Loew's Capitol Theatre

1645 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Loew's Inc.

Architects: Thomas White Lamb, John J. McNamara

Styles: Adam

Previous Names: Capitol Theatre, Loew's Cinerama

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Loew's Capitol Theatre

The Capitol Theatre was located where the Paramount Plaza stands today, directly across Broadway from the Winter Garden Theatre.

Opened October 24, 1919 with Douglas Fairbanks in “His Majesty, the American” (United Artists first production) plus on stage Ned Wayburn’s “Demi Tasse Revue” which featured Mae West early in her career. It was equipped with an Estey pipe organ which had a 4 manual console and 35 ranks opened by organist Dr. Mauro-Cottone Melchiorre. The Capitol Theatre, operated by Major Edward Bowes was initially not a great success and closed on June 1, 1920. It was taken over days later by Samuel Goldwyn who installed S.L. ‘Roxy’ Rothafel to program the theatre and it reopened with a Goldwyn picture “Scratch My Back” starring T. Roy Barnes. In July 1923 the Estey organ console was replaced by one with illuminated stops and a horseshoe design and 12 more ranks of pipes were added to the existing 35 ranks. It was advertised as ‘Broadway’s Finest Organ’.

It was taken over by Loew’s Inc. in 1924 and became the flagship movie palace for MGM Films. The Loew’s Capitol Theatre hosted world premiere’s of many now classic films. The theatre presented movies and stage shows except from 1935 to 1943 when no stage shows were included in the program. The shows were too expensive to produce during the Great Depression and were only revived when World War II brought an economic boom. In 1952 stage shows ceased to be held. A larger, 25ft x 60ft wide screen was installed for the June 1953 engagement of “Never Let Me Go” starring Clark Gable.

In 1959 the Loew’s Capitol Theatre was modernized to the plans of architect John J. McNamara and re-opened on December 25, 1959 with Yul Brynner in “Solomon and Sheba”. The movie palace became a Cinerama showplace in 1962 with a huge 33ft x 93ft wide screen.

World Premieres of 70mm films included “Cheyenne Autumn”(December 23, 1964), “Doctor Zhivago”(December 22nd, 1965), “The Dirty Dozen”(June 15, 1967) and “Far From the Madding Crowd”(October 18, 1967).

The Loew’s Capitol Theatre auditorium was never twinned or divided into more than one auditorium. In 1968 the Capitol Theatre was playing the Roadshow engagement of “2001:A Space Odyssey”. The movie was transferred to the Warner Cinerama Theatre, and the Loew’s Capitol Theatre closed, and was demolished.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 1,085 comments)

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2023 at 1:51 pm

Nothing can compare to that first time at the Capitol, but I’ve seen “2001” in a theater many more times since then. 105 times, to be exact. I saw it in 70mm in Fort Lee, NJ just last month, and it’s scheduled to play the Village East in Manhattan in 70mm during the week of July 14th.

The closest non-Cinerama experience was an Omnimax screening at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 2018. I went back to see that 4 times. I hope they bring it back someday.

vindanpar on June 15, 2023 at 2:30 pm

Was that the largest screen you saw it on outside the Capitol. Is it a regular movie theater or revival house? I could get there by car. Is it a safe area? Did you ever get to meet Lockwood or Dullea? They seem to make a lot of appearances.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2023 at 3:34 pm

The Franklin Institute is like the Philadelphia equivalent of the Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium in New York. They showed “2001” in their Omnimax theater on the occasion of the movie’s 50th anniversary. It was projected on the ceiling, on a huge curved screen. There was lots of distortion, even more than with Cinerama, but the visual impact was overwhelming. I’d say it was the largest screen I’ve seen it on since the Capitol. It’s a safe area, not far from the museum with the Rocky steps. If it ever gets shown there again, I’ll post about it here.

I did meet Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, three times. Twice at the Chiller Theatre celebrity convention in Parsippany NJ, and once at a screening of the movie at the Lafayette Theater in Suffern, NY. Two very nice guys.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2023 at 3:56 pm

The theater at the Franklin is officially known as the Tuttleman IMAX Theater. Here’s a link to its Cinema Treasures page.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on June 15, 2023 at 9:38 pm

Bill, since you’ve seen it 105 times, do you think you’re qualified to explain it to the rest of us?

vindanpar on June 15, 2023 at 9:46 pm

There’s an explanation?

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2023 at 10:22 pm

In as few words as possible, it’s the story of the evolution of the human race: past, present and future.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2023 at 10:51 pm

The movie features the things that all humans have in common: being born and dying; eating, drinking, sleeping and breathing; going to the bathroom (one character talks about it, another is shown going to the zero gravity toilet); having a birthday. It’s all in there.

vindanpar on June 18, 2023 at 1:18 am

After the Capitol was turned into a Cinerama house when they played a film in the 1.85:1 ratio like In the Heat of the Night did the borders make the screen fairly small but it still had a curve to it? What about a wide screen Panavision film was the screen made smaller?

Chelsearicky on June 21, 2023 at 6:49 pm

Saw many films here, the last being ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ on 11/01/67….my last time being in that great theater.

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