Criterion Theatre

1514 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: B.S. Moss Enterprises, Loew's Inc., United Artists Theater Circuit Inc.

Architects: Eugene DeRosa, Thomas White Lamb

Functions: Restaurant

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: B.S. Moss' Criterion Theatre, Loew's Criterion Theatre, Criterion Center

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News About This Theater

Criterion Theatre exterior

The B.S. Moss' Criterion Theatre opened September 16, 1936 with Kay Francis in “Give Me Your Heart”. Designed in the Art Moderne style with 1,700 seats on part of the site of the old Olympia entertainment complex. This originally included Loew’s New York Theatre and Roof (Cinema Treasures theatre #15178), and the earlier Criterion Theatre (Cinema Treasures theatre #16481) which was built in 1895 as the Lyric Theatre.

All were demolished to make way for the Criterion Theatre, retail stores and the International Casino nightclub. B.S. Moss Enterprises built the Criterion Theatre, but in 1938 leased the theatre to Loew’s for 20 years. The first film to open at Loew’s Criterion Theatre was MGM’s “Spring Madness” starring Maureen O'Sullivan, on November 30, 1938.

Due to divestment of theatres because of antitrust litigation, in 1949, the Criterion Theatre reverted back to B.S. Moss Enterprises. The last film to be shown by Loew’s was Richard Basehart in “He Walked By Night”, which opened on February 5, 1949. During that engagement, Loew’s returned management of the Criterion Theatre to B.S. Moss Enterprises who then operated the theatre until the 1980’s, when it was leased to United Artists Theatre Circuit, operating as the Criterion Center.

With George Montgomery in “Fort Ti”, a Columbia movie that opened on May 29th 1953, the Criterion Theatre claimed to be the first theatre in the world to project a 3-D (with glasses) feature on a giant wide screen, with stereophonic sound and color by Technicolor.

The Criterion Theatre was host to numerous premieres. After the World Premiere of “The Ten Commandments” on November 8, 1956, that movie was shown (with reserved seats) for 17 months. The US premiere in 70mm of “Lawrence of Arabia” was held on December 15, 1962. World Premieres of other 70mm films included “South Pacific” (March 19, 1958), “My Fair Lady”(October 21, 1964), “Thoroughly Modern Millie”(March 21, 1967), “Funny Girl”(September 19, 1968) and “Patton”(February 5, 1970).

On March 20, 1980, the Criterion Theatre was converted into five screens using some space in the former basement lounge and former lower level retail space. On February 6, 1981 it added a sixth screen. The front of the balcony was extended to the proscenium for a new upstairs auditorium that had 1,041 seats. The new auditorium in the former orchestra seating area had 1,037 seats in 1988. On December 13, 1991, the orchestra level was split by United Artists left/right to create two 400 seat auditoriums. The basement houses seated 156, 198, 193 and 248. Operating as the Criterion Center, day-to-day management was taken over by United Artists Theatres on April 8, 1988, while B.S. Moss Enterprises retained ownership interest.

The Criterion Theatre finally closed on May 4, 2000 and was gutted internally to become a massive Toys R Us store, which itself closed in December 2015. The auditorium now is occupied by a Duane Reade Drug Store, a soon to open (2021) tourist attraction ride, and Starbucks (on the stage).

Contributed by William Gabel, Don Weber, Howard B. Hass, Joseph Masher

Recent comments (view all 613 comments)

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on September 18, 2021 at 9:06 pm

I Googled Roadshow engagement Criterion theatre.

DavidZornig on September 26, 2022 at 5:21 pm

World Premiere of “The Ten Commandments” at the Criterion Theatre November 8, 1956 via YouTube.

Ed Miller
Ed Miller on February 2, 2024 at 12:38 am

vindanpar, I saw “Funny Girl” at the Criterion in October of 1968, when I was 18. Having been a Barbra fanatic since the beginning of her career, it was an exciting event for me; it would have been, no matter what the theater, but being in the legendary Criterion made it extra special. I then saw her second film, “Hello, Dolly!” at the even more celebrated Rivoli, and her third, “On a Clear Day” at Loew’s State, which, if my memory serves me correctly, was twinned by 1970.

vindanpar on February 2, 2024 at 2:10 am

Lucky you! How lucky that you were able to see those films in those theaters. I remember passing them with my parents but my parents would never pay roadshow prices for a movie. I was too young to go on my own and certainly did not have the money. Loew’s State was twinned in ‘68. I wish I could have seen it as a single screen theater. Clear Day was a perfect Music Hall movie and should have played there.

DavidZornig on February 5, 2024 at 8:41 pm

1959 Otto Bettmann photo in link below. After reading the Terms of Use page, it just wasn’t worth posting it to the gallery.

vindanpar on April 30, 2024 at 5:15 pm

Thank you Cineast. I never saw before the marquee of Half a Sixpence at the Criterion and always wanted to. I was too young to have seen it there which for me would have been great. Next door was Dr Dolittle in Todd AO in the single screen Loews State and up Broadway you could see 2001 at the Capitol. Why couldn’t I have been there?

Unfortunately when I was old enough it was playing things like Mandingo. No thanks. At least I got to see the first Superman there after it moved over from the Astor Plaza. I brought a friend who had never been in there before and she loved the place. And just a few years before we had seen together Reeve on Broadway when he was a nobody in A Matter of Gravity.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 30, 2024 at 10:09 pm

I’ve probably said this before, but those five basement theaters were the most dreadful houses in all of New York, much worse than the faded beauties and utilitarian newcomers on 42nd Street. Water leaks, puddles, mold and mildew, rats, uncomfortable seats and small screens. Egads!

vindanpar on May 1, 2024 at 4:51 am

And do you know that space in the lower level(you would not have called it a basement) had been when it was a single screen theater a large oval shaped Edwardian style lounge off of which were the ladies and men’s rooms. It was very elegant. There was a reason the Criterion held world or US premieres of some of the biggest films of the 50s and 60s. An enormously prestigious house. Ray Stark reserved it for the Funny Girl world premiere when the film started filming in ‘67. And Jack Warner chose it for the world premiere of My Fair Lady.

vindanpar on May 1, 2024 at 11:12 am

You can see what the lower level looked like on page 14 before it was turned into those horrible theaters Mike talked about. I was never in them. I don’t remember those chairs(which seem out of place) just setees along the edges

The Criterion started its roadshow career with the world premiere of The Ten Commandments followed by the world premiere of South Pacific and ended it with the World premiere of Patton. Not too shabby. After there were Tora… and N&A but they were such bombs I don’t count them. It held the second premiere of Lawrence after its opening in London with Lean’s complete film. It was after the Criterion opening Lean decided to cut it so I don’t know how long the theater showed the original cut. It might have been only a couple of days. It got great reviews in NY so Lean’s decision to cut it is baffling. It was going to be a long film no matter what.

Mikeoaklandpark on May 3, 2024 at 1:05 pm

vindanpar The lower level theaters were horrible. My TV screen and living roon was bigger.

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