Central Theatre

771 9th Avenue,
New York, NY 10019

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Harris Theatrical Enterprises

Functions: Retail

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Central Theatre

Built and opened in 1921 by Harris Theatrical Enterprises, the Central Theatre on W. 52nd Street and 9th Avenue shows up in Paramount Week advertisements for 1922 and 1923. A New York Times article announces its sale in November 22, 1928.

The existence of this obscure theatre is made odder by the fact that the high profile Central Theatre (Movieland) nearby at W. 47th Street and Broadway was already in operation at the time.

Contributed by Al Alvarez

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

MrDJDude on February 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Hard to say if this one is still standing. The address belongs to a paint store. Google Street View maps to W. 52nd Street around the corner. There is a building there that certainly LOOKS old enough to have housed the lobby…but it’s on the wrong street scratches head. Anyone else have some insight here?

Cmanni on March 18, 2017 at 8:06 pm

From DaytonianInManhattan:

The impoverished and crime-ridden Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood encompassed the area from approximately 34th street to 59th, and from Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River in the 19th century. Many of the dilapidated buildings were wooden, like the three-story “dwelling and store” at No. 771 Ninth Avenue, just off the corner of 52nd Street.

On May 13, 1878 Charles Ruf sold the property which included a four-story brick tenement in the rear to Mary Kempf for $10,550. Mary was apparently spreading her finances thin—she took out a mortgage of $9,000 to pay for the property.

The Kempf family lived above the store into the 1890s. In the 1880s George Semerling’s butcher shop was at street level; but by 1892 A. Klein had converted it to his saloon. The saloon was replaced by the hardware store of Shipman & Portal by 1906.

Julius Shipman and Harry Portal left Ninth Avenue shortly afterward. In June the American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record reported that John Milerick, who had recently graduated from New York College, had opened Milerick’s Pharmacy in the space. “The neighborhood is tenanted by numerous families and the venture should prove a successful one,” said the article.

John Milerick’s drugstore fell victim to the new motion picture craze in 1921. Harris Theatrical Enterprises demolished the old building to erect the Central Theatre. The unpretentious brick structure was dominated by the arched central entrance. Little expense was wasted on the decoration expected in the elaborate theaters of more affluent neighborhoods; although the pretty brick corbel table at the roofline was a delightful touch.

The choice of names was perplexing and, no doubt, confusing to theater-goers. The well-known Central Theatre on West 47th Street had been operating for years at the time, and often advertisements for either did not mention the address.

The Central screened silent films like the Lady Godiva. The Evening World said on May 8, 1922 it was “well worth seeing” and noted “Although much has been made of the famous ride of this devoted woman, it is not the picturization of a flapperish exploit, but a beautiful picture of a beautiful poem.”

Movie goers were treated to occasional live entertainment as well. In June that year The Evening World noted “In addition to Mae Murray in ‘The Delicious Little Devil’ will be Alla Axiom, crystal gazer.”

The motion picture theater lasted a relatively short time in the down-and-out neighborhood. On November 22, 1928 The New York Times reported on the sale of the property to E. W. White. The investor resold the building to Harry Wolf.

Wolf, who had organized the 771 Ninth Avenue Corporation for the deal, erased out all traces of the theater. S. Wolf’s Sons had been in business since the end of the Civil War. Harry Wolf now established the family’s wholesale and retail paint store in the old motion picture theater. Later Wolf Paints and Wallpapers broke through the back wall and expanded into No. 406 West 52nd Street.


Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 18, 2017 at 8:42 pm

Nice find, Cmanni!

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