Major Theater

277 Canal Street,
New York, NY 10013

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Auditorium of the Major Theatre, New York in 1928

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Major Theater was known under a few names during it’s life. In later years it was known as the Cinema Giglio and may also have been known as the Canal Cinema at some point, though not to be confused with the Canal Theater further away on Canal Street. It is currently in the bustling part of Canal Street in the heart of Chinatown as Chinatown continues to eat up most of what is left of Little Italy.

It showed Italian language films when it was known as the Cinema Giglio. After the Cinema Giglio closed, it showed Chinese language films for a brief period before being converted to retail.

Today, much of the exterior still exists of the Major Theater, including the marquee, although the interior has been converted to retail and flea market like space. Much of the ornamentation still exists. When first entering, you can easily tell you are in the lobby of an old theater, right down to some mirrors on the walls. Once passing into the main auditorium of the small theater, it still screams theater as much of the ceiling plasterwork and columns still exist. Perhaps much of the walls also still exist, although mostly covered by pegboard for the merchandise now in the space.

Contributed by Chris

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 14, 2005 at 7:30 am

This theatre was designed by and named for David Oltarsh, who held the rank of Major in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War I. The 600-seat theatre at the corner of Broadway and Canal Street opened in 1927 and was built in the belief that the opening of the Holland Tunnel nearby would bring business to the only cinema in the area. The Major proved unsuccessful and Oltarsh sold his interest, though the cinema operated under many managements after that into the 1980s…Fred Oltarsh, of course, is best remembered as the architect of the Rahway Theatre in New Jersey, which he built right after the Major and opened in October, 1928.

Bway on September 29, 2005 at 8:50 pm

Wow, this little theater actually had a Wulitzer!?

Bway on June 5, 2006 at 9:27 am

Does anyone know around when they stopped showing movies in this little theater?

AlAlvarez on January 28, 2008 at 4:12 pm

This was still operating as the Canal Cinema in the summer of 1978.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 28, 2008 at 4:29 pm

It would be difficult to find an exact closing date for this cinema. Its final bookings were Chinese movies, which weren’t advertised or promoted in the mainstream, English-language press.

AlAlvarez on March 22, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Operating as Cinema Giglio in 1963.

Bway on April 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Did it go to chinese cinema after 1978?

Bway on April 16, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Here’s a google street view of the Major Theater. It’s marquee still up:

View link

TLSLOEWS on February 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Maybe the Major Theatre was not so major.Just kidding.

Tinseltoes on March 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm

The Major’s marquee and vertical sign can be seen in the center of this vintage photograph: View link

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