Lane Theatre

560 West 181st Street,
New York, NY 10033

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Located in the Washington Heights district of upper Manhattan. The Lane Theatre was opened prior to 1937, and was always a late-run movie house.

The Lane Theatre was closed in 1959, and has since been demolished.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 29, 2007 at 9:31 am

For many years, the Lane used this distinctive logo for its ads in the daily newspapers. In this one from 1947, I think that “NU-SCREEN” means nothing more than that a new screen had been installed. I doubt if there was an actual brand called “NU-SCREEN,” but I could be wrong:
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/lane181.jpg

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on November 16, 2009 at 3:45 pm

The Lane is already listed in the 1937 Film Daily Yearbook.

guarina
guarina on April 25, 2012 at 4:48 am

I remember the Lane from 1951 through perhaps 1955. It had a level below ground, with the stairs to the left of the lobby as you went in. I think it became the Howard’s store.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 25, 2012 at 9:22 am

Despite what the (now defunct) Washington Heights/Inwood website might have indicated, according to br91975’s opening comment on this page, I wonder if the entrance to the Lane wasn’t located a bit further to the west on this block. The address of 550 W 181st Street would put it in the same storefront building as the entrance to the former Empress Theatre (later known as the Astral). The auditorium of the Empress sat right behind and parallel to the this row of storefronts. There would have been no access to any other auditorium from the space at 550 W 181st.

If one moves down the block past the 3 identical 6 story apartment buildings to the west of #550, there is a 2-story building with an awning that reads “City University of New York” at 575 W 181st Street. A satellite view of the block shows that this structure reaches all the way back to the US Post Office that is located on 180th Street, and the two lots have that familiar flag-shape shared by many urban theaters of this size. I would suggest that the Lane Theatre occupied this site, with an entrance at 575 W 181st Street and its auditorium demolished to make way for the Post Office location. Of course, I can’t support any of this as fact.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on April 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Ed, I found several NY Times articles placing it at 560 W. 181st Street.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 25, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Sounds like a match, Al. I hastily accepted the “575 West 181” that shows up when you point the street view correctly without being more diligent. There is no address on the awning, but it appears all the storefronts at ground level in the adjacent apartment building to the left share the address 558 West 181st, according to the awnings. That would make the CUNY building number 560. Come to think of it, 575 would have been located across the street on the odd-numbered side.

In any event, I see the site administrators (that you, Ken?) jumped all over this info and set it all straight. Well done, all.

guarina
guarina on April 26, 2012 at 8:45 am

Ed, numbering went up east to west and even numbers were on the south side. Would Empress or Cinema 181 at 544 near Audubon, Lane at 550 and Gem at 564 near St. Nicholas, all on the same south side of the street, fit your calculation of the locations? I lived on 180th Street and saw the back (bare brick) of a movie theater, but I just assumed it was the Lane, which was the biggest of the three, and never gave it much more thought. The post office was at 555. I’m still struggling with the name Empress for the little one at 544 from 1951 to 1957. As you went in, the seats were to the left (east) and the screen to the right (west). I used to go there a lot and don’t recall that name at all.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 26, 2012 at 9:26 am

If you were on West 180th between Audobon and St Nicholas, you were definitely looking at the auditorium wall of the Lane Theater, Guarina. I think we have the location nailed down. Just a bit of research on NYC Department of Buildings website found the following:

On March 22, 1918, an alteration of an existing building at 549-559 West 180th Street was approved as a skating rink, with an entrance at 560 West 181st.

On October 2, 1928, the same buidling was again altered, this time with a restaurant and cabaret (as well as with stores and “passage”).

On November 1, 1933, a new alteration at the same location for a motion picture theater (with max capacity of 1570 for fire code – not necessarily the number of seats) on the first floor and offices & restaurant on the 2nd floor.

Finally, on August 4, 1959, the alteration to Post Office in the 180th Street “wing” and stores & offices in the 181st Street portion.

Since all of these were alterations, we know that the theater was not purpose built, nor was it demolished. Seems that, at worst, it was gutted to the steel and repurposed. This also supplements br91975’s original comments from 2004 with some actual dates.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on April 26, 2012 at 10:20 am

On a side note, I found an article on that skating rink having been raided by the police for holding an illegal dance marathon during the depression. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

guarina
guarina on May 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Ed, Then from east to west on 181st Street, the Empress was first at 544 with the back of the auditorium to the east on Audubon Avenue, the Lane was next at 560 with the auditorium straight south the back on 180th Street and the Gem was last at 564 with the back of the auditorium to the west on St. Nicholas Avenue. None of the used book shops have answered me about old telephone directory yellow pages.

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