Scarsdale Plaza Theater

70 Garth Road,
Scarsdale, NY 10583

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Interior Lobby of the Scarsdale Plaza

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The original Scarsdale Picture Theater opened on November 22, 1920, with the exhibition of the D.W. Griffith drama, “The Love Flower”, and continued operating, featuring vaudeville acts and silent films, until closing after the stock market crash of 1929.

In 1931, after a half-million dollar investment by RKO, the theater was reborn in its permanent location on Garth Road in Eastchester, near the Scarsdale border, as the Scarsdale Theater. Designed by architects C.W. and George L. Rapp, the Art Deco style theater seated 1,149 and featured unique wood detailing on its marquee and interior.

The theater, which had, in 1942, featured a live performance starring Ethel Barrymore and Gloria Swanson, and was allegedly frequented by Paul and Linda McCartney, John Lithgow, and Judy Garland with daughter Liza Minnelli, was closed in 1988.

The theater reopened for a time in 1996 and 1997, last featuring “Air Bud” before being shuttered for good. Despite the attempts of some locals to preserve the historic theater, it was razed in 2002 to make way for Scarsdale Commons, a $15 million, 42 unit luxury apartment complex.

Contributed by Damien Farley

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 20, 2009 at 8:01 am

I’m bewildered by the statement in the introduction that, in 1931, “the theater was reborn in its permanent location on Garth Road.” Does that mean that the earlier Scarsdale Picture Theater was at a different location? Also, what was RKO’s connection with the theatre? I never knew that it had a theatre in Scarsdale, though in the early 30s, RKO did take over a few “indies” that it quickly disposed of due to Depression conditions.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 20, 2009 at 8:31 am

I’m suffering further confusion from a report in The New York Times of August 22, 1951, that Leo Brecher “will open the Plaza-in-Scarsdale next month, thereby adding a seventh house to the chain he operates. The new theatre is scheduled to run two shows each afternoon and two in the evening.” Does that mean “new theatre” in the literal sense, or merely a new addition to Brecher’s circuit?

rsm3
rsm3 on May 20, 2009 at 12:47 pm

As a small kid about 1947 I remember the usherettes blouses said
“Skouras Theaters” on the pockets, which a parent told me meant the theater was controlled by 20th Century-Fox. Not for long, though, as the Studios were already under order of the Courts to divest themselves of their theaters. By ‘49 or so the place was dark until
Brecher reopened it in 1951 as “The Plaza In Scarsdale” named after his flagship theater in Manhattan. First film was “The Great Caruso"
and the place was packed!
It was the old theater, not a new one, but had been spruced up and looked good until the '60’s and '70’s when subsequent managements let the place go. Final nails in the coffin: the heating and AC systems went paws up, not meeting code requirements and that was that. A sad end, but what else is new?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 20, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Bob, thanks for clarifying. I’d still like to know if the Scarsdale Picture Theater was just remodeled into the Plaza Theatre, or another theatre entirely at a different location? That “reborn in its permanent location” doesn’t make sense to me. Did the writer mean “original” instead of “permanent?”

rsm3
rsm3 on May 21, 2009 at 11:15 am

In one of the histories of Scarsdale I read that the"Scarsdale
Picture Theater" was located at the northeast corner Of Popham Road
and Depot Place – the road leading to the Scarsdale Metro North
south bound railroad platform. It’s my conjecture that, besides the
oncoming depression of 1929, this theater’s demise was hastened by the cost and need to convert to sound movies.
The “new” 1931 theater that many of us remember was located across Popham Road and 300 feet or so going south up Garth Road, just over
the Eastchester border.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 22, 2009 at 7:08 am

Thanks again, Bob! The Scarsdale Picture Theater was obviously not this theatre, and should have its own listing…And concerning the Scarsdale Plaza, The New York Times reported on April 17th, 1931 that “Irving Rosenthal, owner of the Bronxville Theatre, announced yesterday that the Turner Construction Company has begun work on a 1,200-seat motion picture house in Scarsdale, to be owned and operated by Mr. Rosenthal. The site, 140 by 200 feet, is in Belmoy Road. Rapp & Rapp, architects, put the cost of the project at $400,000.”

ERD
ERD on August 1, 2009 at 4:08 pm

My cousin lived further up on Garth Road. I use to pass the theatre many times. I remember going there back in the 1990’s. Bob Miller gave excellent info.

DavidWallick
DavidWallick on April 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm

In the late 1970s, the Scarsdale Plaza had an admission policy of 99 cents at all times. I remember they had a bowl of pennies at the box office to use for change.

Also, there are scenes in “The Muppets Take Manhattan” that were filmed in the lobby concession stand area of this area.

mverdoux
mverdoux on November 5, 2011 at 10:18 am

I grew up on Garth Road in the early 1970s and my Mother would walk me and my sisters all over the area. She took us to see films at this lovely theater on a number of occasions during this time…Disney classics such as SNOW WHITE and ALICE IN WONDERLAND, as well as first run of MAME with Lucille Ball. I remember seeing ‘one-sheets’ displayed for YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED (although I wasn’t taken to see those.) As a child, I always dreamed of buying and running vintage films in this theater. My heart truly broke when it was torn down to make way for yet more apartments. A beautiful part of Scarsdale and cinema history died when that was allowed to happen.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 8, 2012 at 1:28 pm

New RCA SynchroScreen installed in 1952: boxoffice

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