RKO 86th Street Theatre

1284 Lexington Avenue,
New York, NY 10028

Unfavorite 7 people favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 41 comments

grindhouse on January 2, 2022 at 9:42 am

As well as promoting “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?”, by making an appearance on the RKO 86th Street Theatre stage, Bette Davis visited Andy Williams and sang the theme song.


Moose on July 4, 2021 at 11:09 am

I worked here in the Fall of 1968 as a manager. The theatre was absolutely amazing. On one one side of the stage, there were nine floors, with elevator access, of dressing rooms, many with a toilet and bathtub. I cleaned one of the rooms and used it for my tuxedo worn on special occasions. There were two movie previews for special guests. One I remember was “Rough Night in Jericho”. The top floor was reportedly the party place for performers.

Orlando on February 27, 2017 at 11:08 am

The RKO 86th Street wasn’t demolished in 1965 as the heading says, It was closed in late October 1968 with “For Love Of Ivy”. Demolition probably occured in early 1969. The top description should be changed to 1969!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 18, 2016 at 2:01 pm

bigjoe, that was a link to another website, not a photo posting. “MY FAIR LADY” went wide in June 1966.

bigjoe59 on July 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm


looking at pics of the original movie palace I noticed an incorrect caption. one of the 2 pics posted by Al A. on April 13, 2009 gives a date of June 1965. now the marquee is advertising My Fair Lady. the film opened at the Criterion the fall of 1964 and i doubt its roadshow engagement had ended yet.

bazookadave on November 6, 2012 at 6:15 am

Here is a picture of the Gimbels East department store in 1971. This is the bland modern building that replaced the original RKO 86th movie palace, which was completely demolished in 1968/1969. The marquee lower left is the new smaller RKO theater that was supposed to make up for the loss of the original RKO on the site.

After Gimbels closed it stores, this East 86th location was stripped down to its steel skeleton and renovated as the current luxury apartment house. The theater became the Duane Reade that is there today. The marquee was finally removed in 2011.


bazookadave on August 5, 2012 at 6:41 am

It wasn’t this theater. You may be remembering the small RKO replacement theater that is now Duane Reade. The original building at this site housing the RKO 86th Street was completely demolished in the late 1960s, then replaced by Gimbels East, which included a small RKO theater meant to replace the lost movie palace.

tone10029 on August 4, 2012 at 11:14 pm

This was a really cool “twin "theatre.It was there for a long time.In the summer of 1978,my two older brothers,some little league freinds and myself saw"Jaws 2"on its opening weekend.I remember the police were there to help control the crowd.I also saw "Alien”,“Gremlins”,“Superman III”,and “The Untouchables"at this great theatre.

djc on February 23, 2012 at 11:03 am

Anyone remember the old RKO on 58 St-3 Ave acroos from Alexanders

bazookadave on July 27, 2011 at 11:54 am

Stripped down to its steel frame, It appears that the old marquee now used for Duane Reade is being renovated or demolished. This marquee was for the smaller RKO movie house that was built into the Gimbels East Ibuilding that replaced the original RKO 86th. If I recall correctly, this smaller theater was supposed to make up for the loss of the palace.



Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 3, 2010 at 8:29 am

This theatre was still open in October 1968 when it closed after playing “For Love Of Ivy”. It was replaced by the Gimbels store and the RKO 86th street Twin.

bazookadave on October 14, 2009 at 3:23 pm

WOW that first one jogged my memory!!! Thanks for the link! What a shame to demolish that beautiful theater and replace it with that awful Gimbels East building. Everything for the almighty dollar.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 13, 2009 at 11:32 am

Some nice shots of two eras here.

View link

View link

RickStattler on February 27, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Swann Auction Galleries will be selling the design for the original corner sign of this theater on March 26. We don’t have a date on it, but it’s presumably from a renovation circa 1960-1975. An image can be seen here: View link

BobFurmanek on February 4, 2009 at 12:00 pm

On Friday January 26, 1962, the Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly-Joe DeRita) embarked on a three day promotional tour for their latest feature film, THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES. They were accompanied by “The Herculean Giant” (almost 8 foot tall Dave Ballard) and popular DJ Clay Cole, who was one of the stars of the co-feature, TWIST AROUND THE CLOCK.

On Saturday January 27, they appeared at the RKO 86th Street at 4:55 PM.

Bloop on July 11, 2007 at 4:35 pm

Great story! Maybe on E-Bay you can find one?

EastsideEddie on March 22, 2007 at 11:37 am

At the age of ten I saw William Castle’s “Mr Sardonicus” at this theater. Near the end of the film, the lights came up and Mr. Castle walked out onto the stage. He asked the Saturday matinee crowd of screaming kid’s to hold our glow in the dark thumb cards up or down to decide the fate of the villain.
Mr Sardonicus died.
Mr. Castle signed autographs on the thumb cards in the lobby afterward.
I wish I still had mine.
He was a ten year old’s Hitchcock.

William on March 1, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Hollywood90038, they are listed under the original name of the theatre, look under the Strand.

bazookadave on December 15, 2006 at 10:15 am

These have probably been posted here before:

RKO Proctor’s 86th Street marquee:

View link

The Mezzanine Promenade of the RKO 86th:

View link

Both scanned from “Marquee.” Notes for this theatre included:

The ├é┬átheatre was designed by Thomas W. Lamb and opened on May 16, 1927 with 3160 seats. Operated by RKO from 1929. Redecorated in 1944. Demolished 1960s. Re the Mezzanine photo: “A favorite Thomas Lamb approach and here at the 86th Street with the elegant crystal chandeliers a truly outstanding room. With the potted plants and the fringed lamp shades this view obviously dates from the original opening.”

BrooklynJim on June 13, 2006 at 2:00 pm

When “Godfather II” opened in ‘74, I hadda depend on the subway to whisk me to the RKO 86th in record time. I mean, with a 200 minute running time, you don’t want to get shut out for the next performance. I ran like a track star and made it!

A very worthy sequel to the original, some of which I saw filmed on 5th and 51st back in March, ‘71, when I worked at Rockefeller Center. (More on that when I post about “The Godfather” which ran at NY’s State Theater – at Broadway and 45th? – in '72.)

stepale2 on March 27, 2006 at 8:07 am

“The World of Henry Orient,” another movie that played at the Radio City Music Hall (as the Easter attraction in 1964) had its very first preview a few months earlier at the RKO 86th Street. It played to a full house and the audience loved it on 86th Street, but it was not such a big hit at the Music Hall, unfortunately.

BobFurmanek on February 23, 2006 at 8:39 am

To promote his new film “The Ladies Man,” Jerry Lewis appeared on stage at this theater on July 12, 1961.

bazookadave on November 7, 2005 at 8:45 am

Here’s the site of the former RKO 86th. The RKO 86th was completely demolished to make way for the Gimbel’s East department store building. The building in this picture was originally that store, which was closed in the 80s and stripped down to its steel frame, then refurbished into this apartment building. On the far lower left can be seen the marquee for what is now a Duane Reade. I remember that this was a movie theater during the 70s and into the late 80s, but it was not the original RKO palace.

View link

View link