Bryant Theatre

138 W. 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Bryant Theatre

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Located on 42nd Street between Times Square and Sixth Avenue, the Bryant Theatre in its later years frequently showed double bills of foreign films.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 1, 2008 at 8:50 am

A photo of the Cameo’s marquee was used in an August, 1932 trade ad for “Goona Goona,” a docudrama that was filmed on the exotic isle of Bali and created a sensation with its bare-breasted maidens:

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 28, 2008 at 11:12 am

So I guess the Cameo was occasionally showing “adult” movies from its early days.

Here’s a NY Times review from 1934 of a movie I recently saw on TCM:

Road to Ruin

February 21, 1934

Pitfalls of Life.

By A.D.S.

“Road to Ruin,” written and co-directed by Mrs. Wallace Reid, is a morose investigation of a high school girl’s downfall, and is intended, apparently, as a dramatized lecture to the mothers of adolescent girls rather than as a general entertainment.

With a gravity proper to the subject, the Cameo’s new film describes the circumstances under which the youthful heroine is persuaded to smoke her first cigarette and drink her first cocktail, and later traces the successive steps in her betrayal by a sleek and astonishingly unprincipled young man.

The deficiencies of “Road to Ruin” lie not so much in its amateurish composition as in its dull and unnecessary preoccupation with subject-matter which belongs in a sociological case history.

THE ROAD TO RUIN, based on a story by Mrs. Wallace Reid; with Helen Foster, Nell O'Day, Glen Boles, Paul Page, Virginia True Boardman and Richard Tucker; directed by Mrs. Reid and Melville Shyer; a Willis Kent production; released by First Division Exchange. At the Cameo

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 13, 2009 at 7:18 am

I must correct some errors in my post above of 3/19/04. The Cameo closed as a showcase for Russian imports in the spring of 1940. The Consolidated Amusement chain bought a ten-year operating lease on the theatre and, after some refurbishing, re-opened it under the new name of Bryant on September 13th, 1940, with the American premiere of “After Mein Kampf?,” a British pseudo-documentary. The Bryant had a “grind” policy, open from 8AM until 2 the next morning. Brandt Theatres later took over the operating lease from Consolidated, but was not responsible for changing the name to Bryant. Consolidated did that.

Tinseltoes on February 10, 2010 at 9:38 am

Here’s a view of the Bryant Theatre in 1964:
View link

AlAlvarez on February 16, 2010 at 8:20 pm

The Cameo opened during Christmas week 1921.

AlAlvarez on May 9, 2010 at 9:16 am

B.S Moss' Cameo Theatre, The Salon of the Cinema.

October 1927, program during the glamour years.

View link

View link

Tinseltoes on December 10, 2010 at 1:50 pm

This photo as RKO Cameo was mistakenly linked at the listing for another theatre on Eighth Avenue: View link

edblank on January 30, 2011 at 11:45 am

Enrolling with this link.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 19, 2011 at 11:22 am

There is a very good possibility that the auditorium of the Bryant Theatre still exists – or at least did until very recently – within the footprint of the Bush Tower at 130 W. 42nd Street, which opened in 1918.

The 42nd Street entrance for the Cameo and Bryant, as posted above, was indeed at 138 W. 42nd and has certainly been demolished. However, as with many theaters, this entrance merely led to a narrow foyer that ran back to the auditorium, which sat on 41st Street. If it’s a fact that the Cameo opened in December of 1921, we can only assume that it was either constructed on vacant land behind the tower, which may have been owned by the Bush Terminal Company, or it might have been carved out of space in the building that had a previous use. That remains cloudy at this point.

NYC Dept of Buidling records no longer exist for the address at 138 W. 42nd, and property transfer information is limited. I was able to find a C of O issued in May of 1932, amending usage of the property listed as 130-138 W. 42nd Street & 133-139 W. 41st Street, and the description includes a Motion Picture Theatre on the 1st floor with capacity for 539 persons. This matches seating information Ken Roe posted back on October 31, 2004. The C of O also notes this is a 29 story office building, which matches the description for the Bush Tower. Further, the C of O was issued to the firm of Corbett, Harrison and McMurray, and Harvey Wiley Corbett is listed on several websites as the architect for the Bush Tower.

Additional C of O’s were issued througout the years for this lot (later known as 130-134 W. 42nd and then finally just 130 W. 42nd), in 1973, 1989, 1999 right up to 2006, and each time, the Motion Picture Theatre is still noted on 1st floor with capacity of 539. I know the building itself is landmarked – I wonder if that includes the Bryant’s auditorium? Perhaps there was some adaptive re-use that retained elements of the old place? Perhaps only a trip down to the building would answer those questions to any degree of satisfaction.

Interesting to note that property records also note that the entire Bush Tower was owned by Avon Associates Inc from 1973 until 1977 – presumably the proprieters of the Avon chain of pornographic theaters. They must have operated the Bryant for a period.

Tinseltoes on October 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm

A news report in The New York Times on May 26th, 1921, suggests that this was originally supposed to be known as the Arcadia Theatre: “A motion picture theatre seating only 700 persons, to be called the Arcadia, will open on Labor Day at 130 West Forty-second Street, in and adjoining the Bush Terminal Building. The new house is being constructed by the Keith vaudeville interests, represented in the deal by B.S. Moss, and its erection is a part of extensive alterations now planned for the ground floor of the Bush Terminal Building and the plot intervening between that structure and the Knickerbocker Annex. The Arcadia Theatre and the Old Towne Tavern will be built into the Bush Terminal Building, and a three-story building will be erected on the adjoining plot. In arranging to take over the Arcadia Theatre, the Keith interests plan to create something entirely new in the way of a motion picture house. Every seat in the theatre will be reserved, and there will be but two performances daily. All seats will be $2 at night, and $1 at matinees. The theatre will be used, so far as possible, for the exploitation of unusual photoplays. The walls of the theatre will be lined with silks and tapestries, and it is promised that the entire decorative scheme will be novel. All of the 700 seats will be on one floor, and seating capacity will be sacrificed to comfort.” I would be willing to bet that the Arcadia became the Cameo, but I have no explanation for the name change.

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