Loew's Victoria Theater, New York City New York

Date added: March 22, 2022 Categories: New York Theater
BALCONY, LOOKING NORTHWEST (1985)

The 1910s and 1920s were the heyday of theater construction in New York City as legitimate theaters proliferated and clustered about the Times Square area and movie houses and vaudeville facilities were built in many sections of New York City. While Times Square was the heart of the theater district, with both playhouses and movie theaters, Harlem, which by 1920 contained two thirds of the city's black population, was another important theater enclave. Today the majority of New York City's theaters survive in the Times Square area; the survival of the Loew's Victoria is much rarer.

The Loew's Victoria located in Harlem opened October, 1917 as a film house, "as one of the largest and most beautiful theaters in greater N.Y."...devoted to high class vaudeville and the very best of motion pictures...Loew's Victoria will be the last word in the theater construction. The Loew's cost $250,000 to build. The Victoria, one of the many Loew's theaters in New York City joined many other great theaters in Harlem of that era such as the Proctor, Hammerstein Opera House, Alhambra, Percy Williams, Lafayette and the world famous Apollo Theater.

The Victoria had 2,394 seats and was one of the Big Time Vaudeville theaters with 2 shows a day until 1930. It had a Moller organ 3 manual 17 rank later replaced by Rolent Morton organ. The Victoria was built on 125th Street, the main shopping, cultural and entertainment center of Harlem.

The opening night of the Loew's Victoria was one of the grandest of all Loew's theater openings. The collection of celebrities was the largest ever at a Loew's opening. The guest of honor for the evening was Elsie Ferguson who was a remarkable and well known actress appearing in the film "Barbary Sheep", Fatty Arbuckle, famous screen comedian, was also present. Irving Berlin, a close friend of Marcus Loew who never missed a Loew's theater opening was present. Raymond and Caverly (the "wizards of joy") in their new act "The Submarines" headed the opening night vaudeville program. The Hirshchoff Troupe played in "A Russian Wedding".

In 1972, the Loew's Victoria for the last time was filled with stars of stage and screen honoring The Dance Theater of Harlem. The evening's co-hostesses were Leontyne Price and Lena Home. More than 2,200 people attended the benefit which included over 50 entertainers with such names as Brock Peters, Sidney Poiter, Ruby Dee and Cab Calloway.

In June 1977 the Loew's Victoria closed its doors for the last time, this event left Harlem without a major theater house.

In 1987 five movie theaters were created from the large auditorium, mezzanine and stage areas. The theater closed as a cinema in 1989, though a 400-seat venue was left intact in the orchestra, at which the original Harlem company of Godspell, which drew major newspaper and television network broadcast coverage, ran for approximately a year in the 1996/97 season. In 2005 several proposals for redevelopment were made.

The new Victoria Theater project, developed by the Lam Group and Exact Capital, designed by architect Ariel Aufgang and interiors by AJC Design, began construction in April 2017 and scheduled to open in the spring of 2019. The completed 400,000-square-foot structure will have 191 mixed-income rental apartments; a 210-room Marriott Renaissance hotel; about 25,000 square feet of retail; and another 25,000 square feet of cultural and arts space.