East 86th Street Cinemas

210 E. 86th Street,
New York, NY 10028

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East 86th Street Cinemas

Built in 1934, a neighborhood movie theater in the predominately German speaking Yorkville section of Manhattan where German language imports had their U.S. premieres before moving on to the other German language houses like the Wagner Theatre in Ridgewood and, if I remember correctly, the Irvington Theatre in Irvington, New Jersey and other cities. This was in the very late-1940’s til the mid-1960’s.

As the ethnicity of Yorkville changed and the popularity of the Upper East Side increased, the theater was closed in 1965 and re-modeled into the 86th Street East Cinema. By 1968, it was daydating with Loew’s Capitol Theatre with movies such as “In the Heat of the Night” and ran for a good ten years as a United Artists showcase/Red Carpet theatre under the guise of Town & Country Theatres as a single screen. Movies shown at that time included “Around the World in Eighty Days” (re-issue), “The Hospital”, “The Scalphunters” and Jame Bond movies such as “On He Majesty’s Secret Service”. The seating capacity as a single screen was around 600-800 seats, in three wide aisles. After UA slowed down, and tended to send its movies to say the UA East Theatre, the 86th Street East Cinema was also a Universal and Warner Bros. showcase, with movies such as “Freebie and the Bean” and “The Great Waldo Pepper”.

It was twinned in the early-1980’s and played movies such as “The Accidental Tourist”, “Alien Nation”, “Blue Steel”, “Blue Heat” and “Miracle Mile”.

It was quadded in May 1999, now having a great post-industrial feel, and is currently operated by City Cinemas.

Contributed by Erwin Markisch, Robert R, Seth Lewis

Recent comments (view all 27 comments)

jflundy on July 13, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Casino Theatre on 9/14/47 in Yorkville Casino Building.
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jflundy on July 13, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Above photo, a really rare image until recently, is posted courtesy of Warren.

kencmcintyre on August 19, 2009 at 6:45 am

I think this is the photo Warren posted on 6/10/07. This photo is from the Associated Press.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 27, 2009 at 7:01 am

In 1999, The New York Times published this article about the rather complex history of the building at this address (the article will probably vanish from the Internets soon if The Times decides to put its content behind a pay wall, so if you aren’t a Times subscriber read it while it lasts.)

The original building at 210 E. 86th Street, built for the Musical Mutual Protective Union in 1904 and designed by architects Trowbridge & Livingston, was replaced by a modern building in 1966, but the greater part of the East 86th Street Cinemas is located behind the surviving facade of an annex built on 85th Street in 1919, which was designed by the same architects. The entrance to the theater is in the 1966 building on 86th Street.

I don’t know who designed the 1966 building, but the architect for the 1999 renovation of the theater into a four-plex was John W. Averitt, Averitt Associates, who was best known for designing live performance spaces but who did at least three renovation projects for City Cinemas. The others that I know of were the City Cinemas Village East and the Murray Hill cinema, both done earlier than the 86th Street Cinemas.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 27, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Great article, Joe. Thanks.

JackCoursey on February 7, 2010 at 12:58 am

Photos from 2009 of the East 86th Street Cinema: 1, 2

bigjoe59 on September 19, 2014 at 9:38 pm

to Ed S.–

you have always been most helpful in the past so I have a good one for you this time. a theater of one sort or another has occupied this location for over a hundred years. now prior to the 86 St. East 4-Plex opening this location was home to the 86 St. East a single house for decades. now was the single screen 86 St. East which was a decent sized building completely demolished or was it simply gutted and the current 4-plex built within said gutted skeletal structure?

tone10029 on October 2, 2014 at 11:06 pm

I remember when this theatre was just one screen in the mid seventies.Great theatre.I saw a number of big movies there when I was growing up in the city,including Moonraker,Poltergiest,Jaws3-D, and Scarface.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 3, 2014 at 12:43 am

Bigjoe59… Sorry for the delayed response, but I don’t have notifications set up for this cinema. The answer to your question is in the description at the top of the page. The single screener was divided, first in two, and then, later, into its current quartet format. All within the same structure original structure. Had the original building been torn down, with a new edifice erected in its place – as with the old Loew’s State on Broadway – then we’d have two separate listings on CT (again, see the seperate entries for the Loew’s State and the replacement Loew’s State Theatre 4 herein.)

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