Monday, September 28, 2009

When 72 Avenue B was a luxurious 1,750-seat theater

You'll recognize Fifth Street and Avenue B here...

But until 1957, it was a Loew's theater...

According to Cinema Treasures:

Loew's Avenue B is part of one of the great rags-to-riches stories of showbiz history. Movie mogul Marcus Loew erected it on the very site of the tenement building where he was born. Needless to say, his birthplace was demolished to make way for the luxurious 1,750-seat theatre, which was designed by Thomas W. Lamb and first opened on January 8, 1913, with vaudeville as its main attraction and movies thrown in just as fillers.

The Avenue B was the top Loew's house on the Lower East Side until the mid-1920s, when the circuit took over the Commodore on Second Avenue, which was a much busier area for entertainment and shopping. The Avenue B was reduced to playing movies at the end of their Loew's circuit run, and remained so until its closure around 1957-58

As Cinema Treasures commenter Warren G. Harris noted:

The theatre cost $800,000 to build. In his opening night speech, Marcus Loew said "This is the most pretentious of the houses on our string, because my better judgment was over-balanced by my sentimentalism and my longing to do something better here than I ever did before." According to corporate histories, the Avenue B was never successful, but Loew's kept it running for decades as a memorial to its founder, who was born on the spot.

Top photo via.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Former landmark countercultural theater now for rent on Avenue B


Mykola Dementiuk said...

I used to see monster films and scary ghost stories there. And that's the first time I ever saw a real live guy making out with a real live girl. I was probably seven or eight years old. Times were very different back then too.

Mykola Dementiuk said...

Interesting, I was in the middle of editing this novel when I came to this passage

What looked like a school house took up the east side of Avenue B, running from 6th Street to 4th Street. An old movie theater stood on the east side around 5th Street showing monster films. Around it were stores, bodegas and people just lazing about.


Mykola Dementiuk said...

My sister just wrote back and said:

Nice - I don't remember the building. Did I go to the movies there with you? I remember Marie Cichocka, her brother Bohdan, you and I going to the movies almost every Sunday afternoon. We especially loved horror movies. I remember having a lot of fun.

She has a too short memory...


Laura S. said...

What a wonderful story. How many people can say that they demolished the tenement where they were born and built a (movie)palace in its place. I will have to read more about Mr. Loew. I grew up on the Bronx where the most beautiful of his theaters,(I say with great prejudice) the Paradise, was built in the 1920's. Clouds that moved, stars that twinkled, a lobby to die for with a gold fish pond.

Ken Mac said...

fantastic post

Joe Jusko said...

My family lived in 511 East 5th St for over 50 years. I remember playing in the rubble with my friends as they demolished the theater to build Cabrini (when no one was there of course). Great to see these pics!