Wednesday, January 23, 2013

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

On the topic of the new luxury apartment building on Avenue B and East Fifth Street ... here's a relevant EVG repost from Sept. 28, 2009...

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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.

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Postscript. Knickerbocker Village has this still (circa 1967) from its days as an abandoned theater.


Cabrini Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation opened in 1992... and operated here until it lost its lease last summer ... after an unnamed family trust sold the building.

6 comments:

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Early 1960s and I used to go to the Ave B movie house and look at monster films, which were the rage in those years. I was maybe 14, 15 years old when one day a man crept into the seat beside me...boy, did I quickly grow up fast. A few years later and I was all over Times Square, but I admit that the Ave B movie house was where it all began. Sigh, ah, nostalgia...

Morgan Tsvangirai said...

Wow what a beautiful building. Shame it's not around anymore.

Gojira said...

Man, was I born in the wrong era.

michpils said...

Gorgeous building and what a shame it didn't stick around. My grandmother remembers seeing movies here. The MCNY Collections Archive has beautiful drawings of this cinema and others that were in the area. Found these a few months ago via one of your posts, Grieve, and was able to purchase a small print of the Ave B theater for the apartment.

Morgan Tsvangirai said...

Here's that drawing of the Ave B theater micphils mentions:
http://collections-static-2.mcny.org/Doc/MNY/Media/TR1/d/5/3/c/MNY248745.jpg

Here's the rest of the drawings theaters. They're all very cool:
http://collections.mcny.org/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult_VPage&VBID=24UP1G7HDZQV&SMLS=1&RW=1280&RH=886

Megan Hart said...

Those are totally gorgeous pictures! I love them! My husband and I were looking for bell - 72 avenue the other day, and we got a great view of the area. It was so great! I love getting lost in the city with my husband sometimes.