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Loew’s 46th Street Theatre

May 21, 2012
Balcony level - Loew's 46th Street Theater

The main floor of the auditorium is now used as storage for a furniture store.

The Loew’s 46th Street Theatre opened on October 9, 1927 as the Universal Theatre. It was designed by John Eberson, a famous theater architect known for his atmospheric style auditoriums. According to an account in the Brooklyn Eagle, 25,000 people were present for the opening of the theater. The 2,675 seat theater was acquired by the Loew’s Corporation in August 1928, and closed so renovations could be made to the sound equipment. It reopened on September 10, 1928 as the Loew’s 46th Street Theatre.

Fountain - Loew's 46th Street Theater

This fountain actually worked. It helped to add to the illusion that patrons were sitting in a garden at night.

The 46th Street Theatre was the first atmospheric theater in New York City. It was designed to look like a night sky in an Italian garden. The illusion was completed with a projection of clouds across the ceiling. However, by the 1940’s the atmospheric effects had fallen into disrepair and were no longer used.

Balcony level - Loew's 46th Street Theater

View of the balcony level.

The Loew’s Corporation transferred ownership to the 46th Theatre Company on September 14, 1966, and the theater was run as an independent movie theater until it closed in 1970. It was reopened later that year as the 46th Street Rock Palace, and was later renamed Bananafish Garden. The name was taken from J.D. Salinger’s short story “A Perfect Day for Banana Fish”. Many famous bands played shows at the theater during the years it was a concert venue including; The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, Jerry Lee Louis, The Bee Gees, Steely Dan, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Randy Newman.

Plaster-work  Loew's 46th Street Theatre

A close up of some of the plaster work that adorns the walls of the auditorium.

In 1973, the theater was closed due to pressure from the local community, who felt that the concerts were causing too much noise. The building was then sold in 1974 to a furniture company. The stage was removed from the auditorium and it was converted into a storeroom for surplus furniture. The lobby was converted into a show room. It was sold again to the current owners Regal Furniture in 1996.

Projector Room - Loew's 46th Street Theatre

Birds have gotten trapped in the projector room over the years, leaving the floor covered in bird droppings.

The sides of the seats were also ornately decorated.

A close up of plaster work on the wall of the auditorium.

Another view of the fountain.

Coke can  Loew's 46th Street Theater

One of the projectors was leaking oil, and a coke can was used as a makeshift oil pan.

Stage area Loew's 46th Street Theatre

View of the stage from the balcony.

A close up of the plaster work around the fire escape doors.

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31 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2012 10:08 am

    Wow!

  2. Tom Schantz permalink
    May 21, 2012 11:21 am

    I cringe when I see a new post from you. I brace myself to be so saddened by your exquisite photography.

    The lighting of the stage in this post is particularly striking.

    Thank you so much for your dedication to this documentation project.

  3. May 21, 2012 1:23 pm

    neat-Rojeana L.Weber

  4. May 21, 2012 2:19 pm

    Tom Schantz says it all for me! Thank You!

  5. May 21, 2012 7:49 pm

    This building was pretty incredible. Thank you for featuring it.

  6. Debbie permalink
    May 21, 2012 9:04 pm

    That was art – they don’t make buildngs like that anymore. I wish I could buy it and restore it! it would be nice to go back after all these years.

  7. May 25, 2012 9:26 am

    Spent many days in this building as a youngster, watching movies all day for one admission..then later on saw most of the rock shows that came through.

  8. May 25, 2012 11:47 am

    This theater is in much better condition than those which yet exist in the Detroit area. The fact that the fountain and many of the details still exist at all amazes me. I know nothing about construction, but what would it take to restore something in this condition? Would there be a use for it–other than for furniture storage–in the area in which it exists?

    • June 1, 2012 10:35 pm

      It’s actually not in that bad of shape when compared to some of the other theaters I’ve been to. However, the neighborhood probably wouldn’t support the building as a theater.

  9. June 3, 2012 9:06 pm

    Here are some pics of Al Jolson playing the theater in the late 1940s. http://oldshowbiz.tumblr.com/post/14661191938/al-jolson-and-milton-delugg-play-loews-pitkin

    • June 4, 2012 11:07 pm

      That’s actually a different theater – The Loew’s Pitkin in Brownsville, NY.

