Warners' Theatre

1664 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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Cine Roma Theatre and Roseland Ballroom, NY -- 1938

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Opened as the Piccadilly Theatre on September 27, 1924, the architects were Newton L. Schloss and Joseph Orlando (associate architects). It was built for Lee Ochs.

It was taken over by Warner Brothers and re-named the Warners' Theatre in about 1927. It was in this theatre that Warners launched their ‘Vitaphone’ talkies and “The Jazz Singer” had its Gala World Premiere here on October 6, 1927.

In 1938 it is listed as the Continental Theatre and closed as the Republic Theatre in either 1948 or 1949. It was demolished in 1952 and today a hotel stands on the site.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 54 comments)

AlAlvarez on September 8, 2009 at 7:49 am

I believe this closed as the Republic, not the New Yorker.

AlAlvarez on October 16, 2009 at 8:11 am

Opening ad for “The Jazz Singer”. Notice that ads read “WARNER” and not “WARNERS'” as on the marquee and that the Vitaphone aspect was not played up until much later in the run.

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Tinseltoes on February 5, 2010 at 10:39 am

This was known as Brandt’s Mahattan in April, 1944, when Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” played its first NYC engagement since the movie’s original release in 1938. Newsreel footage of crowds outside the Manhattan Theatre, as well as views of the marquee and electrified billboard display above it, can be seen in the “bonus material” in the recent Blu-Ray and conventional DVD release of the Disney classic.

AlAlvarez on March 2, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Hollywood hype control.

The popular photos of the premier of “The Jazz Singer” featuring Al Jolson and the Warner brothers in front of the theatre were for an invitational sold out live performance by Jolson several days before the movie opened, designed as a publicity stunt. The movie was not shown that night.

On the real premier opening night, not only was Al Jolson not present, neither were the Warner brothers who had gone to California for the funeral of Sam Warner, who had died the day before.

More recent research has shown that not only was opening night not a sensation but that the film did not sell out. It was not even the most popular film of the week in Times Square and acceptance of sound hardly an overnight revolution caused by “The Jazz Singer”. Not only had “Don Juan” had already played this theatre with sound earlier in the year and done better than “The Jazz Singer”, but audiences had already been watching sound newsreels for several years.

The stories that have been repeated since have mostly been fabrications created in later years and fueled by Vitaphone publicity and Warner Bros. multi-picture deal with Al Jolson. “The Jazz Singer” was a mild success in big cities and failed in most smaller markets. The lack of sound theatres (there were only 400 nationwide at the time) made it impossible for it to make much of an impression and the Jewish cantor plot left most audiences outside the larger markets cold. In Boston, for example, the film had to be quickly pulled after a poor opening.

Much of the phenomena repeated today comes from the fictional plot of the movie “Singin’ In the Rain”. There was no audience hysteria, no Variety headlines, no sound hoopla in the opening ads, no rush to wire theatres, and no rush to train actors to speak. Silent movies continued to be made for several years and were among the most profitable. Sound caught on because Hollywood pushed it on theatres in order to create demand for weak product during the depression, not unlike the way they push 3D today.

Tinseltoes on April 22, 2011 at 11:01 am

During the last week in April, 1943, this became known as the New Abbey Theatre for the NYC premiere engagement of Columbia’s “B” musical “Reveille With Beverly” to capitalize on the zooming popularity of crooner Frank Sinatra. Though Sinatra made only a guest appearance with one song, the New Abbey gave him top billing above the title of the B&W film, whose leading roles were played by Ann Miller, William Wright, and Dick Purcell. Sinatra’s first starring movie, RKO’s “Higher and Higher,” hadn’t even been produced yet, and would have its Broadway opening in January, 1944, at the RKO Palace.

Tinseltoes on June 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Here’s the Piccadilly Theatre featured in a 1924 trade ad for Universal’s “The Tornado”: archive

Tinseltoes on June 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm

The Republic Theatre is pictured at the bottom of this 1946 trade ad showing midtown cinemas: boxofficemagazine

Tinseltoes on August 24, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Pictured as Warners' Theatre in this 1928 trade ad: archive

Tinseltoes on July 18, 2013 at 7:15 am

What is the source for the claim in the introduction that the theatre was built for Marcus Loew? The Piccadilly was built and owned by Lee Ochs, a pioneer exhibitor who had ten other theatres in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. The Piccadilly was supposed to be Ochs' midtown flagship, but he had problems getting top product and finally agreed to lease it to Warner Brothers.

Tinseltoes on July 18, 2013 at 7:28 am

The building of the Piccadilly by Lee Ochs can be verified in a lengthy obituary of the film industry pioneer in the June 22nd, 1935 issue of The New York Times, page 15.

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