Criterion Theatre

1514 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

Unfavorite 27 people favorited this theater

Additional Info

Previously operated by: B.S. Moss Enterprises, Loew's Inc., United Artists Theater Circuit Inc.

Architects: Eugene DeRosa, Thomas White Lamb

Functions: Restaurant

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: B.S. Moss' Criterion Theatre, Loew's Criterion Theatre, Criterion Center

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News About This Theater

Criterion Theatre exterior

The B.S. Moss' Criterion Theatre opened September 16, 1936 with Kay Francis in “Give Me Your Heart”. Designed in the Art Moderne style with 1,700 seats on part of the site of the old Olympia entertainment complex. This originally included Loew’s New York Theatre and Roof (Cinema Treasures theatre #15178), and the earlier Criterion Theatre (Cinema Treasures theatre #16481) which was built in 1895 as the Lyric Theatre.

All were demolished to make way for the Criterion Theatre, retail stores and the International Casino nightclub. B.S. Moss Enterprises built the Criterion Theatre, but in 1938 leased the theatre to Loew’s for 20 years. The first film to open at Loew’s Criterion Theatre was MGM’s “Spring Madness” starring Maureen O'Sullivan, on November 30, 1938.

Due to divestment of theatres because of antitrust litigation, in 1949, the Criterion Theatre reverted back to B.S. Moss Enterprises. The last film to be shown by Loew’s was Richard Basehart in “He Walked By Night”, which opened on February 5, 1949. During that engagement, Loew’s returned management of the Criterion Theatre to B.S. Moss Enterprises who then operated the theatre until the 1980’s, when it was leased to United Artists Theatre Circuit, operating as the Criterion Center.

With George Montgomery in “Fort Ti”, a Columbia movie that opened on May 29th 1953, the Criterion Theatre claimed to be the first theatre in the world to project a 3-D (with glasses) feature on a giant wide screen, with stereophonic sound and color by Technicolor.

The Criterion Theatre was host to numerous premieres. After the World Premiere of “The Ten Commandments” on November 8, 1956, that movie was shown (with reserved seats) for 17 months. The US premiere in 70mm of “Lawrence of Arabia” was held on December 15, 1962. World Premieres of other 70mm films included “South Pacific” (March 19, 1958), “My Fair Lady”(October 21, 1964), “Thoroughly Modern Millie”(March 21, 1967), “Funny Girl”(September 19, 1968) and “Patton”(February 5, 1970).

On March 20, 1980, the Criterion Theatre was converted into five screens using some space in the former basement lounge and former lower level retail space. On February 6, 1981 it added a sixth screen. The front of the balcony was extended to the proscenium for a new upstairs auditorium that had 1,041 seats. The new auditorium in the former orchestra seating area had 1,037 seats in 1988. On December 13, 1991, the orchestra level was split by United Artists left/right to create two 400 seat auditoriums. The basement houses seated 156, 198, 193 and 248. Operating as the Criterion Center, day-to-day management was taken over by United Artists Theatres on April 8, 1988, while B.S. Moss Enterprises retained ownership interest.

The Criterion Theatre finally closed on May 4, 2000 and was gutted internally to become a massive Toys R Us store, which itself closed in December 2015. The auditorium now is occupied by a Duane Reade Drug Store, a soon to open (2021) tourist attraction ride, and Starbucks (on the stage).

Contributed by William Gabel, Don Weber, Howard B. Hass, Joseph Masher

Recent comments (view all 608 comments)

grindhouse on July 9, 2021 at 1:59 am

No, at the Chiller autograph show in Jersey. In fact Ann-Margret was very interested in it and put on her glasses and looked it over front and back. She was very cool.

vindanpar on July 9, 2021 at 3:24 am

How lucky! I’ve seen them both perform but never had the pleasure of meeting them. That happened with me when I had Rex Harrison and Jeremy Brett sign my MFL souvenir book. It’s like they hadn’t seen it in forever and were delighted.

vindanpar on July 12, 2021 at 9:45 pm

Anybody see Funny Girl at the Criterion? Alas I was too young. How was the presentation? To me it seems like the last great successful roadshow film.

bigjoe59 on July 12, 2021 at 11:16 pm


I did see Funny Girl here during its roadshow engagement. my father was the head bartender in a prominent restaurant a block away. the manager and the head usher of this theater often had a drink after work at the bar/restaurant where my father worked so they were able to get him excellent seats. the one thing I remember is the WOW factor of the Don’t Rain On My Parade number right before the intermission.

also what defines a “successful roadshow” run. is it simply how long the run was? for instance N&A the last roadshow engagement here is one of my favorite historical epics ever yet its run here wasn’t as long as MFL or Funny Girl. the last successful roadshow engagement simply in terms of $$$ is Fiddler on the Roof which ran at the Rivoli for approx. a year.

vindanpar on September 13, 2021 at 7:48 am

Thoroughly Modern Millie had its world premiere as a roadshow engagement at this theater in March of ‘67. Kino has put out what they consider the roadshow bluray of this movie. What better way to celebrate a deluxe first run Times Square theater than to celebrate the films that opened there and how we can recreate those experiences though the theaters are long gone.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on September 19, 2021 at 3:06 am

I Googled Roadshow engagement Criterion theatre.

DavidZornig on September 26, 2022 at 11:21 pm

World Premiere of “The Ten Commandments” at the Criterion Theatre November 8, 1956 via YouTube.

Ed Miller
Ed Miller on February 2, 2024 at 6:38 am

vindanpar, I saw “Funny Girl” at the Criterion in October of 1968, when I was 18. Having been a Barbra fanatic since the beginning of her career, it was an exciting event for me; it would have been, no matter what the theater, but being in the legendary Criterion made it extra special. I then saw her second film, “Hello, Dolly!” at the even more celebrated Rivoli, and her third, “On a Clear Day” at Loew’s State, which, if my memory serves me correctly, was twinned by 1970.

vindanpar on February 2, 2024 at 8:10 am

Lucky you! How lucky that you were able to see those films in those theaters. I remember passing them with my parents but my parents would never pay roadshow prices for a movie. I was too young to go on my own and certainly did not have the money. Loew’s State was twinned in ‘68. I wish I could have seen it as a single screen theater. Clear Day was a perfect Music Hall movie and should have played there.

DavidZornig on February 6, 2024 at 2:41 am

1959 Otto Bettmann photo in link below. After reading the Terms of Use page, it just wasn’t worth posting it to the gallery.

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