Lane Theatre

560 W. 181st Street,
New York, NY 10033

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Showing 23 comments

HomecrestGuy on July 9, 2019 at 7:42 pm

Partial photos, circa 1940-41, added to gallery.

joepoppa2 on June 22, 2017 at 11:23 am

I grew up at 558 W 181st from 1954 to 1971. The Lane had an entrance on 181st at 560 W 181st that went into the block with a majority of the theater on the 180th street side. The Gem was gone before I could remember it but I have a map of the Heights from 1932 that shows the entrance was on St. Nick about mid block and next to the apartment building at the corner of 180th.

kidblast1 on December 17, 2015 at 2:42 am

Whatever happened to this Sulane who said her father-in-law owned the Gem and Lane Theaters?

guarina on May 9, 2015 at 11:48 pm

The ticket window was to the right of the entrance, there was a stairway to the left before the doors to the lobby at street level, going down to the orchestra seats. The R.K.O. Coliseum was also another nearby theater.

GALLERYHAVANA on March 12, 2015 at 11:52 am

Guarina, Hi, I’ve enjoyed reading your comments on Havana theaters. I’ve been photographing Havana for the past couple years. I have a few questions you may be able to help me with before I return to Havana. If you don’t mind, please e-mail me at GALLERYHAVANA

Thanks Max

guarina on January 31, 2015 at 3:04 am

sulane, Do let us please have more info about the Lane and the Gem.

guarina on August 4, 2014 at 7:04 pm

sulane, What was at 560 where the Lane had been, later on?, the Howard’s store?

robboehm on August 2, 2014 at 1:34 am

Would be nice to actually have pictures of the theatres on Cinema Treasures.

sulane on August 1, 2014 at 6:59 pm

My husband’s father owned the Lane and the Gem Theaters on W 181st ST. If anyone is interested in more info.

guarina on May 19, 2012 at 10:22 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.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 26, 2012 at 3:20 pm

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?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm

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.

guarina on April 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm

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 25, 2012 at 8:05 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.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm

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

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm

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.

guarina on April 25, 2012 at 9:48 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.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on November 16, 2009 at 8:45 pm

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

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 20, 2006 at 7:22 pm

Is the same theatre advertised as Cinema 181 in the mid sixties?

OnslowKUA on March 18, 2006 at 10:28 pm

Prior to its closing, the Lane usually showed pictures that were running in the Loew’s theaters in the Bronx and Queens. These pictures usually were shown two weeks earlier at the Loew’s 175th Street Theater a few blocks south of the Lane. On the same side of 181st Street on the same block to the east of the Lane was another theater called the Empress. Its name was changed to the Astral in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. This theater was unique in the sense that you entered it at the side of the auditorium in the middle.

RobertR on July 11, 2005 at 11:49 pm

The Lane was part of this 1954 double bill
View link

RobertR on June 13, 2005 at 7:14 pm

In a 1947 ad the Lane invited people to “sit and smoke in our newly redecorated loge section”.

br91975 on August 13, 2004 at 8:40 pm

According to the Washington Heights/Inwood Online web site, the Lane Theatre was located at 550 W. 181st Street and closed its doors in 1959 with ‘The Ten Commandments’. Prior to the Lane’s opening, the building in which it was located was home to an indoor ice skating rink that extended into what is now the Washington Bridge Post Office on 180th Street. The theatre site is now occupied by Glauber’s Gift Shop.