Chuan Kung Music Palace Theatre

91-93 Bowery,
New York, NY 10002

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paulkazee on September 23, 2019 at 9:20 am

The theatre appears to have simultaneously been the “Music Palace” and the “Chuan Kung Theatre.” “Music Palace” was the name in English on the marquee, while I’m told that the vertical Chinese characters to the left of the marquee translate as “Chuan Kung Theater.” As such, I wonder if might be most accurate to refer to this theatre as the “Chuan Kung Music Palace?”

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 6, 2018 at 6:41 pm

Joe, if that can be confirmed, this might become the longest running movie theatre in, at least, New York history.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 6, 2018 at 6:17 pm

According to an index card in this PDF from the Theatre Historical Society (as well as in the AIA Guide to New York City), this long-time movie house (last operated as the Chuan Kung Theatre according to the AIA guide) began in the late 19th century as a three story store building designed by none other than McKim, Mead & White, one of New York’s most famous architectural firms.

The index card says that plans to alter the building to accommodate a movie theater were submitted in July, 1913, (Louis Sheinart, architect) and the Universal Photoplay was in operation by 1914.

The house was altered several times over the years, with its listed seating capacity increasing from 281 in 1925 to 450 in 1931 and 546 in the 1940’s, but the only alteration credited on the card is a marquee installed in 1941 by architect Sol Oberwager. The house was renamed the Music Palace in the early 1970s.

richardkoenigsberg on September 9, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Great movie theater, 1982-1986. Played the full range of Chinese movies, mostly from Hong Kong. Incredible violence, endless struggle. True, it wasn’t “elegant,” but that was it’s charm. You could just lounge around and no one bothered you. People talked when they felt like it, at clams, smoked, drank soda. NO ONE SAID A WORD TO ME IN TWO YEARS, except on the way out of a film called BEFORE DAWN.

Very strange movie, a guy said “genius” on the way out.

Never saw any fighting there. Everyone very, very laid back. Five year old kids running up and down the aisle. A great place to relax and study the world of Chinese fantasy, which focuses on REVENGE.

zcharles on July 12, 2012 at 1:31 am

what was the EXACT date of closing with link if possible.

TransfigurationTommy on January 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I used to go there as a little kid…the Dumps…remember seeing Sheherezhade there! and the colored candied? popcorn, the ushers and the stamping whenever the projector faltered, yes. Many years later, I would ride the bus (Ave B?) past another Chinese theater at the start of East Broadway, I suppose that’s the one mentioned as at the Square? Colorful posters on the outside, I always meant to stop in sometime to see what I might see, but alas, never did. Sorry to hear they’re all gone now.

cinemajosie on January 19, 2011 at 10:56 pm

I also remember seeing “Flying Tigers” and “God Is My Co-Pilot” in that theatre.

cinemajosie on January 19, 2011 at 10:54 pm

I went to that theatre every Saturday as a child in the late 1940s living on the corner of Mott and Hester. The marquee said “Universal” but it was always referred to as “The Dumps” and I thought that was its other real name. It was very seedy. Very crowded with children during Saturday matinees. Two ushers with flashlights were kept very busy keeping kids in their seats and reasonably under control. The bathrooms were filthy and scary and we avoided them. We’d see previews of coming attractions, cartoons, a movie, and one installment of a serial that ran for months. When the movie was interrupted by a technical problem with the projector or film, which happened frequently, we kids would stamp our feet in unison, chanting, “We want movies! We want movies!” In the lobby, on the way out, we could pick up a leaflet, densely printed blue-on-white, describing the coming attractions. Occasionally we’d lie about what was playing (“Gene Autry”)to go see an adult movie (Betty Grable, Put The Blame on Mame, Boys) or Shadow On The Wall. “The Dumps” was a big part of my childhood!

mhantholz on May 20, 2010 at 10:33 pm

The Music Palace was THE REAL DEAL NYC mid-1960s-70s for first-run kung-fu films—-beautiful color/scope prints, subtitled [English bottom/Chinese right side] in the classiest movie theater in lower Manhattan. We saw “Come Drink with Me” and “Jade Raksha” here—-could never get enough of Chen Pei-Pei, who’s still in there swinging, bless her heart. Angela Mao-Ying was another fave. The Music Palace specialized in Golden Harvest releases, some Shaw Bros. The Sun Sing and Canal Street played films of lesser producers, and were definitely scuzzier. The Governor on Chatham Square [demolished, now Hong Kong Supermarket, where I shop]played Cantonese films exclusively—-the majority of NYC were Cantonese, until the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924 was repealed 1964. Isn’t it strange how the food/films of our youth retain a special place within us—-I’ve eaten many kinds of Chinese food, by I always reset to my default: Cantonese. The kung-fu films of today, with their CGI-enhancements, just don’t have the mega-ton blast effect of Chen Pei-Pei laying waste to regiments of bad guys, tornado-like, with two broad swords. Golden days, gone forever.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 25, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Does anyone have date when it operated as the WORLD?

