The UWS Was Once the Center of the Movie-Going World; Learn That History on Tuesday

The Bloomingdale History Group is holding a Zoom session on Tuesday explaining the history of movie theaters on the Upper West Side — there were once a whopping 17 theaters!

Learn more below:

Tuesday, September 22

5:30 p.m.

For the link go to the BNHG website

Important: There’s a limit of only 100 people in our “zoom room” so give yourself plenty of time to sign on.

The Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group: discovering, preserving and sharing the history of this upper west side neighborhood

About the program:

Remember when you used to go to the movies? The real movies? With seats and popcorn and other people? Well, the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group (BNHG) has scheduled a program that is going to take you back to the movies— way, way back.

The BNHG’s first foray into the wide world of zoom programming, Bloomingdale Goes to the Movies, will take place Tuesday,  September 22nd at 5:30PM. The hour-long program will take viewers back to the twentieth century when there were at least 17 theaters in our neighborhood.

Most of these 17 were built in the space of just a few years, starting in 1911, at a time when all of America was engaged in a full- on love affair with Hollywood.  At one time, there were three movie theaters on West 110th street alone and contrary to what you may have assumed, not all were on Broadway.

Only one of these theaters still remains and only a few of the original structures still stand and those that do remain have been  so completely transformed that it is hard to imagine that they were once film palaces.

The program’s three presenters– Jim Mackin, Gil Tauber, and Dan Armstrong, all members of the BNHG planning committee–will tell the story of how and where Bloomingdale’s theaters lived and how they died. They’ll describe Bloomingdale’s “Little Times Square” with its thousands of seats for movie-goers (some even on the roofs of the theaters) and show you vestigial remnants of old theaters in buildings that you probably walk by every day.

About the presenters:

Jim Mackin’s book Notable New Yorkers of Manhattan’s Upper West Side: Bloomingdale-Morningside Heights (Fordham University Press) will be available November 3rd but can be pre-ordered at Bookloft on West 112th Street or Amazon or Barnes and Noble. He is also the force behind Weekday Walks

Gil Tauber has created the Bloomingdale Building Database which is accessible on the BNHG website ( He has also created the excellent website,

Dan Armstrong has lived in Bloomingdale since graduating from Columbia in 1982 and was a frequent visitor, with his son, to the Olympia theater. He was an auxiliary cop in the 24th and Central Park precincts and was briefly Barack Obama’s editor when the former president lived on West 109th Street.

ART, HISTORY | 7 comments | permalink
    1. ??? says:

      What on earth is book loft

    2. Sam Kurshan says:

      I remember Saturday matinees at the New Yorker which was on 88th and Broadway and the Symphony at 95th and Broadway. Horror movies, monster movies and sci fi movies.

      • lynn says:

        Was that the same space as the Thalia? I had just arrived in NYC and saw “A Boy and His Dog,” (scifi) with Jason Robards at the Thalia. I’d never been in a theater like that, very casual with just a curtain separating the lobby from the seating area, and there was even a large dog walking around the theater. I was happy to find it because I never did like the multiplex places.

        • Jo says:

          “Multiplexes?” good heavens, when were you born that you only knew multiplexes. And where did you live that had no single-screen theater. Interesting.

    3. Michael says:

      When I checked out the photos of the neighborhood, I was surprised to see that the Gristedes at 84th and Columbus was a movie theater. I was always puzzled by what the building originally was built for, but this finally made sense.

    4. jd says:

      I remember the Riviera, I believe it was called on 96th & Broadway, along side the Riverside. The Edison on 103rd and the Olympia on 107th. And the famous Metro on 99th.

    5. Jo says:

      Do you all keep watch for buildings that had once had a stage fly loft? Old theaters?