New York City has been a hub of artistic endeavors and creativity since its inception and as a result, the city, the art, and the theater scenes have rapidly evolved and reinvented themselves to keep up with the changing times. Countless NYC theaters have come and gone, found new uses, and been forgotten to time. Here, we revive 15 of Manhattan’s grand performance and motion picture palaces that have been demolished.
1. The RKO Roxy
The RKO Roxy Theatre, later known as the Center Theatre, is the long-lost companion of Radio City Music Hall. Construction started on the theater at 1230 Sixth Avenue, just a block away from the Music Hall, in 1930. Designed by noted architect Edward Durell Stone and named after theater impresario Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, the theater was always meant to show films rather than live performances. The Art Deco Roxy was very similar in style to Radio City, with a limestone construction, tall vertical marquees, a modernist aesthetic, and even works of art by muralist Hildreth Meière, though the Roxy was about half the size.
Inside, the most impressive feature of the Roxy was the chandelier which hung above the main auditorium seats. Reported to be the largest light fixture in the world at the time, it weighed six and a half tons, measured 30 feet in diameter, and had four different color settings (amber, red, green, and blu). More than a hundred floodlamps and dozens of spotlights shone from inside the three-tier fixture that was surrounded by relief sculptures of gods and goddesses designed by Rene P. Chambellan with the Italian sculptor Oronzio Maldarelli.
Secrets of Rockefeller Center
The Roxy struggled to turn a profit for most of its existence, vacillating between showing live performances and motion pictures. In 1940, as John D. Rockefeller drove the last bolt into Rockefeller Center, the Roxy showed its final film (Disney’s Pinocchio). The space later hosted live ice skating shows and served for a time as a television studio before it was demolished in 1955. It was replaced by an annex of the U.S. Rubber Building designed by Harrison & Abramowitz on the southeast corner of West 49th Street.