MANHATTAN’S ANCIENT THEATRES

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Forgotten Fans often ask for more old theatres that aren’t there anymore, or are used for something much different now. Most got their start as vaudeville houses, later converted to films. Multiplexes killed them. Until the age of Art Moderne, the more ostentatious, the more ornamented, the better, so these theatres stand as reminders of how architectural fashion has changed over the decades. All theatres on this page are in the borough of Manhattan.

All photos on this page were snapped by Forgotten Fan Gary Fonville, who also supplied some key information.

 

The RKO Alhambra, on 7th Ave (Powell Blvd.) and 126th Street, now is home to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

 

Unidentified theatre at 116th Street and 5th Avenue. Note ‘ghosts’ of where fire escapes used to be.

 

The long-shuttered RKO Jefferson Theater on West 14th Street near 3rd Avenue has finally been razed.

The nearby Palladium, where I saw the Ramones, Pretenders, and Pogues has similarly bitten the dust.

 

The Odeon Theatre, on East 145th Street, near 7th Avenue, is now the Union Baptist Church. Note the old Odeon Theatre painted sign on the side of the building.

No relation, of course, to the trendy Tribeca Odeon Restaurant.

 

One of the Loews’ classic palaces, the Loews 175th on Broadway is now Reverend Ike’s United Church. It was built in 1930.

Norval White, in the AIA Guide to New York City, says that

…this terracotta palace was at the apogee of movie palace glamour in those long-gone days when Hollywood ruled the world and free crockery on Wednesday nights was an added fillip.

 

 

The Roosevelt Theatre, on 7th and 145th, now a Pioneer Supermarket. Teddy R. can still be seen on the pediment. It opened 1920 (just after the President’s death), closed 1978.

 

The Sunseton 125th Street between Morningside and Manhattan Avenues, is now the La Gree Baptist Church. It first opened in 1926.

 

The First Corinthian Baptist Church at 7th and 116th Street, was originally the Regent Theatre, designed by Thomas Lamb, built in 1912 and loosely based on the Doge’s Palace of Venice.

Famed impresario Roxy Rothafel began his theatre career here. Among Rothafel’s later creations wereRadio City Music Hall and the Rockettes.

 

The Variety, 3rd Avenue near East 14th, known for many years as Variety Photoplays, has been here in one form or another since 1900. Its distictive ‘Variety Photoplays’ neon sign is now gone. For some years, it languished as a porno palace, then went to Off-Broadway thetre. It was finally demolished in 2005.

 

Finally, the Bunny. Nothing to do with Bugs or Hef, it recollects early 20th Century comic and theatre impresario John Bunny. In its latter years, it was renamed the Nova; sadly, it recently (2003) closed. It became a 99¢ store and was later stripped of its bunnies in 2009.

1/14/2001; revised 2012





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One Response to MANHATTAN’S ANCIENT THEATRES

  1. Josie says:

    In the 1960s, I knew the Palladium (on East 14th Street, Manhattan) as the Academy of Music. The name on the marquee wasn’t changed until sometime in the 1970s.

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