research trying to find a lost documentary I know I saw as a kid about the space program. Anyway, I have been going through all the Village Voices from the 70’s which are available on line and not only did “Him” play here, it played three separate multi-week engagements thru ‘73 –'75 with big half page ads to boot.

astrojeepie on July 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Mr Alvarez is correct. There was a David on West 55th St—-which wasn’t the 55th St Playhouse. And later on there was a New David Cinema—-which was down the block from Studio 54. Both Davids were strictly porno

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 11, 2012 at 6:57 am

There were two David’s and neither was the 55th Street Playhouse.

CSWalczak on July 11, 2012 at 3:50 am

The David (or New David) has its own listing here on CT and its entry indicates that its address was 236 W. 54th St. A comparison of the photos at the various links in the comments shows two dissimilar buildings, and the buildings adjacent to the two theaters do not match ; the building that housed the 55th St. Playhouse has an alley to the right of the entrance, whereas the building that was the David does not.

MarcFurstenberg on July 11, 2012 at 2:04 am

The David was the name of the 55th St. Playhouse when it went porno.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Someone is thinking with his little head instead of his big head.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

Marc is thinking of the David.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 9, 2012 at 7:42 am

Tinseltoes is correct. It is two blocks down from Carnegie Hall, and around the corner from the Carnegie Deli, which is at 7th near 55th, an eatery that is a point of reference for me.

MarcFurstenberg on July 9, 2012 at 2:41 am

You’re all crazy. It was located between 8th Ave. & Broadway, on the south side of the street, closer to B'way. I can take you to the site today if you wish.

EMarkisch on August 2, 2011 at 8:28 am

Address should be changed to 154 West 55th Street. The Google map has the theatre located on 55th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues, when it was actually located between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

CSWalczak on April 19, 2011 at 11:00 am

Janus is still active, though not to the degree it was once. It is currently the major U.S. distributor of the films of Charlie Chaplin.
Its classic releases are handled by Criterion on DVD.

Astyanax on April 18, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Harvey appears to have been an extraordinary individual with an acute sense of how to mold opinion and develop trends. Janus Films had a remarkable collection. Is the company still active? If so, who are the current owners?

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm

What an interesting life he seems to have led. Here’s the lead paragraph of the Times obituary:

Cyrus I. Harvey, a quirky entrepreneur who created two significant brands in disparate fields â€" Janus Films, a distributor of movies by international directors like Bergman, Fellini and Kurosawa, and Crabtree & Evelyn, the purveyor of aromatic soaps and botanicals â€" died Thursday in Dayville, Conn. He was 85 and lived in Woodstock, Conn.

And hee’s the mention of the Brattle theater and 55th Street Playhouse:

Janus Films, founded in 1956, grew from his part ownership of the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Mass., which he and a partner, the actor Bryant Haliday, had transformed from a live-theater venue to a movie house that showed the art films Mr. Harvey had grown to love as a Fulbright scholar in Paris.

“Instead of spending two years at the Sorbonne, he spent two years at the cinémathèque,” his wife said.

Mr. Harvey and Mr. Haliday showed Janus films at the Brattle and at the 55th Street Playhouse in New York. They had named the company for a Roman god usually depicted with two heads facing in different directions.

MarcFurstenberg on April 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm

My dad worked at DuArt and he’d take me to work on a given Saturday and park me at the 55th St. Playhouse. I remember they had marathons of UPA cartoons and the first Chaplin’s I’d ever seen. This must have been when he reissued compilations of his early shorts in the early 50s. I just remember being disappointed at first because I thought they were going to be Charlie Chase films, an artist I became very familiar with because parts of his films were used as filler in Howdy Doody. I sat through the marathons twice. I have seen the Chaplin’s many times since then but the UPA cartoons are never revived, perhaps because of the crappy Mr. Magoo cartoons that were made for TV.

laserboyTO on March 22, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Just found this thread. I thought the cinema was larger than this, I guess memory doesn’t serve me well. 16MM was very noisy here, you could hear the projector clattering away from above. What I remember most about this place in the 80’s were the dark washrooms. One or two 6 watt orange bulbs illuminated the whole room which always freaked me out.