  10. June 5, 2012 7:10 am

    Such a sad state to see. Why doesn.t somebody do something constructive and save this beautiful lady.

  11. July 10, 2012 11:07 pm

    Who owns this place now?

  12. Reilly permalink
    July 16, 2012 6:09 pm

    I spent many hours of my 1960’s youth in that movie house. It was beautiful, winding marble stairs,wood carvings plush seats;it truly was a “Movie Theater” the likes of which you will not see again. I feel like I am looking at pictures of ancient Rome after its fall.I am surprised the new owners gave you access to it.

  13. Jackson permalink
    July 30, 2012 12:35 pm

    The Loew’s 46th Street was home to mostly Metro Goldwyn Mayer and Paramount pictures after they played in the “City.” If you couldn’t catch the shows at the Radio City Music Hall, the Loew’s State, Capitol, etc., this was the place or palace to see them. It was a glorious movie house, with a matron to calm the kids at the Saturday afternoon shows, and the home of Happy Felton’s Knothole Gang on a Saturday mornings. For a kid like me in the 50s, it was magical. I didn’t know a thing about architecture, all I knew was that for a quarter (If I remember correctly), I was transported from my tiny apartment into a fairytale castle the likes of which was beyond my imagining. I remember going there by myself to see “Quo Vadis,” and with my parents in 1952 to see “The Greatest Show on Earth.” What memories. What splendor. To see what fate had in store for this dream palace makes me sick. Why do we treat our glorious past with such disrespect? Does everything grand and good have to end up this way? Of course, these are rhetorical rants with no answers. But I feel better for letting it all out–in glorious Technicolor and Vista Vision!

  14. G. D. permalink
    September 28, 2012 12:04 pm

    Grew up on 44 st Bklyn. Spent a good part of my youth in that theatre.(1952-63) Saw Jerry Lewis live there promoting “Don’t Give Up The Ship”. Saw all those Japanese horrors there. Saw “The Birds” there ,,, sorry the memories are flooding back ..every week was a double feature..I think it was .50 cents admission ..sometimes we would go down to the RKO 4 blocks away..parents wouldn’t let me go see “Psycho”.. great photos.. never really appreciated the beauty when I was young ..it’s a little run down ..its glory days well behind it . its so sad … I am theatre and it is me.

  15. chrysl permalink
    January 22, 2013 2:11 pm

    I have a key from the loews theatre balcony. anyone interested in it

  16. Billy permalink
    February 11, 2013 12:45 pm

    I worked across the street in the grocery store Fioretti’s think I’ve seen every movie from 66 to 76 even have a scar on my forearm when the theatre caught fire

  17. Daniel Buckner permalink
    March 8, 2013 3:44 am

    It would still could be a great place to see a movie

  18. brianhawks1 permalink
    March 19, 2013 8:46 am

    ahh……and they were all Healthfully Air Conditioned!!

  19. ken steiert permalink
    October 25, 2013 11:49 am

    Incroyable, Tati!

  20. Ray Monaco permalink
    February 20, 2014 5:51 am

    What memories of Lowe’s 46th theater. I live @ 4719 – 11th Avenue B’klyn. Just a couple of blocks away from the theater. I hung out on Alben Sq. with some of my friends of the neighbor hood. I lived in the neighborhood from 1949 to 191959 those were the greatest days of my young boyhood. I played stickball on 11th Avenue & 44th St. If you played the outfield and looked to the left you would see the Lowe’s 46th street theater. I remember seeing Don Rickles doing his show at the theater. Most of my friend live under the ell on New Utrecht Ave. betweet Fort Hamilton P’kway and 50th St.
    I took up boxing in a club run by lightweight champ Patte DeMarco. Called the LAMPLIGHTERS BOXING CLUB. It was right across the street the the BORO PARK THEATER. Good GOD those were the days. And the Lowe’s 46th theater where my and my friend would sneak into on Saturday most the time. One guys would pay and then open up the side door and leave the rest of the guys in.
    Now I’m living in Las Vegas with my wife and my son and daughter-in-law.
    Those were the days.
    Ray M. :-)

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