Normandie Theatre

51 E. 53rd Street,
New York, NY 10022

Unfavorite 1 person favorited this theater

Showing 21 comments

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 21, 2017 at 9:39 am

The original Normandie Theatre was said to be a replica of the theater on the French liner of the same name. The Internet has a number of photos of the theater on the liner, but the only photo I’ve found of the 53rd Street house itself is an interior shot of the back quarter of the auditorium on this web page. It’s a small scan, with limited area enlarging possible by hovering your cursor over it.

jordanlage on June 21, 2017 at 6:55 am

Intrigued by this theater. Cannot find a photo of it anywhere. BTW, beware of Mark Rivest’s site. As well-intentioned as the site may be, it’s confusingly laid out, and definitely not user-friendly. Though he has some rare photos, typos abound and I noticed a number of places where he gets his history wrong – e.g. stating that Morosco, Helen Hayes, Bijou, Gaiety, & Astor all closed in 1972. Only the Astor closed in ‘72. They were all torn down in 1982 (actually demo began in fall of 1981) to make way for what became the Marriot Marquis Hotel (and theater).

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 21, 2015 at 11:11 pm

Here is a notice about the Normandie Theatre from the July 2, 1938, issue of The Film Daily:

“Construction Under Way on New Park Av. House

“Construction work is under way on a 590-seat ‘intimate’ type talking picture theater and adjoining two-story shop building on a Park Ave. plot between 53rd and 54th Sts., owned by Robert Walton Goelet. The theater will be named the Normandie.

“The new buildings, which will face on 53rd St., were designed by Rosario Candela, architect. Hegeman Harris Co. are the builders.

“The theater will be ready for occupancy Oct. 15. It has been leased to the Normandie Theater Corp., headed by Philip Smith, who has been in the theater business for 20 years and manages a string of ‘intimate’ theaters in New England.”

I find it interesting that, as late as 1938, they still referred to the project as a “talking picture theater.”

Also interesting is that in 1938, the same year he opened the Normandie, Philip Smith launched the Midwest Drive-In Company, later renamed General Drive-In Company, and finally renaed General Cinema Corporation (GCC) which grew into one of the largest theater chains in the country prior to its bankruptcy in 2000.

rivest266 on September 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Correction for AlAlvarez’s posting of February 16th, 2011: link moved to

Astyanax on February 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Thanks Al. Quite a treasure trove. Will spend hours going through it.

Astyanax on February 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Posting additional photos on site would be appreciated.

Geri on February 16, 2011 at 10:54 am

My Dad, David Nolan was the theater manager at the Normandie for many years. Each week they published a hand bill outlining the upcoming films for the week along with local advertising and a commentary written by the manager. I have loads of these publications and I enjoy reading about days gone by and what Dad had to say about the films. I have not been able to find any photos of the Normandie Theater and would love if anyone knows where to find one.

Astyanax on June 19, 2010 at 1:10 pm

The opening day ad had incredible snob appeal. Nonetheless I regret that this theater was not around long enough for my adult enjoyment. I pass Lever House with some frequency, and there is occasionally a tinge of resentment that this landmark replaced the original Normandie.

TPH on November 6, 2009 at 9:39 am

Whenever I catch a showing of Hitchcock’s the Rope, I imagine this theater and the Manhattan location of that particular period frequented by the so-called “carriage trade”.

dave-bronx™ on July 10, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Phil Smith of Boston, mentioned in the previous post, was the founder of Midwest Drive-In Co. and Smith Management Co., predecessor companies of General Cinema Corp. Smith opened his first 2 drive-ins in 1938 in Cleveland and Detroit and then concentrated efforts on development of more drive-ins. They retained several indoor theatres that they were already operating, but abandoned development of more indoors until about 1951 when they developed the suburban shopping center cinema concept.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 11, 2006 at 6:33 am

The Normandie operated from December 1938 until May 1950. The new one on 57th Street opened in December 1951 as a first run house.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on February 8, 2006 at 6:50 pm

The Normandie is mentioned in the NY Times article about its architect.

View link

Hre’s the excerpt:
(1936) must have seemed like Champagne â€" first a 200-foot-wide store and theater complex on the west side of Park Avenue, from 53rd to 54th Street (now the site of Lever House). The trim little swank-modern stores had bronze and marble detailing, and the lusciously Art Moderne movie theater, the Normandie, was of sculptured concrete. Eric Gugler and Ben Schlanger also worked on this commission.

BoxOfficeBill on September 20, 2005 at 5:45 pm

I’m astonished! I have no memory of it whatsoever. My mom had worked at Best & Co. on 51 Street and Fifth in those years, and I thought I knew the area pretty well as a kid in the ‘40s and '50s. Yes, I recall seeing ads in the NYT alongside those for the Plaza and the Sutton and the Baronet and the 55th Street Playhous. But I never thought to track down the address. It’s a shock how these things creep up on you.

dave-bronx™ on September 20, 2005 at 4:34 pm

The interior is very similar to that of the 57th Street theatre – the cove lighting in the ceiling drops and the procenium – were duplicated in the newer theatre. Ben Schlanger, the associate architect mentioned in Warren’s post above, was also involved with Abe Geller in the original designing of the Cinema I – Cinema II (now C1,2,3) here in New York. He is also credited as the architect of ‘The Cinema’ in Washington DC.

Astyanax on September 20, 2005 at 3:46 pm

During which years was this theatre in operation?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 27, 2004 at 5:57 am

Dave, in the listing for the 57th Street Normandie, Warren posted a comment stating that it was named after the former one on 53rd Street one.

dave-bronx™ on July 27, 2004 at 5:09 am

I was not aware of the theatre on 53rd St., thought it was a typo. I had been the manager of the theatre on 57th and in the former coat-check room we had coat hangers and tags engraved with ‘Normandie Theatre’ with the address. I also found photographs of the theatre on the Normandie liner and compared them to my auditorium and many of the architectural elements matched. The painted designs on the walls didn’t match, but that had been just a recent paint job. So I guess NYC had 2 theatres designed after the ship.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 27, 2004 at 12:19 am

Dave-Bronx, that 57th Street Normandie you talk about is not to be confused with this earlier Normandie on 53rd Street. The 57th Street Normandie/Playboy/Cinema Rendezvous that you describe is now listed under the Directors' Guild of America Theatre. It is a different theatre from this one. The DGA still exists. The Normandie of this listing is long-gone.

dave-bronx™ on July 26, 2004 at 5:13 pm

57th Street Playhouse
110 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

Originally called the Normandie, the interior was designed to look like the art-deco theatre aboard the French ocean liner Normandie. It was an orchestra-stadium type auditorium with 586 seats. It had several incarnations over the years, including being 4-walled by Hugh Hefner and called the Playboy Theatre. In recent years it was operated by City Cinemas. The landlord is the Directors Guild of America which owns and occupies the office building upstairs, and it is now used by them as a private screening room and named The Directors Cinema.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 21, 2004 at 5:07 pm

A propos of nothing in particular: I have a New York Times ad here showing that in 1948 the Technicolor film “The Swordsman”, starring Larry Parks and Ellen Drew, played here. It was directed by auteurist cult-favorite Joseph H. Lewis. I wish I could have gone to this theatre.