Audubon Theatre

3950 Broadway,
New York, NY 10032

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Fox Circuit

Architects: Thomas White Lamb

Functions: Educational

Styles: Art Nouveau

Previous Names: Fox Audubon Theatre, Beverly Hills Theatre, New San Juan Theatre, San Juan Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Auditorium of the Audubon Theatre, New York in 1930

Built in 1912 for William Fox’s fledgling film company, the Audubon Theatre & adjoining ballroom was designed by Thomas W. Lamb. The 2,500-seat auditorium was on the main floor at the southern end of the building, while the ballroom was upstairs on the northern end of the building. In 1915 the theatre auditorium was equipped with a 3 manual Moller organ which had 24 stops. On November 17, 1923 it was replaced with a Moller 3 manual 15 ranks organ which had 1,150 pipes.

Known for its spectacular polychrome-terra cotta façade. In a lunette over the main entrance is a beautiful depiction of a ship’s prow, with the head of Neptune over it. By December 1945 it had been renamed Beverly Hills Theatre playing movies and vaudeville programs. It went back to the Audubon Theatre name and was still playing vaudeville & movies in November 1948.

By May 1949 it was renamed New San Juan Theatre and went over to a Spanish language films policy plus a stage show. By 1949 it was the San Juan Theatre and had programs of American movies dubbed into Spanish.

Long a center of culture and entertainment, the Audubon Ballroom is still best-known today as the place where Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965 while giving a speech.

Films ceased in 1980 and the theatre closed. The building fell into disuse and disrepair and was demolished in 1989 apart from the façade on W. 165th Street. It was acquired by Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in the mid-1990’s.

A new structure erected behind the historic façade, where the Audubon Theatre had stood. Known today as the Malcolm X and Dr Betty Shabazz Education & Research Center. Inside the center is a memorial to Malcolm X. Some parts of the Audubon Ballroom still remain in some sort of use.

The ornate terra-cotta façade was meticulously restored and brought back to its 1910’s appearance, making it quite an eye-catching sight.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

kencmcintyre on November 18, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Here is a January 19, 1927 article about a fire in the Audubon:

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 31, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Does anyone have any knowledge of a HUDSON theatre in north Manhattan?

It appears in the 1934 Film Daily Year Book as located at 1268 Amsterdam Avenue but newspaper ads in 1921-22 place it close to Audubon Avenue and 167th street.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 31, 2009 at 6:20 pm

My mistake, LM, it is 1968, but that still maps near Lincoln Center.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 13, 2010 at 7:37 am

I believe the reluctance by CT editors to list the aka names (Beverly Hills, San Juan) may come from the fact that these theatre names co-existed with the Audubon ballroom and that the San Juan theatre was reportedly demolished while the ballroom was not.

Please note from the introduction that the ballroom on the northern upstairs end of the building where Malcolm X was shot was a separate entity from the Fox theatre on the southern downstairs end and that the eventual demolition was only a partial remodel of a wrapped building housing both.

While the Audubon Ballroom still stands in some form, the cinema end, the Fox Audubon (Beverly Hills, San Juan) theatre listed here, is for all practical purposes, demolished.

bigjoe59 on February 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm

any photos of the theater in its early years as the Audubon?
for instance when “Down To The Sea In Ships” played a neighborhood
engagement after an exclusive 3 month run in Times Square?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 12, 2011 at 10:08 am

Pretty much the same as them ‘jabbering away’ in English to many of us.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith on May 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Click here for an exterior view of the Fox Audubon Theatre in 1929.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 29, 2012 at 8:43 am

The San Juan was still operating in 1977.

Woody_London on October 4, 2020 at 3:30 pm

Doubled as the Magic Club in Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985 The club entrance was created using the back entrance which had similar pillars to the front but this was the part of the building that got knocked down

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