55th Street Playhouse

154 W. 55th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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Additional Info

Firms: Treanor & Fatio

Functions: Office Space, Storage

Styles: Mission Revival

Previous Names: 55th Street Cinema, Europa Theatre

Nearby Theaters

55th Street Playhouse

Previously a horse stable, this opened as the 299-seat 55th Street Cinema on May 20, 1927. This was a tiny cinema of some reputation that for decades showed first run art house features and special programs.

On 20th December 1968 Andy Warhol’s “Lonesome Cowboys” starring Joe Dallesandro had its New York Premiere and played at the 55th Street Playhouse from May 5, 1969. It paved the way for the rest of its life as a X-Rated adult movie theatre, soon to be presenting gay adult movies.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 90 comments)

Mikeoaklandpark on April 3, 2015 at 1:26 pm

I lived in NYC from 75-83 and it was the marquee then Garycom.

garycom on April 6, 2015 at 1:03 am

Thanks hdtv27. I’m aware of the Canby review. It’s dated 6 May 1969, the day after Lonesome Cowboys opened.

I’ve done a bit of research. An ad for Lonesome Cowboys at the 55th St. Playhouse that appears in the 31 July 1969 Village Voice announces the return of Flesh – opening Monday.

The previous week’s ad, 24 July, only listed Lonesome Cowboys at the 55th Street Playhouse (with Blue Movie at the New Andy Warhol Garrick)

The next issue’s ad, 7 August, only advertises Flesh playing at 55th Street. On September 11 this changes with both Flesh and Cowboys playing “Now Together.” The ad for the previous week, the 4th of September, only had Flesh playing at 55th Street.

So the beginning of the double bill was between 4-11 September, probably the 8th as the films at 55th Street usually changed on a Monday.

In regard to when the double bill finished, on 16 October 1969 an ad appears saying that the two films are finishing on Sunday at 55th Street. Then On 30 October an ad appears advertising Flesh at “Trump Village” – a venue I’m not familiar with.

So, it would appear that the double bill opened at the 55th Street Playhouse between 4-11 September (probably Monday, 8 September) and closed Sunday 19 October, 1969.

Mikeoaklandpark – thanks for info. I lived in NYC from about 1980-1986.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on January 14, 2016 at 11:25 am

The theatre was originally known as the 55th Street Cinema and opened on May 20th, 1927, under the management of a new company called Art Cinema League. The building had previously served as a horse stable, with the fa├žade preserved for its architectural importance. The gutted interior became a 299-seat auditorium in Spanish mission style.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on January 15, 2016 at 8:26 am

The pioneer art cinema was a contemporary of the Roxy Theatre, which had opened in March of that same year.

AMovieADayKeeps on March 28, 2017 at 11:49 pm

This is the theater that debuted Viktor Und Viktoria, the German language original that was remade into First A Girl and much later, Victor/Victoria. It debuted there in January of 1935.

bigjoe59 on August 24, 2017 at 12:50 pm


i had passed by this theater many times in my teen years when it was an art house. to which a question.i suppose anything is possible in the big wide world of ours but i can’t believe this theater went from being an noted art house showing foreign films and low budget indies for decades then the next week turned into a gay porn house. I’m guessing there most have been a period of time when it was simply closed down and unused.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 24, 2017 at 4:17 pm

bigjoe59, Andy Warhol’s “LONESOME COWBOYS” was considered an art film and changed the theatre’s profile forever when it discovered a lucrative gay porn audience. The World 49th St. had a similar trajectory, going from more wholesome classics like “THE BICYCLE THIEF”, to then racy fare like “BITTER RICE”, and ending up with “DEEP THROAT”.

astrojeepie on August 24, 2017 at 5:05 pm
 The Supreme Court made a ruling in the early 1970s regarding pornography & literally overnight Time Square became XXX
Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 24, 2017 at 5:20 pm

It was not really overnight. If you look at the transition of European cinema from the fifties to cheap American exploitation films sold as ‘art house’ during the same period, the two markets became very mixed. Skin flicks have always been around. They just got more graphic after the courts labeled films as protected free speech. “WAYS OF LOVE: THE MIRACLE”(1950) and “I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW)” (1969) were two landmark cases. The X rating backfired when it became a selling point, further muddying the market between ‘art house’ and ‘sexploitation’.

jordanlage on July 12, 2020 at 8:07 am

The overview for this theater is woefully inadequate. One post from around 2006 has a more thorough history, but I can’t seem to find what year it finally went out of business or what was playing there in its final days. Still gay porn? Anybody know of its fate?

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