Soho Playhouse

15 Vandam Street,
New York, NY 10013

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Walrax
Walrax on September 1, 2012 at 11:39 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.

unknown5
unknown5 on December 13, 2011 at 9:32 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.

BRADE48
BRADE48 on June 6, 2011 at 11:50 pm

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

KingBiscuits
KingBiscuits on March 10, 2009 at 5:29 am

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

Kieranx
Kieranx on January 30, 2009 at 2:22 am

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.

br91975
br91975 on December 11, 2007 at 10:44 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.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on December 11, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Operating in 1993 as the Cinematographe.

DixonSteele
DixonSteele on September 6, 2007 at 10:03 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 July 27, 2006 at 4:05 pm

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.

evmovieguy
evmovieguy on April 9, 2005 at 5:16 am

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.

br91975
br91975 on April 1, 2005 at 8:19 pm

I remember the revival house you’re referring to, hardbop. It was located in the former Collective for Living Cinema (which was something of an Anthology Film Archives-type operation) space at 41 White Street. The calendars were published in a layout similar to those the Cinema Village published when it was a rep cinema (I recall, too, that at least one of the calendars featured a logo which was a direct knock-off of the one Cinema Village used at the time) and the programming was similar to that offered by the Cinema Village and the Thalia Soho, and the theatre itself may have even adopted the Collective for Living Cinema name; the space is presently home to the Flea Theater. (Speaking of the CLC – the original collective and not the rep house – a brief history can be found here: View link)

hardbop
hardbop on April 1, 2005 at 7:43 pm

I don’t know where to post this, but does anyone remember a short-lived revival house that was on White Street, just east of Sixth Avenue. It was opened in 1991 or so and lasted less than a year. An Indian guy ran the theatre I think. I remember going down there to see Fellini’s Roma and the place was closed so I popped up to the Paramount Theatre to see “A River Runs Through It.” It must have been open in ‘91 and it was a full-blown revival house. I remember seeing Rossellini’s “Fear” here as well as Kazan’s “The Last Tycoon.”

hardbop
hardbop on March 31, 2005 at 6:47 pm

Yeah, I remember the Thalia Soho and Le Cinematheque. I lived in the West Village from ‘82 to '87 and remember when the Thalia Soho opened it ran for months the documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk.” I remember seeing many double (and triple) bills at that theatre. I wish I kept records of what films I caught from back then.

And Le Cinematheque may not have been around long, but some great bookings. I remember when the Film Forum a couple of blocks away ran a big Film Noir series and Le Cinematheque ran a competing Noir fest and I remember running between the two venues trying to catch all the films. I remember catching “Shack Out on Route 101” or something to that effect at that noir series. That one never plays. And there was a great series of English films that she programmed at Le Cinematheque.

worldcity
worldcity on January 14, 2005 at 11:48 pm

Imagine finding a neighborhood treasure that fits Mr. DeLuca’s description of the original uptown Thalia (entered under Symphony Space): “For many decades they had daily changes of double bills: they showed virtually everything: foreign films, recent American movies, classic revivals, silents, educational film programs, cartoon programs, films from private collections, films forgotten, films dumped, films rarely or never programmed. I submit that, from the viewpoint of programming alone, this paradise for film lovers was the greatest commercial movie theatre in the history of the United States, if not the world.”

worldcity
worldcity on January 14, 2005 at 11:35 pm

I stand corrected: I see you’ve included it with the Symphony Space. Neverheless, this historic gem deserves its own entry.

worldcity
worldcity on January 14, 2005 at 11:32 pm

How about running an entry on an all-time great: the legendary uptown Thalia?

RobertR
RobertR on December 15, 2004 at 1:34 pm

When Thalia Soho first opened I think it was all 16mm for a short time and then converted to 35mm. Maybe Richard took the projectors from the Thalia downtown when the uptown theatre closed.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on December 15, 2004 at 10:57 am

Br,
No, I can tell you with certainty that the Thalia Soho also showed 35mm prints because I attended some there and because we (see my posting above) loaned them 35mm prints of out-of-circulation Italian films (among others: Léonide Moguy’s “Tomorrow is Too Late” with Pier Angeli) and because there were numerous 35mm prints in the Thalia/Schwartz collection from which the theatre programmed liberally and that we ourselves borrowed from Richard in return. Their theatre van was used to deliver and pick up prints in order to save on shipping charges. In our collaboration a Schwartz employee came all the way up to Rhode Island with the van. Yes, they owned, rented, and showed a good deal of 16mm, but not exclusively. The Schwartz film collection went to UCLA Film Archives after his death, but even now, I believe it is once a year, a film program takes place at the Anthology Film Archives in Schwartz’s memory using films from his former collection.

br91975
br91975 on December 15, 2004 at 1:16 am

According to a June 1989 issue of the Village Voice, the Thalia Soho was limited to showcasing films in 16mm.

chconnol
chconnol on December 3, 2004 at 9:55 pm

The one and only time I was here was in 1987 to see an Ingmar Bergman double bill of “Wild Strawberries” and “Persona”. Between the features, they played the WC Fields short “The Dentist”. Absolutely wonderful time. I loved “Wild Strawberries” and to this day, when I see it, I think of the great time I had here. The auditorium itself was very narrow if I remember correctly with very few seats on either side of the aisle. But it was nicely maintained by people who obviously just loved to show films. A great experience.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on December 3, 2004 at 9:43 pm

Under Schwartz’s tutelage the programs here were imaginative and exciting. In the mid-1980s I was asked by him to program a couple of series of rare Italian films there, many of them unseen in decades, and I had a good deal of enjoyment doing that. (I had had some experience running the Italian Film Society of R.I. and had access at that time to some rarer prints.)

br91975
br91975 on October 5, 2004 at 3:21 pm

Thanks for adding this entry, Robert. Richard Schwartz opened the Thalia Soho in 1984, in a space which had, among other past uses, served as an early home for the Film Forum. It closed in late August/early September of 1990 (as did the Cinema Village, for a time), upon Schwartz either falling ill or suddenly passing away, and then sat empty until February of 1992, when Jackie Raynal who, at that point, was widowed from her husband, with whom she had co-founded the Bleecker Street Cinemas, opened a venue called Le Cinematheque in the space. That enterprise, however, lasted for less than a year, and, save for sporadic independent bookings, the old Thalia Soho space sat empty for most of the next few years until it was renovated and became the Vandam (and later the Soho) Playhouse, remaining open to this day and serving as a popular venue for off-Broadway theatrical productions.