5 Columbus Circle,
No one has favorited this theater yet
Previously operated by: Loew's Inc., Shubert Brothers Theater Company, Ufa
Architects: John H. Duncan, Joseph Urban
Previous Names: Majestic Theatre, Park Theatre, Minsky's Park Music Hall, Cosmopolitan Theatre, Ufa Cosmopolitan Theatre, Theatre of Young America
Around the turn of the century, many believed that the new center of New York’s entertainment district would be moving to Columbus Circle, and E.D. Stair and A.L. Wilbur backed up the speculation by erecting a grandiose new theater at the western end of the oval-shaped plaza, Grand Circle, in 1903.
Designed by John H. Duncan, the 1,584-seat Majestic Theatre had entrances on both W. 58th Street and W. 59th Street, as well as its main entrance on Columbus Circle. Featuring a large proscenium arch, two balconies, a double staircase in the lobby and two sets of box seats, the Majestic Theatre truly lived up to its name, and was designed to be every bit as impressive and ornate as the finest European opera house.
The lobby and hallway walls were covered in marble wainscoting, while gilded columns lined the upper level of the lobby and also pairs of massive white columns framed the side boxes in the auditorium, capped by statues of trumpeting cherubs and colossal golden eagles.
The stage, at 80 feet wide and 38 feet deep could accommodate the most elaborate of shows, and did just that when it opened in the fall of 1903 with the first musical stage version of “The Wizard of Oz”, which was a tremendous hit. Its then-jaw dropping special effects, such as an on-stage tornado were particularly crowd-pleasing. It would run for over 10 months.
In 1911, the Majestic Theatre was renamed the Park Theatre, which continued to feature legitimate theatre, but also Sunday afternoon movie screenings. As the Park Theatre, this is where “Pygmallian” had its debut.
However, in 1922, burlesque came to the Park Theatre, and it was again renamed, as Minksy’s Park Music Hall. A year later, William Randolph Hearst acquired the theater, and made it the main venue for his own Cosmopolitan Pictures film company. It was given yet another new name, the Cosmopolitan Theatre.
Florenz Ziegfeld took over the Cosmopolitan Theatre in 1925, and his house architect, Joseph Urban, updated the interior. For 9 months, it returned to legitimate theatre, but in 1926, Ziegfeld gave it up to focus on the construction of his self-named theatre. Under new management, however, the Cosmopolitan Theatre continued to stage legitimate fare until the Depression forced its closing in 1929.
It reopened in 1931, now presenting a mixed bill of vaudeville acts and motion pictures. From 1934-35, it was once more legit, as the Theatre of Young America, but late in 1935, movies and the old name, the Park Theatre, returned again.
In 1944, now renamed the International Theatre, the theatre hosted the Ballet International for several weeks, then a brief run of legitimate theatre, the next year. In December 1945, it was a movie house once more, as the Columbus Square Theatre, but was the International Theatre again by the following August, hosting the occasional live performance but mainly sitting vacant until acquired by the NBC network in early-1949, as a television studio premiering the Admiral Broadway Review on January 28, 1949. The stars were Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. The television program was “Your Show of Shows.”
NBC left the International Theatre in 1954, and not long afterwards, the former theatre, along with most of its neighbors on Columbus Circle, was razed to make way for the New York Convention Center.
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater.
Recent comments (view all 14 comments)
Too bad none of the photo links work anymore.
Many of Warren’s photo links are no longer working anymore.
Warren’s links posted on May 16, 2008 are still working and are worth checking out. (Where is he, anyway? I miss him.)
I recently saw It Should Happen to You on TCM, starring Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon, and I noticed the “International” theater’s marquee said it was an NBC television studio.
I believe the big billboard that she puts her name on is the one directly to the right of the theater, which billboard is noticable in all the exterior shots posted here.
In 1909 this theater, then being operated as the Majestic by the Shubert organization, was converted for a while into a combination movie and vaudeville house. The article about the Majestic in the June 12, 1909, issue of The Moving Picture World is worth quoting in its entirety for the glimpse it offers of the early days of movie exhibition in large theaters:
In 1934, The Theater of Young America presented “The Chinese Nightingale” with music by my father, Alan Shulman,at the Cosmopolitan Theatre. The show opened on October 5, 1934 and ran for 8 performances. Flora LeBreton starred and the orchestra was conducted by Dr. Francis Gromon. In 1947, as the Majestic Theatre, is was used by International Records to record the Stuyvesant String Quartet and the New Friends of Rhythm. www.alanshulman.com
Ruth Crosby Dimmick’s 1913 book Our Theatres To-day and Yesterday says that Marcus Lowe took over the Majestic Theatre in December, 1909, and operated it as a movie house until it was taken over by Frank McKee and renamed the Park Theatre in 1911.
What a great blog! I am desperately in need of the dimensions of the actual “proscenium opening” of this theatre for a design project I am working on. Thanks for posting the stage size. If you have the Proscenium measurements or any other specs for the old Majestic I would be most grateful.
Wizard_Boy: The book does not have a reputation for being perfectly accurate, but for what it may be worth, the listing for the Majestic Theatre in the 1909-1910 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide gives the dimensions of the proscenium as 37 feet wide and 48 feet high.
A scan of the book, with the Majestic listed on page 81, can be seen at Google Books. The stage dimensions given in the book do not match those Bryan Krefft gives in our introductory description above, and Bryan may have a more accurate source, so you might want to wait and see if he responds, though I’m not sure he’s still watching the site.
Sadly, the only interior photos of the Majestic I’ve found (three of them, at IBDB) don’t include a full view of the proscenium.
“It Should Happen to You” is on TCM tonight starring Judy Holiday, Peter Lawford & Jack Lemmon. The billboard that is the focus of the film, is to the right of the entrance of the International Theatre. It was released the same year the theatre was demolished. Link with photo below.
The New Friends of Rhythm recorded with Maxine Sullivan for International Records in the International Theatre January 20-1, 1947 (Baldwin Street BJH-303). The New Friends of Rhythm recorded an instrumental session March 31, 1947 (Hep CD 1086) The Stuyvesant String Quartet did 3 sessions there, recording Villa-Lobos String Quartet No. 6 May 7, 1947 (Parnassus 96026), Bloch Second Quartet in November, and the Brahms Clarinet Quintet with Alfred Gallodoro December 4-5, 1947 (Bridge 9137) All originally appeared on International Records. Additional info www.alanshulman.com