Gaiety Theatre (New York City)
Victoria Theatre, Embassy 5
New York City
The Gaiety Theatre was a Broadway theatre at 1547 Broadway in New York City from 1909 until 1982, when it was torn down.
It was designed by Herts & Tallant and owned by George M. Cohan. The theatre introduced revolutionary concepts of a sunken orchestra (the previous configuration had the orchestra on the same level as the seats in front of the stage) and also not having pillars obstructing sight lines for the balcony.
The theatre opened on September 4, 1909 with the Fortune Hunter. Its biggest hit during its early years was Lightnin' which played for 1,291 performances starting August 16, 1918.
In 1932 the theatre became a Minsky's Burlesque. One of the top venues in the circuit, it featured performances by Ann Corio and Gypsy Rose Lee, as well as more legitimate fare such as Abbott and Costello.
In 1943, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia cracked down on burlesque, and the theatre became the Victoria, which initially featured vaudeville performances including Stepin Fetchit. It was transformed into a movie theatre in September 1943. In 1944 United Artists leased the theatre for movies and in 1949 Edward Durrell Stone designed a renovation of the interior which was expanded to 1,050 seats.
A sign on the roof of the theatre went across the neighboring Astor Theatre and was said to be the largest in the world. While originally advertising movies, it would later be best remembered as an advertisement for Budweiser.
In 1980, the theatre was renamed the Embassy 5, as the fifth theatre owned by the Embassy chain in the Times Square area. In 1982 it was one of five theatres torn down to make way for the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel.
Black Tin Pan Alley
The office building above the Gaiety was popular among black composers who were not allowed in the Brill Building. Among them were Harry Pace, W.C. Handy, Clarence Williams (musician), Perry Bradford, Bert Williams, and Will Vodery. Andy Razaf would pick up his mail there.
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