Trans-Lux 85th Street Theatre

1144 Madison Avenue,
New York, NY 10028

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jwb429 on December 25, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I am now almost 81 years old, but I loved to go to this theater when I was a kid. I lived in New York about 5 blocks away and on Saturday morning they played serials like “Perils of Pauline.” Comfortable and nice experience

Garth on August 8, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I saw “Valentino” here on its premiere in 1977. Can’t say I recall any details about the theatre . But I do know I’ve never met another person who saw the movie.

unowen on May 27, 2012 at 10:05 am

I saw movies here as a kid, in the 70’s it was a GREAT theatre. I grew up on the West side, and on Saturday’s, I’d trek across the park to this Trans-Lux.

I remember when you walked in, there was like a ‘path’ – my memories a little fuzzy, but, it was a BIG theatre inside.

unowen on May 27, 2012 at 10:05 am

I saw movies here as a kid, in the 70’s it was a GREAT theatre. I grew up on the West side, and on Saturday’s, I’d trek across the park to this Trans-Lux.

I remember when you walked in, there was like a ‘path’ – my memories a little fuzzy, but, it was a BIG theatre inside.

twokids93 on October 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I think Gristedes was still across the street, on the NW corner of Madison & 85th. Across Madison was the flower store that is still there, and next to that was Baskin & Robbins.

twokids93 on October 3, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I grew up around the corner, and what I remember about the theater is that, perhaps between first-run movies, there were certain movies that they showed at the same time of year, every year, mostly for kids, I assume. Every year I saw: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown & A Charlie Brown Christmas; The Christmas that Almost Wasn’t; National Velvet; and some more I can’t remember now. As I recall, in the 60’s & 70’s when I was growing up in NYC, they didn’t change the movie every week or constantly open new ones — they might show something for a while, or bring back favorites, like this place did.
There were also matrons, and if the matron was there you could go in without your parents. They were incredibly strict.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 2, 2009 at 5:13 pm

“DEEP THROAT” actually went from the the Trans-Lux 85 to the 86th Street East. It did not show at the UA East 85th Street unless it was years later when it was making the rounds with “THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES” as a second feature.

bazookadave on April 2, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I remember “Deep Throat” playing at the United Artists East 85th Street on First Avenue in the early 1970s, but not here at the Trans Lux on Madison.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 9, 2009 at 3:23 pm

posted by BobMaar on Sep 19, 2005 at 2:12am
“The film "Deep Throat” did indeed play at this theatre for four weeks and did record business. There was no neighborhood pressure to remove the film."

According to a Variety article there were petitioners in front of the theatre demanding that the film be removed and protest organizer William Diamond insisted that the film belonged on 42nd street.

DixonSteele on September 6, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Saw THE BLUE LAGOON here in 1980. Loved the theater and its elegent balcony.

bazookadave on October 19, 2005 at 6:14 am

The Trans-Lux was demolished in the 1990s. A luxury apartment tower replaced it.

robertmaar on October 12, 2005 at 9:22 am

No, the UA East Theatre is still in operation on First Avenue.

The Trans-Lux was on Madison Avenue and was closed in the early 90’s.


Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 12, 2005 at 9:11 am

Is this now the UA East 85th Street theater?

robertmaar on September 19, 2005 at 2:12 am

Status: Unknown
Screens: Single Screen
Style: Art Deco
Function: Unknown
Seats: 586 (544 Main Auditorium 42 Balcony)
Chain: Trans-Lux
Architect: Thomas Lamb
Firm: Trans-Lux Theatres

Address: 1144 Madison Avenue Theatre entrance was located 20' off the northwest corner. Theatre exits were on 85th Street.

Theatre opened in 1937

Theatre ran children’s shows every Saturday afternoon during the 40’s, 50’s 60’s and 70'’s.

Theatre started as a News Reel with rear projection.

Founder of Trans-lux was: Percy Norman Furber who invented the rear projection screen. 1927 – Trans-Lux Rear-Projection Screen first used theatrically at the opening of the Roxy Theatre, New York City in 1927.

During the 70’s Trans-Lux in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum of Art ran a series called “Tuesday Night at the Trans-Lux"
The theatre ran silent films and had a piano installed in the auditorium on the stage left side of the auditorium to accompany the playing of the film.

The lobby entrance looked like a Street in Paris and at first was a Cinema Cafe when the theatre was renovated in the early 1970’s.

