What Will Happen To Times Sq’s Historic Embassy Theater?

Last year, I wrote a post encouraging everyone to visit the Times Square Visitor Center, regardless of whether you were a tourist or not.

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At the time, I had ducked in to use the free bathrooms, and was completely surprised to find chandeliers, marble accents and gold-framed posters in the entranceway…

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…wood-paneled walls with gilded decorations further in…

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…and beyond, what turned out to be the remnants of the historic Embassy movie theater, a French salon-styled 556-seat one-screener, opened in 1925 by Loew’s.

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Intended for high society audiences, it was notable for being the only theater in the country managed by a woman, one Gloria Gould (granddaughter of railroad baron Jay Gould), who employed an all-female staff. Several years later, the theater adopted an all-newsreel format, the first of its kind. It later began showing foreign films, and, as Times Square began its decline, second run movies.

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Hope you had a chance to visit – I recently received a note from a reader saying that the Visitor’s Center is now permanently closed. I was in Times Square last week and stopped by to see for myself…

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Yup – the Embassy Theater has closed its doors for the forseeable future.

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I put a call into the Times Square Alliance, who told me the former theater will be turned into a retail space, which is too bad, as I really liked it as a museum.

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The good news is that the interior was landmarked in 1987, which means that the new tenants won’t be allowed to change any of this. In fact, I’m curious if they’ll even be required to keep the sloped floor, which might pose a bit of a problem for clothing racks.

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The real question is whether the new tenants will embrace the beauty and heritage of the space…

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Or consider it an afterthought, and obscure it all with advertising and shelving:

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Very curious to see what happens. I’ll keep you posted.

-SCOUT

PS – If you’re looking for a new Times Square bathroom, I always have luck with either the Hard Rock Cafe (walk through the gift shop, down the stairs, take a left at the Beatles Pan Am display, take another left down the first corridor, and the bathrooms will be in front of you) or the Marriott Marquis (this place is ridiculously huge; I recall finding bathrooms in the southwest corners on the first five or six floors).

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9 comments

  1. This is sad news. I am thankful I took your advice and visited the theater during my visit to NYC back in November. I took several photos and it was a great place to sneak away from the craziness that is Time Square!

  2. I found that space in 2010 on my last trip there. It was such a fun, PERFECT space for it. That’s really too bad.

  3. I also took your advice and sought this space out whenever I found myself in Times Square. I enjoyed the exhibits and the atmosphere, not to mention the free bathrooms and relative peacefulness from the press of tourists outside. I will miss it!

  4. I saw “The Little Mermaid” there in ’94 when it was still a theater. It was heavenly. I am cry.

  5. Maybe it’ll end up as an Urban Outfitters. They’ve been expanding in NYC, so a Times Square store makes sense. And they’ve done stores in former theaters before:

    http://www.pompeiad.com/images/projects/uo1.jpg
    http://thejourney21.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/charleston-sc-19.png

  6. Well this stinks! Planning a visit to NYC next summer and had this place on my short list of places to see!

  7. Walking through Times Square this past June I was worn out and just about to die of the heat when I remembered seeing this place on here. It was an air conditioned haven from the hustle and bustle outside where I could rest my throbbing feet for a bit without anyone trying to sell me something or hurry me on. I was extremely glad to have read your recommendation and to enjoy the beauty of the building. Its a shame that this place will not exist in the same way the next time I visit NYC.

  8. The historic Alabama Theatre in Houston was converted to a bookstore in the mid 80’s(first a Bookstop, which kept the upper balcony, projectors, and screen), then a Borders which removed the screen and revamped the upper balcony to a small coffee shop. It was remarkably well done – you could still see the decorations and the lines of the theatre, but the space was well used for a bookstore. Now it’s a Trader Joes, and they’ve removed the balcony, but kept the screen area and much of the interior decoration.

    Hopefully something similar will happen in NY.

  9. Sad news; looks like the Times Square Visitor Center will be a McDonalds restaurant.

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