Casino Theatre – Bronx, NY

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The auditorium of the former Casino Theatre in the Bronx.

View of the auditorium from the side of the balcony.

The Casino Theatre originally opened as the Willis Theatre in late December 1923. It’s near 138th Street in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx, NY. The 2,166 seat theater was designed by architect Eugene De Rosa, who is known for many other New York Metropolitan Theatres such as The Apollo Theatre in Harlem, Studio 54 in Midtown Manhattan, and the St. George Theatre in Staten Island. 

It was not a successful theater and closed and reopened many times throughout the 1920s, often with a change of format. It went from vaudeville to burlesque to motion pictures and even had a brief stint as a Broadway-style theater when a manager’s tryout for “A Woman of Destiny” was held at the theater in 1936.

Center view of the Auditorium, Casino Theatre - Bronx, NY

The orchestra level was converted into a grocery store, and the stage area is used for storage.

The Willis was renovated and renamed the Casino in 1939 to coincide with the World’s Fair, which was being held at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, NY. It closed as a movie house for the last time in the 1960s. After a few years, a supermarket replaced the theater. However, it wasn’t demolished, at least not completely. Instead, the lobby and orchestra level of the auditorium were gutted and converted into the supermarket. The balcony is all that remains of the Casino today.

Storage lockers for films. Early film was made of nitrate, and it is very combustible, so it needed to be stored in lockers like the one pictured here.

One thought on “Casino Theatre – Bronx, NY

  1. Back in the 70’s I supplied jams and jellies to supermarkets in NYC. One day, working a Bronx route went into the backroom of a supermarket to bring out cases and stock the shelves. As I entered through the back storage “room” I was shocked to find myself in a theatre! It was like a Twilight Zone. If not this theatre it was one on Burnside Ave. Regardless it was quite a surprise. Years later I involved myself in saving the Kings in Brooklyn. I couldn’t bear the thought of a similar fate to another Movie Palace.

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