The film “Deep Throat” did indeed play at this theatre for four weeks and did record business. There was no neighborhood pressure to remove the film.

Because of the theatres location New York Mayors Robert Wagner and John Lindsey were frequent visitors and would watch the films from the balcony.

Jackie Onassis who lived on the corner of 85th and Fifth Avenue would call the manager of the theatre when she wanted to see the film playing. The manager would meet her at the exit door a she and her guestd would be ushered the the dowmstairs lounge and await the beginning if the feature presentation.

The Trans-Lux 85th Theatre was closed in the mid-eighties.

Some of the employees worked at this theatre from the 40’s to the 80’s and were well known to local residents.

RobertR on July 24, 2005 at 1:37 pm

Judy’s last feature opened here on Premiere Showcase
View link

RobertR on July 10, 2005 at 4:26 pm

Does everyone remember Topo Gigio from the Ed Sullivan show? This is the only one to make it to the United States but over the years I think there have been six in Italy.
View link

RobertR on June 29, 2005 at 3:41 pm

Here is the ad for the first Premiere Showcase in 1962 that would destroy the movie business as it had been for the first 50 years. I also blew up the list of those first showcase theatres which were to improve on the next few showcases.
View link

View link

RobertR on June 3, 2005 at 1:24 pm

For the holiday season of 1971 “The Hot Rock” opened exclusively in Trans-Lux theatres in Manhattan. Trans-Lux 85th St, Trans-Lux East and Trans-Lux West.

bazookadave on April 12, 2005 at 3:34 pm

I saw “Scrooge” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” here when I was a kid. The “Scrooge” was a holiday re-release sometime in the 70s. The lobby had artificial building facades and latticework. Saw “Godzilla versus Megalon” here too I believe. 1976?

kidrubin on October 8, 2004 at 9:31 pm

wow! i can’t believe i actually found this page online! i was looking
for any info on that theater… i grew up on 86th and madison. my mother still lives there. the first movie i ever remember seeing was at that theater—– the movie was “Sasquatch,” and it was either 77 or 78… so cool. if anyone has a photo of this theater, please email me directly… —thanks!

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on August 15, 2004 at 11:42 pm

A photo of this theater can be found on page 59 in Barbara Wilinsky’s terrific book, Sure Seaters, and a modified version was used for the cover.

Harold Warshavsky
Harold Warshavsky on August 15, 2004 at 11:09 pm

I remember going to this theatre in either May of ‘66 or '67 to see Ulysses by Joseph Strick on reserved seats; the adds for the theatre at that time called the theatre the Trans-Lux 85TH Street Cinema Cafe.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 8, 2004 at 2:30 am

Seth, thanks for the great information. Where precisely was it located? Was it on Madison Avenue at 85th Street? I have an address of 1144 Madison Avenue for a Trans-Lux theatre.

SethLewis on May 8, 2004 at 1:55 am

I remember this theatre well from my youth on the East side in the 60’s and 70s…a precious looking place with a flat marquee and a canopy…dark wood in the lobby…single aisle downstairs and a smallish balcony which still might have added up to 450-500 seats…an interesting mix of first-run and second-run (showcase) programming with the odd foreign film thrown in and often kids' programs on the weekends…this may be one of the few East Side theatres I remember with a matron
Through the years a showcase for various studios (Warner Bros, UA, Fox, Universal) often day-dating with the Trans-Lux East on 58th and 3rd…Remember seeing a double feature of Bonnie & Clyde/Bullitt here, as well as The Secret of Santa Vittoria, The Hot Rock (twice, sold out both times), an Israeli musical called Kazablan (I’m still embarassed about) and probably a few other pictures here
Think that they booked Deep Throat here and had to move it to the 86th St East due to public protest – a one-off hard core porn taken to a silk-stocking residential area…Put simply this theatre, even more than say Loews Tower East (now 72nd St) or 68th St Playhouse would have to be in the highest wealth per capita area of any in NY…perhaps the world ( that may be held now by the Chelsea in London)
There is now a high rise building with I think a Banana Republic on the ground floor but the shop might also be Armani

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 7, 2004 at 7:09 pm

I believe I visited this theatre only once, in November of 1974, for a special revival engagement of the 1953 film THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF GIUSEPPE VERDI, presented by Opera Presentations, Inc.