After the Final Curtain: RKO Hamilton Theater

Writer and photographer, Matt Lambros, goes behind-the-scenes to take a look at the remnants of the RKO Hamilton Theater.

This new recurring series, After the Final Curtain, features the photography and writing of Matt Lambros who documents the neglect of America’s greatest theaters in his website

View of the balcony of the RKO Hamilton Theater

Moss and Brill’s Hamilton Theatre opened on January 23, 1913 in Manhattan’s Hamilton Heights neighborhood. The theater was commissioned by vaudeville operator Benjamin S. Moss and theater developer Solomon Brill and designed by the prolific Thomas W. Lamb, known for the architecture of many of the Hamilton’s contemporaries. Lamb designed the Hamilton in the Renaissance Revival style, incorporating a terracotta façade.

Box seats remained after the theater changed from a vaudeville house into a motion picture theater.

In 1915, Brill sold his half of the Hamilton to Moss; the theater was then renamed B.S. Moss’s Hamilton Theatre. Five years later Moss combined his theater company with B.F. Keith’s — who later formed the Keith-Albee theater circuit — to form the Greater New York Vaudeville Theaters Corporation. This merger resulted in another name change for the theater, to the B.F Keith’s Hamilton Theater. With the decline of vaudeville, Moss retired and sold the theater in 1928 to the newly formed Radio-Keith-Orpheum (also known as RKO Pictures). The Hamilton was then converted into a motion picture theater, one of the first in New York City.

Women’s smoking room

The Hamilton stopped showing films in 1958. After its partial closure, the auditorium was used as a sports arena and a disco. In 1965 the building was purchased by a church, and was later sold in the mid 1990’s. The lobby was converted into a retail space and the auditorium was last used as a warehouse for a beer and liquor wholesaler. The theater is currently unused; there are no plans for re-purposing or renovation.

All the seats remain in the balcony level of the theater.

The walkway from the lobby to the auditorium has been sealed with cinder blocks.

Over the years, the stage has been vandalized with graffiti.

This area was the snack bar during the Hamilton’s time as a movie theater.

The ceiling of the auditorium.

Another view of the auditorium from the balcony.

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 abandoned, film, history, manhattan

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