Harris Theatre

226 W. 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Cinema Circuit Corp.

Architects: Thomas White Lamb

Styles: Italian Renaissance

Previous Names: Candler Theatre, Cohan & Harris Theatre, Sam H. Harris Theatre, The Academy

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News About This Theater

Harris Theatre exterior

The Candler Theatre and Building, an early work of Thomas W. Lamb, was opened as a movie theatre in 1914 with the Italian version of “Anthony and Cleopatra”. It was located between two larger and longer-established W. 42nd Street theatres, the Liberty Theatre and New Amsterdam Theatre.

It was housed inside a five-story office building, its main entrance on W. 42nd Street, which meant that its lobby ended up being long and narrow, leading to the auditorium, which was closer to W. 41st Street. It also meant that the exterior wall of the W. 41st Street side of the Candler Theatre was banal, and devoid of details, other than then fire escapes which criss-crossed it.

Built in the Italian Renaissance style, the Candler Theatre could seat just over 1,200 in an auditorium which, though not overly large, gave the impression of being much more spacious than it actually was, due to Lamb’s ingenious design.

Its ceiling contained an elliptical shallow dome, ringed by Art-Nouveau style chandeliers, in a floral theme, similar to those at the neighboring New Amsterdam Theatre. The two-story auditorium, with a balcony and two sets of opera boxes flanking the proscenium arch, was minimally decorated, but did include gilded plasterwork around the proscenium and a general color scheme of ivory and gold.

Its 25-foot wide lobby, with its liberal use of marble and more gilding, also had 17th Century style wall panels, decorated in floral patterns. Its foyers were decorated with tapestries depicting scenes from Shakespeare (as this was a playhouse, after all).

The Candler family, of Coca-Cola fame, leased the theatre to impresarios Sam H. Harris and George M. Cohan, who would operate the Candler Theatre as a legitimate house.

In 1916, the theatre was renamed the Cohan and Harris Theatre, and the showmen continued their string of successes into 1921, when Cohan left the partnership. Harris took full ownership of the theater, and it was thereafter known as the Harris Theatre.

A year later, the Harris Theatre made history, with John Barrymore portraying Hamlet and 101 nights in a row, beating Edwin Booth’s old record by one.

Throughout the next ten or so years, the Harris Theatre had many more long running stage hits. The last live show, in late-1933, was not successful, and soon afterwards, the Harris Theatre, like so many of its neighbors, was converted into a motion picture house.

For 55 more years, the Harris Theatre remained a first-run movie house, losing most of its original décor as the years went on, including the tapestries, the chandeliers, the side boxes and its large rooftop signage, which had been added during the Harris Theatre’s 1920’s heyday.

It finally went dark in 1994. There was hope that it might perhaps be restored for legitimate, or stage show use, as the nearby New Amsterdam Theatre was, by the Walt Disney Company.

However, with only its facade saved, the Harris Theatre was demolished in 1997, and its site occupied by the first American branch of the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 55 comments)

robboehm on August 31, 2019 at 11:08 am

bigjoe59. I can’t speak for Lyric but the Apollo again saw life as a Broadway playhouse for a time with the opening show being On Golden Pond. I don’t remember the extent of the renovation but I do recall when the renovation was in progress observing a woman recovering seats in the orchestra. And there was a rich new curtain.

And I continue to say the Lyric and Apollo were not demolished. The 42nd and 43rd street walls still stand, which is good because the 43rd street side of the Lyric is ornate.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 31, 2019 at 11:48 am

The Apollo also operated for a while as the concert venue known as The Academy into the mid ‘90’s. The entrance to the Academy was through the 43rd street exit doors, so one walked pretty much directly into the auditorium. When I saw Santana play there around ‘94 or so, there were no seats in the orchestra, which was leveled for general admission standing room. However, the HBO show Russel Simmons Def Comedy Jam was taped there, and I seem to recall shots of the crowd in their seats. In any event, the house was in pretty good shape, as I recall. The Lyric was probably in reasonable shape as well, since it remained to the end one of the classier first run oriented theaters on the block, like the Selwyn and Harris.

robboehm on August 31, 2019 at 4:50 pm

The lobby on the 43rd Street side wasn’t even 8 feet deep.

robboehm on January 29, 2023 at 12:10 pm

Building is empty. Boxy marquee from the museum, albeit devoid of signage, is still in place. The Candler name still remains on the building.

curmudgeon on January 29, 2023 at 10:55 pm

From the photo pictured this would have been an ideal intimate theatre to bring back to live use. Such a pity.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on January 30, 2023 at 6:26 am

According to their website, the wax museum is still located at 234 W. 42nd Street.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 30, 2023 at 7:05 am

It was Ripley’s Believe it or not that closed.

m00se1111 on January 30, 2023 at 7:31 am

yup, looks like Madam Tussaud’s is still operating, but there is no New York location listed on the Ripley site.

bigjoe59 on January 30, 2023 at 12:56 pm


I want to make sure I have the correct info- the Harris Theater was in perfectly renovatible shape they just chose not to.

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