Henry Miller's Theatre
124 W. 43rd Street,
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Previously operated by: Nederlander Organization
Architects: Harry Creighton Ingalls
Previous Names: Park-Miller Theatre, Avon-at-the-Hudson, Xenon, Shout, Kit Kat Klub
Located across W. 43rd Street from the Town Hall Theatre, actor Henry Miller opened his Georgian-style playhouse in 1918, and it was immediately hailed as one of the most beautiful and luxurious theatres to ever open on Broadway.
The 950-seat theatre was designed by H.C. Ingalls. Its two-balcony auditorium resembled more a movie palace than a traditional legitimate theatre, with plentiful use of marble, gilding, and, from its domed ceiling, a massive crystal chandelier.
The Palladian-style red-brick facade featured the theatre’s name inscribed above a trio of arched windows and a pair of huge urns set in niches above which were medallions with representations of the Greek Muses.
During its early years, Henry Miller’s Theatre had difficulty finding a hit, but by 1926, a several-month long run of Noel Coward in his self-written play, “The Vortex” became the first on the Henry Miller’s stage. 1926 was also the year Miller died, but the theatre remained in his family.
In the early-to-mid-1930’s, while many other Broadway houses were on the decline, switching to movies, burlesque or use as radio studios, Henry Miller’s Theatre began to really hit its stride.
From the 1930’s until the early-1960’s, the theatre enjoyed its golden years, and the list of actors who played on its stage is impressive: Helen Hayes, Leslie Howard, Lillian Gish, Douglas Fairbanks, and Ruth Chatterton.
In 1967, the Millers sold their playhouse to the Nederlander Organization, who, despite assurances it would continue on as a legitimate house, leased it for screening movies, beginning in 1969, with the premiere of Andy Warhol’s “Lonesome Cowboys”.
However, art movies didn’t stay around long at the theatre, renamed first the Park-Miller Theatre, then Avon-at-the-Hudson (after the real Hudson Theater was shuttered). It quickly became one of the most well-known gay porn theatres in the city, which remained open until 1977, when its owner at the time, Seymour Dunst, announced that the theatre would be restored to its original glory and return to legit.
Instead, in 1978, it was reopened by Howard Stein as a disco called Xenon after a $2 million renovation. In this era it competed with Studio 54, and Jellybean Benitez was the resident DJ. Xenon was featured as a location scene in the 1981 movie “Nighthawks” staring Sylvester Stalone. After the disco closed in around 1984, it remained dark for a while, then reopened as another successful disco named Shout in the late-1980’s.
It reopened in the mid-1990’s, for a stage revival of “Cabaret”, and renamed the Kit Kat Klub, in following the 1930’s era German theme of the show. It also received a gaudy remodeling to turn its interior into something like the musical’s title venue.
The successful run of “Cabaret” ended when a crane working on construction next door collapsed, closing 43rd Street for over a month. “Cabaret” transferred to the former Studio 54 where it carried on its successful run. The house was dark again for a short time, before reopening in the fall of 2001, under its original name, with the popular musical “Urinetown”.
Sadly, Henry Miller’s Theatre was closed in late-January, 2004 and was torn down in March 2004 (except for its landmarked facade). A large office tower was constructed on the site and includes a new theatre space named Stephen Sondheim Theatre.
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