NYCer on November 4, 2007 at 3:27 pm

I hear that the structure going up on the site will be a hotel.

br91975 on November 16, 2006 at 8:18 am

After several years of lying in wait, the Music Palace has been demolished, presumably to be replaced by the retail/residential development which first came into discussion in the late ‘90s.

gwailo on September 26, 2006 at 3:54 am

The balcony of the Music Palace was pretty rough. A lot of the Chinese gang kids would hang out there, drinking beer and smoking. There were fights pretty regularly, and one guy got shot while I was there.

They mainly played kung fu movies, although they’d sometimes show Honk Kong comedies and romances, and an occasional ‘Category 3’ (porno) flick. All the movies were (poorly) subtitled in English, as well as in Chinese for speakers of dialects other than Cantonese.
The small concession stand sold packets of dried shrimp and shit like that.

gwailo on September 26, 2006 at 3:51 am

Yeah the Rosemary is now a huge Buddhist temple, around the corner near the Manhattan Bridge.

The Music Palace was the seediest of the three big Chinatown theatres that were still in operation through most of the 90s.

Everyone smoked cigarettes during the movies, although they did have a black security guard who would occasionally walk the aisles, halfheartedly saying “no smoking” in English and Cantonese.

inspectorcollector on July 4, 2006 at 6:30 am

the 9 minute music palace documentary is screening again on july 18th at 8:45 pm at the Quad in nyc as part of the 29th Asian American International Film Festival, which is also screening 6 rare movies that were rescued from the Sun Sing before it was demolished. My partner and I have 45 feature films, 60 shorts, tickets, uniforms, theatre memorabilia and close to 10,000 lobby cards and posters from Sun Sing. and some Music Palace memorabilia too. For more information please contact

bamtino on December 12, 2005 at 4:22 pm

The theatre was open, as the Universal, as early as 1919.

bamtino on August 29, 2005 at 1:53 am

The 1931 Certificate of Occupancy for the facility showed a total seating capacity of 556 (411 floor and 146 balcony, plus a small allowance for standing room!).
It was also known as the World Theater for a time.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 4, 2005 at 1:53 pm

Listed as the Universal Theatre in the Film Daily Yearbook, 1926 edition with a seating capacity of 245.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on April 13, 2005 at 12:37 pm

Listed as the Universal Theatre in Film Daily Yearbooks that I have 1930 thru 1950. This theatre seemed to grow in size with a seating capacity given in 1930 as 281, in 1941 as 450, in 1943 and 1950 as 546. It is not listed in the 1957 edition of F.D.Y.

hardbop on April 13, 2005 at 11:45 am

I caught that screening of “Music Palace” and I didn’t realize that it was filmed several years ago. I had thought all those Chinatown movie palaces had closed years ago and even knowing that 1999/2000 I thought they had be gone by then.

I never went to any of these venues, but once in awhile I’ll read a review and people will say Hong Kong fare played in one of these venues. Were the films that played in these venues subtitled? And how many Chinatown theatres were there. I know there was at least several of them.

br91975 on March 11, 2005 at 7:43 am

Great exterior photo, but I seriously doubt that Catatonia, as the person who posted the image lostmemory linked to, was scheduled to play the Music Palace; the Music Palace was strictly a film venue, with perhaps (and I’m only guessing) an occasional stint as a host to various live Chinese cultural performances.

br91975 on March 11, 2005 at 6:56 am

The Music Palace is the subject of a nine-minute documentary (titled ‘Music Palace’), directed by Eric Lin and showing as part of the 2005 New Directors/New Films series. It focuses on the Music Palace’s three caretakers and their ruminations during the theatre’s final days. (Showings – on the same bill as Zhu Wen’s feature-length dramatic feature, ‘South of the Clouds’ – are scheduled for the Walter Reade Theater on Thursday, March 31, at 8:30 pm and at MoMA Saturday, April 2 at 3:15 pm; more information about purchasing tickets and about ND/NF in general can be found here:

br91975 on October 5, 2004 at 7:24 am

The Music Palace, the last of the Chinatown movie houses, closed for business sometime around 1999 or 2000, with the building which housed it to be torn down for a new retail/residential development. Those plans, however, fell through and the Music Palace, its lower exterior covered with graffiti, is still sitting there, awaiting whatever fate may lie ahead for it.