Soho Playhouse

15 Vandam Street,
New York, NY 10013

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In the waning days of the legendary uptown Thalia, owner Richard Schwarz opened this second location. He was hoping to establish this theatre since the lease was running out on the original one. After he passed away, former Bleecker owner Jackie Renault had this for a short time calling it Le Cinematheque.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

evmovieguy
evmovieguy on April 8, 2005 at 9:16 pm

The Thalia was a great theater. A double bill for 5 bucks everytime. I remember seeing some incredibly obscure 60s films there that I had never seen before and haven’t seen since like ‘Lord Love A Duck’ with Roddy McDowall & Tuesday Weld and another really weird obscure flick called ‘Last Summer’ with the very young Barbara Hershey, Richard (‘John-Boy’ from The Waltons) Thomas, and Bruce Davison. And..oh yes..how could I forget the time that I saw “The Swimmer” with Burt Lancaster there. Another interesting experience at the Thalia was a double bill of the Frankenheimer films “Manchurian Candidate' and ‘Seconds’ (with Rock Hudson). All really strange films. I think I also saw for the first time on the big screen The Monkees' flick ‘Head’ at Thalia. I also remember seeing ‘Chinatown’ with the first reel completely out of sync. Another great Thalia screening was ‘Pick Up South Street’. That was one of my first NYC revival film experiences and I remember the audience applauding when Thelma Ritter made her entrance in the film, as if it was a live stage show. I was green, new in town and had no idea that people would react to something like that in a movie theater. Great times there. Great old theater. The last time I was there was about ten years ago when some family was in town and we saw ‘Tony & Tina’s Wedding’ featuring Jade Barrymore (Drew’s mom). Great to be back in the theater but sad that it wasn’t the way it once was.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on July 27, 2006 at 8:05 am

Irv, you have mentioned two of my all-time favorite films!

LAST SUMMER was a big hit in the late 60’s when almost every film was bombing, and Hollywood’s only menage a trois featuring John-Boy. Allegedly Barbara Hershey realised during the production that she was the reincarnation of a seagull and after much soul searching temporarily changed her name to Barbara Seagull. Ah, the 60’s!

THE SWIMMER is still the ultimate male menopause movie. Ok, not a very competitive genre, I know, but a great film nonetheless.

DixonSteele
DixonSteele on September 6, 2007 at 2:03 pm

This is now an off-Broadway theatre and has been for at least 20 years now.

Saw two hit plays here: KILLER JOE with Amanda Plummer and Scott Glenn and GRANDMA SYlVIA’S FUNERAL.

Always wondered why it was so long and narrow…it was first a movie house!

Viva Cinema Treasures!

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on December 11, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Operating in 1993 as the Cinematographe.

br91975
br91975 on December 11, 2007 at 2:44 pm

The Cinematographe lasted for a very short time, from February of 1992 until early 1993. The Vandam (and currently the Soho) Playhouse has been in existence since about 1996 or 1997.

Kieranx
Kieranx on January 29, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Just wanted to clear up a few things about the Thalia Soho that were posted here. I co-managed the theater for a very brief time in the Fall of 1989 and was also one of the projectionists. I can tell you at that time, the theater had 2 16mm projectors side by side. Most times, the prints would be built into one reel, but depending on how rare the print was (a lot of them came from Richard’s personal collection) we would have to go in and do reel changes.

I was literally given one session of tutoring on the projectors before I was left on my own to take care of things. I used to go to classes in the morning (I was at NYU at the time) then come down and work at the theater in the afternoons and evenings. Perhaps some of you out there remember me. i was the kid with floppy hair who was constantly screwing up the reel changes (CONSTANTLY) and many times, I’d burn the film in the gate. Oh yes, you’d be watching The Wild One or A Streetcar Named Desire and all of a sudden, the picture would burst into flames and bubble and I’d have to quickly and frantically splice it back together in the projection room while angry mobs yelled and cursed me.

The theater was literally the first floor of a walkup apartment building and the marquee was triangle shaped. Every couple of days, we’d have to change the films, rotate the posters, etc… You would walk in the front door and the box office (and the manager’s office) would be to the left, a few feet forward would be the projection booth on the right (teeny) and straight forward would be the theater.

Opposite the projection booth was a winding stairway that took you down to the bathrooms, a very small lounge and the snack bar. I remember we had a non-working popcorn popper that just kept things warm and we had bags and bags of already popped, heavily salted popcorn in the back storeroom. I also remember throwing out several bags that had been invaded by rats, even though Richard would yell at me if he saw popcorn in the garbage.

One night, we were on the last showing on some very obscure noir film (can’t remember the title). I was by myself and I had just done the final reel change and went downstairs to clean the snack bar so I could leave as soon as the movie was over. About 15 minutes later, I hear this ungodly crash and I go running up the stairs, only to see the take up reel rolling down the steps toward me, film flapping everywhere. I had forgotten to tighten the take-up reel arm and the reel, having gotten heavier and heavier, fell off the projector. Well, the rest of the reel was trashed, just ripped in two length-wise. There was no repairing it. The small audience was ready to stone me alive. Kevin Seal, who was a VJ on MTV at the time, used to frequent the theater and happened to be there at that screening and saved me from being ripped in two, length-wise. I had to give free passes to everyone and tell them how the film ended.

My staff and I did have fun, though. We used to stay at the theatre on Saturday nights and have all night screening parties for ourselves after we’d close. We could never watch the films while they were normally playing, so it was our only chance to see some of them.

I remember Richard as being incredibly unpleasant. He was a very nasty man. His lover (an incredibly sweet guy) was always with him and made countless excuses for his behavior. He didn’t treat him too well, either, so I suppose we couldn’t expect him to be nice to us.

On Friday, he fired the whole staff (three of us) over the phone. I wish I could remember why, but I know it was something he thought we were doing wrong that we weren’t. I do remember he was always accusing us of stealing from him.

I didn’t realize he’d died so soon after. He had an amazing movie poster collection in the basement. Really rare stuff. I hope it went to a good place.

KingBiscuits
KingBiscuits on March 9, 2009 at 10:29 pm

I believe that this theatre opened in 1983, possibly with Berlin Alexanderplatz.

BRADE48
BRADE48 on June 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I remember seeing a Woody Allen DF (I believe at this theatre) back in 1987. The description seems accurate.

unknown5
unknown5 on December 13, 2011 at 1:32 am

I went to the Thalia Soho’s opening night and saw “Mr. Arkadin.” It was part of a double feature, I think, but I’ve forgotten the second picture. Great atmosphere. Thought/hoped this kind of place would be around forever.

Walrax
Walrax on September 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Hi Kieranx,

Reading your story is exactly they way I perceived things. I was the manager/ projectionist in 1988 in the Thalia Soho. I wonder if we know each other. I remember Richard advertising special editors cut movies, that turned out to be the regular version when I played them. Angry mobs would be out for blood at the box office. There was a friendly Indian guy who also managed. His name was Hari. Wonder what ever happened to him.

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