S.V.A. Theatre

333 W. 23rd Street,
New York, NY 10011

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ridethectrain on July 3, 2021 at 6:54 am

Please update, Walter Reade triplex the theatre on December 14, 1984 and Cineplex Odeon renamed it the Chelsea West Twin on December 6, 1996

theatrefan on December 2, 2016 at 3:24 am

Grand Reopening Announcement-

Boxoffice Magazine February 1985

The 23rd Street West Triplex, the new Walter Reade Theatre complex presently under construction at 23rd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in Manhattan, was opened to the public on Friday, December 14, 1984, it was announced by Sheldon Gunsberg, president of The Walter Reade Organization, Inc.

The other two theatres of the complex were scheduled to open on December 21, 1984. The 23rd Street West Triplex will be New York’s newest motion picture complex and will have a policy of presenting first-run entertainment from all over the world.

The three theatres will feature luxuriously veloured push-back chairs and will be entirely climate controlled, with a unique ionized-air purification system for patron comfort.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 6, 2016 at 11:54 am

The image of The Three Stooges arriving at the premier of an Orson Welles movie based on a novel by Kafka is one of the most astonishing I have ever encountered. After such an eye-poke of a revelation, I’m sure my own childhood will never look quite the same to me again. Woowoowoo.

42ndStreetMemories on July 6, 2016 at 9:58 am

I was there the night of the grand opening. A large searchlight was placed outside the theater as limos and taxis pulled up. The biggest surprise was when the 3 Stooges got out and entered. (Probably in town to promote a new film and went out the back door.)

Overall the locals in Chelsea were disappointed. Hoping for programming ala the RKO 23rd St that had closed in 1960. We kids had eagerly watched every brick go into place and snuck into the construction site a few times.

The programming would bounce around for a while between the original art/foreign films, conventional double features began in the summer of ‘63, then First Run domestic films (single feature).

We eventually gave up on the RKO and found the programming, including the double features on the RKO circuit, and variety on 42nd Street to be more to our liking.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on July 6, 2016 at 9:56 am

“The Trial” also opened on February 20th at the Guild 50th Street in Rockefeller Center. This was the shared American premiere engagement for the B&W adaptation of Franz Kafka’s classic.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on July 6, 2016 at 9:22 am

The “new” RKO 23rd Street first opened on the night of February 19th, 1963, with the invitational premiere of Orson Welles' “The Trial,” and with star Anthony Perkins among many celebrities in attendance. Regular continuous performances started the next day. NYC was in the grip of a prolonged “strike” against the major newspapers, so the cinema’s premiere passed largely unnoticed.

Logan5 on September 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

“The Rocketeer” showed at the [Cineplex Odeon] 23rd Street West Triplex in 70mm 6-Track Dolby Stereo SR beginning on Friday June 21, 1991 (the film’s nationwide release date).

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 16, 2013 at 11:29 pm

A brief article with photos of the last RKO 23rd Street Theatre appears on this page of the March, 1964, issue of International Projectionist. The house was designed by architect John J. McNamara, in collaboration with Herman J. Jessor, architect of the Penn Station South development, in which the theater was located.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Totally disagree.

Lovely lobby with a 60’s style sunken seating area and a sprawling candy counter. Stadium seating in the main house thirty years before it became the industry norm. Woody Allen even made it his premiere house after the Beekman closed. A wonderful theatre!

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 20, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I always thought this theater was a bit of a pain in the neck, and that BoxOffice article reminded me why — short lobby, steps down into lounge, entrance in the back, frosted white glass here and there — I never got its supposed charm.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Inside the Visual Arts.

View link

KingBiscuits on September 26, 2009 at 3:57 pm

If you are still wondering Bob T., that movie you described was called Ronja: The Robber’s Daughter. It played for a week or two in May 1986.

Theaters are Better
Theaters are Better on January 30, 2009 at 9:03 am

Gene Stavis told me the revised seating was going to be 480 for the main theater and 280 for theater 2. That was last year while they were still under construction.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 20, 2008 at 1:00 pm

The intro should be corrected to reflect that Walter Reade, not Cineplex Odeon, tripled this theatre.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 12, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Just let me know when! Glad to hear you’re in New York.

Meredith Rhule
Meredith Rhule on April 12, 2008 at 6:45 pm

saps, if I go to work there, are you coming over to visit? ;)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 9, 2008 at 11:58 pm

Text of Variety article (by Dade Hayes) posted April 2, 2008:

One of the boldest moves in Gotham exhibition this decade is taking shape along a quiet stretch of West 23rd Street.

The Clearview Chelsea West Cinemas, a somewhat unlikely center of gravity for the film biz in recent years, has been acquired by the School of Visual Arts. The school, which signed a 26-year lease to operate the site, is renaming it the Visual Arts Theater and renovating inside and out under the guidance of noted designer Milton Glaser.

Tonight’s premiere of “Cook County” in the Gen Art Film Festival, will mark the end of the 1963 theater’s days as a commercial house. After several months of rehab, a new repertory/special event venue will hope to satiate the screen-starved Manhattan industry.

