55th Street Playhouse

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

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Showing 1 - 25 of 90 comments

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?

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’.

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 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”.

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.

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.

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.

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 façade preserved for its architectural importance. The gutted interior became a 299-seat auditorium in Spanish mission style.

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.

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 1, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Does anybody know when the photo of the 55th St. Playhouse at the top of this page was taken?

astrojeepie on July 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Mr Alvarez is correct. There was a David on West 55th St—-which wasn’t the 55th St Playhouse. And later on there was a New David Cinema—-which was down the block from Studio 54. Both Davids were strictly porno

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 11, 2012 at 6:57 am

There were two David’s and neither was the 55th Street Playhouse.

CSWalczak on July 11, 2012 at 3:50 am

The David (or New David) has its own listing here on CT and its entry indicates that its address was 236 W. 54th St. A comparison of the photos at the various links in the comments shows two dissimilar buildings, and the buildings adjacent to the two theaters do not match ; the building that housed the 55th St. Playhouse has an alley to the right of the entrance, whereas the building that was the David does not.

MarcFurstenberg on July 11, 2012 at 2:04 am

The David was the name of the 55th St. Playhouse when it went porno.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Someone is thinking with his little head instead of his big head.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

Marc is thinking of the David.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 9, 2012 at 7:42 am

Tinseltoes is correct. It is two blocks down from Carnegie Hall, and around the corner from the Carnegie Deli, which is at 7th near 55th, an eatery that is a point of reference for me.

MarcFurstenberg on July 9, 2012 at 2:41 am

You’re all crazy. It was located between 8th Ave. & Broadway, on the south side of the street, closer to B'way. I can take you to the site today if you wish.

EMarkisch on August 2, 2011 at 8:28 am

Address should be changed to 154 West 55th Street. The Google map has the theatre located on 55th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues, when it was actually located between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

CSWalczak on April 19, 2011 at 11:00 am

Janus is still active, though not to the degree it was once. It is currently the major U.S. distributor of the films of Charlie Chaplin.
Its classic releases are handled by Criterion on DVD.

Astyanax on April 18, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Harvey appears to have been an extraordinary individual with an acute sense of how to mold opinion and develop trends. Janus Films had a remarkable collection. Is the company still active? If so, who are the current owners?

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm

What an interesting life he seems to have led. Here’s the lead paragraph of the Times obituary:

Cyrus I. Harvey, a quirky entrepreneur who created two significant brands in disparate fields â€" Janus Films, a distributor of movies by international directors like Bergman, Fellini and Kurosawa, and Crabtree & Evelyn, the purveyor of aromatic soaps and botanicals â€" died Thursday in Dayville, Conn. He was 85 and lived in Woodstock, Conn.

And hee’s the mention of the Brattle theater and 55th Street Playhouse:

Janus Films, founded in 1956, grew from his part ownership of the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Mass., which he and a partner, the actor Bryant Haliday, had transformed from a live-theater venue to a movie house that showed the art films Mr. Harvey had grown to love as a Fulbright scholar in Paris.

“Instead of spending two years at the Sorbonne, he spent two years at the cinémathèque,” his wife said.

Mr. Harvey and Mr. Haliday showed Janus films at the Brattle and at the 55th Street Playhouse in New York. They had named the company for a Roman god usually depicted with two heads facing in different directions.

MarcFurstenberg on April 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm

My dad worked at DuArt and he’d take me to work on a given Saturday and park me at the 55th St. Playhouse. I remember they had marathons of UPA cartoons and the first Chaplin’s I’d ever seen. This must have been when he reissued compilations of his early shorts in the early 50s. I just remember being disappointed at first because I thought they were going to be Charlie Chase films, an artist I became very familiar with because parts of his films were used as filler in Howdy Doody. I sat through the marathons twice. I have seen the Chaplin’s many times since then but the UPA cartoons are never revived, perhaps because of the crappy Mr. Magoo cartoons that were made for TV.

laserboyTO on March 22, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Just found this thread. I thought the cinema was larger than this, I guess memory doesn’t serve me well. 16MM was very noisy here, you could hear the projector clattering away from above. What I remember most about this place in the 80’s were the dark washrooms. One or two 6 watt orange bulbs illuminated the whole room which always freaked me out.