Loew's 42nd Street Theatre

132 East 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10017

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The theatre first opened in 1896 as the Murray Hill Theatre, presenting plays and musical concerts. Several years later, it was taken over by William Morris and converted to vaudeville. In 1909, Morris decided to give up his theatre holdings to concentrate on being a talent agent and booker, and sold the Murray Hill Theatre to Marcus Loew for his burgeoning circuit.

Re-named Loew’s 42nd Street Theatre, it presented vaudeville and movies until Loew’s took over the Lexington Opera House ten blocks to the north. Vaudeville was moved to the new Loew’s Lexington Theatre, and the 42nd Street Theatre switched to movies only. As Loew’s further expanded in Manhattan, the 42nd Street Theatre was reduced in status, playing double features at the end of their circuit run. But the theatre did good business due to its busy location on the SE corner of Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, across from Grand Central Station.

During the Depression, programs changed daily, with an admission price of 5 cents during the day and 10 cents at night. The opening nearby of two newsreel theatres, one in Grand Central and the other in the Airlines Terminal opposite the station, hurt attendance at the 42nd Street Theatre, but not enough for Loew’s to close it down.

That finally happened in 1950, when the theatre was sold and demolished to make way for the construction of an office building.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 27, 2006 at 3:49 pm

The old Murray Hill Theatre is listed in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. The manager was Frank Murtha, and ticket prices ranged from 25 cents to $1. It had 1,319 seats. The proscenium opening was 32 feet wide x 32 feet high, and the stage was 40 feet deep. The theatre auditorium was on the first floor. There is a note that the theatre is new and presents “combination shows at popular prices.”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 27, 2006 at 6:32 pm

I believe that William Morris was running the Murray Hill at the time Marcus Loew took over. Morris opted to become a talent agent instead of theatre owner and probably died even richer than Loew…One of countless movies to be shown at Loew’s 42nd Street was MGM’s “Grand Central Murder” (1942), which took place in the giant station but was filmed in Hollywood, using some “stock footage” of the interior and exterior.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 18, 2008 at 9:57 pm

A poster for Loew’s 42nd Street Theatre can be seen in the left background of this famous Rudy Burckhardt photograph of a Manhattan newsstand:
View link

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 15, 2009 at 3:39 pm

A 1904 image of the Murray Hill Theater is on this website. Click on the photo to expand it.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on February 13, 2010 at 10:00 pm

In the lower left foreground of this vintage photo is an ultra-rare view of the marquee and entrance to Loew’s 42nd Street, which had a long, one-story lobby connecting to an auditorium that ran parallel to 42nd Street: View link

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on February 24, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Here’s another view of Loew’s 42nd Street, with the marquee and entrance to the left of the corner building with the white sign. The overall view looks south down Lexington Avenue: View link

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on June 3, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Status needs to be changed from “Closed” to “Demolished.”

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on September 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I’ve enlarged a portion of the 1929 photo linked above on 2/24/10 to show the entrance. The marquee and small vertical sign appear to be in the process of renovation. The vertical spells Loew’s in large letters, with 42nd St. across the bottom.

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