themoviegoer on October 12, 2010 at 11:27 am

Does anyone know what year the theater closed? Thanks.

astrojeepie on August 3, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Someone mentioned the Rendezvous Theater. It was located on West 54th St between 6th & 7th next to the Ziegfeld movie theater. It was torn down 30 odd years ago and became a parking lot.
The most interesting aspect of the 55th St structure is why it is still standing? The following sounds like an urban legend, but I vaguely recall reading an article in a NY paper stating that the hotel right behind this old art house theater wanted to tear it down and use that space for deliveries. However there were a few apts above the theater and the hotel had to buy off these tenants. One man refused to go unless he was compensated above what the hotel was willing to pay. So they left him alone upstairs and drilled a delivery driveway right thru the structure. If it wasn’t for that man holding out we wouldn’t be chatting about this infamous porn movie house now.
Also the 55th St Playhouse showed films instead of videos. Does anyone recall that Al Parker 3-D movie shown there? (Management would recycle the 3-D glasses!) Even with these glasses you still got a blurry double image in a few shots. (The 3-D effect did work in bits & pieces.) The lobby & upstairs lounges were tiny. Sometimes you would enter that theater after paying 5 bucks & see Al Parker or Joe Gage sitting there waiting to sign autographs. (Usually no one was interested.) Al Parker was a good conversationalist. After saying hi to me he asked me about the drinking water in NYC.(He said something like “I heard your drinking water in NYC is excellent because the reservoirs are upstate.” I knew who he was but couldn’t believe the topic we were discussing.)

cyr6r69 on June 28, 2010 at 5:32 pm

excuse me. it’s me again. i read my comment about MEAT/RACK playing at the 55th playhouse 30 years ago. Hello! it’s 40 years not 30.Thanks again everybody.

cyr6r69 on June 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Nope. Just me. I got in touch with the guy with the MEAT/RACK ad and he is the nicest guy(on the planet!) he gave me his original MEAT/RACK ad(that you see on his chainedandperfumed website)that as he mentions was stuck in a Films and Filming magazine perhaps since the week the movie opened.(March 20, 1970)So SOMEONE in 1970 must have liked the ad and/or movie so much that they cut the ad out of the new york times newspaper then put it in the film magazine where it stayed for 30 years.I wonder WHO that SOMEONE was? Are they still with us? I am VERY grateful for the original MEAT/RACK ad(they can bury me with it)but it makes me crave finding the poster even more(if that’s possible).And to the SOMEONE who cut the ad out 30 years ago, I try to telepath postive engery to YOU whoever and wherever YOU may be now. Thank you guys for the response and the link.I really appreciate your help and thoughtfulness.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 28, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Could there be two of you looking?

View link

The DVD is available through Something Weird with “Sticks & Bones” on the same disc.

cyr6r69 on June 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm

MEAT/RACK(the real story about midnight cowboys/A Film by Michael Thomas/A SHERPIX RELEASE)opened at the 55th playhouse theater on March 20, 1970.It arrived before Deep Throat,Boys in the Sand or any of the other hardcore exploitation films from the 1970’s.I know that the company Sherpix printed movie posters for their films because I have collected a few of them. I have been hunting for the MEAT/RACK movie poster for yearS now and can’t seem to located a copy.I’ve never even laid eyes on one that’s how mysterious MEAT/RACK movie poster is.Does anyone know if there was one even issued for the movie? Or have I been chasing a ghost?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 20, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Thank Gerald.

I found a 1970 NYT article that explains when legit switched from 8:30pm-8:50pm shows to 7:30pm shows so that people would attend shows just after work. This followed a drop in attendance when Times square had, as AGR mentioned, a spree of muggings.

The start times were later compromised at 8:00pm after restaurants complained it was hurting their business. NYC art houses were booming then and ran all day anyway.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 20, 2010 at 1:31 pm

The concept of “Curtain at 8:40” is dealt with in this Boxoffice article from November 22, 1952:
View link

AGRoura on June 13, 2010 at 4:14 am

If I remember correctly, film roadshows also started at 8:40 in the time of Oklahoma, Around the Wold, etc.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 12, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Interesting. I didn’t know that about legit shows.