Manhattan 1 and 2

220 E. 59th Street,
New York, NY 10022

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Cineplex Odeon, RKO, Stanley-Warner Theatres

Architects: Norman L. Wax

Previous Names: Pacific East/Avco Embassy East, East 59th Street Twins, Spartan Theatre/EastWorld Theatre

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Manhattan 1 and 2

This was an interesting theatre less for its architecture – although its curved marquee had its merits but for its chequered history and how tough it was to make a go of it sometimes in the 1970’s

Opened on March 26, 1969 as the Pacific East/Avco Embassy East - yes one name for each screen as East side companions to Pacific’s Cinerama/Penthouse twins on Broadway.

Seth Lewis writes, “I remember seeing Steve McQueen in "The Reivers” at the Pacific East". The other screen was largely dedicated to films from Joseph E. Levine’s Avco Embassy distribution.

This brand lasted maybe two or three years when the RKO Stanley Warner chain rebranded them as the East 59th Street Twins with an odd mix of hard/soft core porn and later (with yet another logo) of MGM programming (on a circuit known as 4 Star Theatres) and Cinerama Releasing / American International blaxploitation fodder.

In the original incarnation the theatre did have an interesting two tone square marquee and probably some of the brightest interior colours for the time. The end of the 1970’s was the theatre’s saddest point, turning to hard-core gay male porn in the Spartan Theatre and straight porn as the EastWorld Theatre (there was a WestWorld Theatre in several locations near Broadway).

In 1979, Cinema 5 soon to be taken over by RKO Stanley Warner gave it another go by renaming this theatre the Manhattan 1 and 2 and a fair mix of first run programming - some mainstream and some art.

Again this was a house that never really had the same cachet as its brothers on the avenue.

Cineplex Odeon tried a discount policy here in the mid-1990’s. Before it closed in 1998 the theatre was screening Bollywood films. It was torn down a couple of years later.

Contributed by SethLewis

Recent comments (view all 61 comments)

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 5, 2012 at 8:06 am

During its late seventies porno incarnation Twin One went back to mainstream subrun as the “RKO 59th St East” while Twin Two still played strictly adult sex films as the Spartan. Does anyone know if RKO itself was actually operating this as a hard core porno theatre?

Garth on August 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Al I only know that when I saw “The Story of Joanna” here in 1975 the other theatre was showing “The Naughty Victorians”. That was also a hard-core film. I believe it was 1978 when I was dragged here by a girlfriend to see “The Savage is Loose”, but that arrangement was a private one year lease with the film’s star/ Director.

fred1 on August 5, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Garth, if memory served me correctly The Savage is Loose had its year long engagement at the former D.W. Griffith theater down the blockfrom Manhatten Twin.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 5, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Garth was correct. The Manhattan-1 was going by the name RKO 59th Street East at the time of THE SAVAGE IS LOOSE. That name would later be revived at the D.W. Griffith by Cineplex Odeon when they found out they owned no legal right to continue using the Griffith name.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 6, 2013 at 8:51 pm

The Office for Metropolitan History’s Manhattan NB Database says that the theater at 220-222 E. 59th Street was designed by Norman L. Wax. There is an architect of that name currently practicing in Lawrence, New York, but I don’t know if it’s the same one who designed this theater in 1968.

If the house opened in 1967 (per our introduction), then the 1968 project must have been a remodeling for RKO Stanley Warner, listed as the owners. If it was a remodeling it must have been fairly extensive, as the Database gives the budget as $100,000, which was still a considerable sum in 1968. The Database has no earlier entry for the original construction.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 6, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Opened late March 1969 with “LA PRISONNIERE” at the Avco Embassy East and “CAN HEIRONYMUS MERKIN EVER FORGET MERCY HUMPPE AND FIND TRUE HAPPINESS?” at the Pacific East.

mharmon999 on June 20, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Both theatres had lower level and upper level seating, I always sat upstairs, some films I saw there were National Lampoons European Vacation, Better Off Dead, City Heat and The Protector

ridethectrain on July 3, 2021 at 11:56 am

Please update, theatre open March 26, 1969

paktype on March 23, 2022 at 8:53 am

I saw “When a Man Loves a Woman”, a romcom starring Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan, with my then-girlfriend (now wife) in 1994. Soon after that, the theater began to show Indian-language films. Now its gone.

Mikeoaklandpark on March 23, 2022 at 2:31 pm

I saw Porky’s here

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