“It’s great. There’s nowhere to go but up in terms of repertory cinema in New York,” said Kent Jones, a contributing editor at Film Comment and assistant programmer at the Film Society at Lincoln Center. “When I got to town (a generation ago) there were dozens of them.”

SVA’s goals are different from those of IFC, which turned the old Waverly into a largely firstrun site that opened in 2005. But they are also notably more ambitious than those of NYU, which bought the former Art Theater on Eighth Street and turned it into classrooms and smaller screening rooms that seldom offer public shows.

“Some people were disappointed when we didn’t close a deal for the Gramercy Theater, which is now the Blender Theater at Gramercy, because that’s closer to the core of our campus” on the eastern end of 23rd Street, said SVA spokesman Michael Grant. “But in terms of the physical space it seems to me that it works out even better.”

The 20,000-square-foot Visual Arts will maintain two auditoriums that currently seat 350 and 550. They will be upgraded with digital and 3-D projection gear as well as 35mm and even 70mm projectors.

Though it may not have quite the national profile of NYU or Columbia, SVA has spent aggressively in recent years to advertise itself, boosting undergrad enrollment this decade by 25% and the graduate ranks by 45%. Notable film alums include “Zodiac” DP Harris Savides, thesp Jared Leto and animator Bill Plympton.

The new theater gives SVA a presence in a fashionable downtown nabe favored by party planners and film bizzers largely due to logistics.

“I always liked doing red carpets there because there’s not a lot of foot traffic and the two screens are on one level,” said Donna Dickman, VP of publicity for Focus Features, which has preemed star-studded films such as “Evening” and “Broken Flowers” at the site. “In L.A., everyone drives, so there are a lot of feasible places to have big premieres. But here, you need subway access and easy logistics, which that place definitely has.”

Industry screenings will still definitely happen at the Visual Arts. SVA has also been in talks with the major guilds as well as Women in Film, the Cinematheque Francaise, the Museum of the Moving Image and the National Board of Review about partnerships.

For Clearview, a Cablevision subsid since 1998, the loss of the Chelsea West is minimal given the continuation of ops across Eighth Avenue of the Chelsea, a sister multiplex. The two sites had always been booked as a unit, so distribs often didn’t know where on 23rd Street they would be playing until opening day.

The Chelsea West has the 60s aesthetic of Clearview’s flagship Ziegfeld uptown, and indeed began its life as a single-screen house with a balcony and a large capacity.

Grant wasn’t able to speculate about the exact nature of programming, noting only that tie-ins were set with the Museum of the Moving Image. Gene Stavis, an SVA faculty member and onetime American rep for French film biggie Henri Langlois, will be the director of the theater.

International fests and series will definitely be a possibility, with spotlights on Iran, Turkey, Canada, Israel and France already under consideration.

filmgene on March 21, 2008 at 7:13 am

I have just heard from an unimpeachable real estate source that the rumor about the Chelsea 9 being replaced by a hotel is absolutely false. Not only did The Real Deal get the main story wrong, but several facts quoted therein were bogus as well. No guarantee that this will never happen, but it is certainly not happening now.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 19, 2008 at 7:39 am

I think Clearview was ready to shut it down altogether but IFC took it as a much needed outlet for their smaller films. There was some talk of that whole corner coming down at one point.

Luis Vazquez
Luis Vazquez on March 19, 2008 at 7:28 am

Thanks for your comment Al. I just googled the below:

“The IFC Center is owned by the IFC network, (IFC Films), which is a subsidiary of Rainbow Media (AMC channel, MSG), which is a subsidiary of Cablevisionâ€"which owns the Knicks and the Clearview Cinemas chain that let the Waverly lapse into disrepair in the first place. Cablevision held on to the lease.”

So yes, the Waverly has not just been saved, but actually vastly improved. This is a rarity! It happens to be one of my favorite Manhattan Cinemas, but it is no longer part of The Clearview chain and that’s my point. A sale here, a transfer there. Soon, no Clearview.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 19, 2008 at 7:05 am

Since Cablevision saved my beloved Waverly, albeit in a new mutation, I have some respect for them. Clearview started out with many older theatres they thought they could salvage as specialty houses. Unfortunately, that audience has embraced DVDs even more than others.

Luis Vazquez
Luis Vazquez on March 19, 2008 at 6:56 am

Hi Howard, yes I did mean their Manhattan operations, I was not aware that they owned any historic theaters elsewhere. Second, I should have been clearer. When I think of a cinema treasure, I think of a true movie palace, not the bland boxy multiplexes. It is about the building, the architecture, the attention to detail, the atmosphere in which you saw a film. By that measure, with the exception of the Ziegfeld, Clearview in Manhattan falls short and that is why I wouldn’t miss them. Of course, I would miss the convenience, but a “Cinema Treasure” is about a lot more than convenience (for me).

HowardBHaas on March 19, 2008 at 6:43 am

Luis, Perhaps you mean YOU won’t miss those in Manhattan other than the Ziegfeld. Most of Clearview theaters are not in Manhattan and many are historic theaters. Many of those theaters would be missed by their communities. For that matter, in Manhattan, many people will miss the Chelsea and the others. They are not devoid of repeat customers.