96th Street Theatre

1703 3rd Avenue,
New York, NY 10128

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Additional Info

Previous Names: New Third Avenue Theatre, Yorkville Theatre, National Theatre

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96th Street Theatre

The New Third Avenue Theatre is listed in the American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915 edition. It is also listed in the 1926 Film Daily Year Book as the New Third Avenue Theatre, with 600 seats. The New Third Avenue Theatre fell victim to the Depression and closed in 1931.

Two years later, it re-opened as the Yorkville Theatre, with 494 seats reported and showing "only foreign-made pictures." In 1936, the name changed again to National Theatre.

In 1940, the National became a showcase for German films exclusively, and was re-named the 96th Street Theatre. By that time, World War II had started in Europe, and the 96th Street Theatre became notorious for being more pro-Nazi than other NYC cinemas showing German films.

Anti-Nazi pickets chose the 96th Street Theatre as their favorite target. The largest demonstration came in May, 1941, when the 96th Street presented "Sieg im Westen" ("Victory in the West"), a documentary feature depicting Nazi Germany’s conquests of Holland, Belgium and France, as well as defeats and captures of British troops. Pickets from the German-American Congress for Democracy and the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League paced the sidewalk in front of the entrance, waving placards such as "Down With All Dictators" and "Going to Nazi Theatres Helps to Undermine the American Defense System."

The local police station assigned five patrolmen to regular duty outside the theatre to keep order. Later that year, when the USA finally entered the war, the 96th Street Theatre closed for the duration.

It re-opened in 1946 with late-run domestic and foreign product, but closed permanently around 1949-50. The site is now occupied by an apartment building.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

yorkvillehistorian on February 15, 2008 at 9:47 pm

I am the Yorkville/Kleindeutschland Historian. Have built a large exhibit now in the Congressional Record in Washington. Am writing a book on the history of 86th Street and have been all your wonderful postings. However, none of your photobucket photos from your 2005 postings are found on photobucket.
Would love seeing your photos so I can be accurate in my descriptions.
I am born in Yorkville and my parents came over in the 30s from Germany in the 30s. I would love to be able to visualize the wonderful stories they told me when they were among the pioneers in building Kleindeutschland.
I would be most grateful if you could help me see those photos no longer available.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm

The New Third was already operating as that in 1923.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 26, 2009 at 1:19 pm

The earliest date mentioned above was 1926.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 26, 2009 at 1:55 pm

I have amendend the introduction text with details from the American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915 edition.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 25, 2010 at 6:27 pm

This was turned into a supermarket during the war from late 1942 to 1944. By 1945 it was a theatre again.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 23, 2014 at 6:06 pm

This house might have been rebuilt, or perhaps the business moved to this address from another location, in 1921. This item is from the July 9 issue of The Moving Picture World that year:

“NEW YORK.-William Harowitz has plans by Nathan Langer, 81 East 125th street, for two-story brick moving picture theatre, 43 by 100 feet, to be erected at 1703-5 Third avenue, to cost $30,000.”
A column headed “Incorporations” in the May 6, 1921, issue of Variety had this item:
“New Third Avenue Theatre Corp., Manhattan, $16,000; W. and F. Harwitz, T. Cumiskey; attorney, H. B. Davis, 522 Fifth avenue.”
The Manhattan New Building Database lists a permit issued for a theater at this address in 1921, and designed by Nathan Langer, but records it as a one-story building rather than two-story.

A house called the New Third Avenue Theatre was in operation in 1873, when it was advertised in the March 3 issue of The New York Clipper. No address was given, but it was probably not at this location.

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