Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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

On Monday, we reported that Ben Shaoul is the mystery buyer of the Cabrini Nursing Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on East Fifth Street at Avenue B, and according to one source, he has designs on converting the Center into condos when the lease expires in 2012... we'll have more on this later... Meanwhile, a flashback to an EVG post from Sept. 28, 2009...

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.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

While I pine for the LES of my youth, I'm pretty sure that we're not too far removed from the day when we'll hear the question "what's a movie theater ?"

Anonymous said...

@10:14AM

yeah, just like nobody knows what an opera house is these days...

Mould Treatment said...

The Avenue B Theatre was reduced to playing movies at the end of their Loew’s circuit run, and remained so until its closure around 1957-58. I don’t know if anyone operated the theatre after that. It was eventually demolished and replaced by a nursing facility.

Tom said...

And "the Commodore on Second Avenue" mentioned in the article later became the Fillmore East.

Goggla said...

Oh, how I wish to have been around when all these great theaters were the rage. There must have been endless opportunities for entertainment.

Anonymous said...

At first, it struck me that even in those times, Ave. B was an odd place to put a movie palace, but that last bit about Lowe having been born on that spot was really very touching.

It seems like Lowe was not just in the movie business to make money, he must have really loved the movie-going experience and wanted to bring that joy to the impoverished neighborhood of his childhood.

Tom said...

BTW, $800,000 in 1913 (the cost to build the theater) would be $18,296,646 today.