Adonis Theatre

839 8th Avenue,
New York, NY 10019

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Consolidated Theatres

Firms: Eisendrath & Horwitz

Previous Names: Tivoli Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Opened in September 1921 as the 1,443-seat Tivoli Theatre. It also had a 951-seat roof garden theatre. It presented movies and vaudeville and was equipped with a Kimball theatre organ. In the 1970’s it was operating as a ‘straight’ adult movie theatre up to February 1975

In March 1975 it became one on New York’s most popular adult all male film theatres, renamed Adonis Theatre, which operated successfully until it was closed in 1989, and business transferred to the Cameo Art Cinema on 8th Avenue at W. 44th Street (later the Playpen Theatre). The Adonis Theatre was demolished in 1995.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 130 comments)

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on May 3, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Hello-

this theater opened in 1921 as a combined vaudeville/movie theater. now when I was the leading gay porn house in the city it seemed to have the same 1.33.1 aspect ratio screen that a silent picture house would have had. so by the mid 50s it wouldn’t have been able to show a film shot in Cinemascope or Vista-Vision. so my question is when did it stop showing regular films?

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 3, 2020 at 5:51 pm

Found this website on the internet. Excerpt:

The Adonis was built in 1921 on a lot at 839 Eighth Avenue, between 50th and 51st streets, and dubbed The Tivoli. It had an impressive Renaissance façade, and its large marquee became a distinctive fixture on the west border of the Theater District neighbourhood. It came complete with a grand lobby and a balcony flanked by solid two-story Ionic columns. With a seating capacity of 1,433 and an open-air “roof garden theatre” of 951 seats (which probably fell into disuse when the talkie era began), it was, as period advertising boasted, ideally suited for the presentation of “films, orchestra and grand opera soloists.” It also came equipped with a Kimball organ. Like most theatres, it changed ownership and booking policy through the decades, including a stint in the early ‘60s as a showcase for Spanish-language films.

Chelly Wilson took over the place in the early/mid ‘60s and ran it as a grindhouse. On March 4, 1975 she rechristened it The Adonis and began exclusively programming gay porn, winning praise from the trade publication Variety, which pegged it as the largest and most lavish gay porn theatre in NYC.

Wilson was one of the more colourful characters of Times Square, but she was also an ace businesswoman, and in 1968/69 added to her stable of smut cinemas by building The Capri and The Eros 1 from the ground up in what had been apartment buildings. These two classic mini-theaters, together with The Eros 2, which was later renamed The Venus, were clustered in the vicinity of Eighth Ave and 45th street. Titles like Virgin Flesh and Sex Deal adorned their marquees.

The Eros was a gay venue and had the honor of screening Heavy Equipment, a 3-D homo classic featuring Jack Wrangler and The Christy Twins, while The Capri and The Venus were for straights, or at least played hetero porn. As for the latter venue, it was, as Landis reported in Sleazoid Express, “so pitch black you couldn’t see your watch on your wrist” and “smelled of lavender mothballs.”

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 5, 2020 at 7:33 am

While we’re at it, two ads posted in photos, one as the Tivoli from February 1975 and one as the Adonis from March 1975

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on May 6, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Hello-

to Mike(saps) thanks of the info. so it seems the theater played regular films of whatever genre till the early 60s. the first time I remember seeing an ad for the theater when till called the Tivoli was in say 1969/1970 when it was showing soft-core straight exploitation films.

just out of curiosity. in the approx. 15? years it was tied with the 55th St. Playhouse as the leading gay porn house in Manhattan the box office was always in the upper left hand corner of a rather large lobby. is that where the box-office was when it a regular movie theater?

grindhouse
grindhouse on May 9, 2020 at 3:19 pm

18 months before “Deep Throat” took the world by storm, The Tivoli made history in NY by playing “Mona” the first sexually explicit “feature” film with actors and plot and not a movie disguised as a pseudo documentary or marriage manual. Opening ads in photo section.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on May 11, 2020 at 10:45 am

Hello-

to grindhouse thanks for the info. the 55th St. playhouse was showing hard-core gay porn a good three years before the Adonis started doing so. now the film that made people take note of gay porn was Boys in the Sand which opened at the 55th St. Playhouse Dec.‘71. but that was not the first hard-core gay porn film to open in Manhattan just the first people took note of. since you seem quite knowledgeable would you happen to know the first hard-core gay porn film to open in Manhattan before Boys……..?

grindhouse
grindhouse on May 11, 2020 at 2:55 pm

Hey bigjoe59 from everything I have heard, Wakefield Poole’s “Boys in the Sand” was indeed the first feature length picture, opening at the 55th. Even HBO’s “The Deuce” had an episode devoted to it.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on June 14, 2020 at 2:20 pm

Hello-

in the approx. 15 years the Adonis and the 55th St. Playhouse were in a tie for the leading gay porn house in Manhattan the 55th St. often had the star or stars of a new film do personal appearances the opening weekend. now I don’t remember the Adonis doing so but did they?

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on June 14, 2020 at 7:25 pm

Jesus Christ…! (And I mean that as a prayer.)

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on January 31, 2021 at 12:35 pm

Hello-

does anyone know how long this theater was closed so they
could shoot the scene for the film Times Square?

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