Century ("New") Theatre
New York City / Opened: 1909 - Demolished: 1931
The Century Theatre, originally the "New" Theatre, was located at 62nd Street and Central Park West in New York City.
Opened on November 6, 1909, it was noted for its fine architecture but due to poor acoustics and an inconvenient location
it was financially unsuccessful. The theater was demolished in 1931 and replaced by the Century Apartments building.
- Foyer -
The New Theatre was once called "New York's most spectacularly unsuccessful theater" in the WPA Guide to New York City. Envisioned in 1906 by Heinrich Conried,
a director of the Metropolitan Opera House, its construction was an attempt to establish a great theatre at New York free of commercialism, one that, broadly speaking,
would resemble the Comédie Française of Paris. Thirty founders each subscribed $35,000 at the start, and a building designed to be the permanent home of a repertory
company was constructed on Central Park West on the Upper West Side at a cost of three million dollars. Architecturally, it was one of the handsomest structures in
the city, designed by the prominent Beaux-Arts architectural firm Carrère and Hastings.
- Ceiling Panels -
With Winthrop Ames as the only director, the New Theatre Company occupied the building for only two seasons, 1909—10 and 1910—11.
Capable of seating 2,300 persons, the New Theatre was opened on November 6, 1909, with impressive ceremonies and apparently under the most favoring auspices,
but a serious defect in the acoustics became apparent at once and this was only partly remedied by the installation of a sound-deflecting bell. Several Shakespearean
plays were given, by far the most notable presentation being that of
The Winter's Tale
. On the whole the company did its best ensemble work in some of the modern
plays of that time, like Maeterlinck's
The Blue Bird
, and Edward Sheldon's
starring Annie Russell.
A poetic drama of distinction was Josephine Preston Peabody's
. From Europe in 1912 came Judith Gautier and Pierre Loti, producers and supervisors of
The Daughter of Heaven
. In most cases the stage settings were of very high quality.
- Stage and Auditorium -
"Not long ago an institution which was expected to benefit the Stage and the Public went down in miserable failure, in the collapse of the New Theatre.
The Directors of that institution provided 'practically unlimited capital' for the venture, — an aid which Lester Wallack, for one, never had and never dreamed
of having. The observer of to-day was able to see at first hand exactly what kind of theatrical company could be formed after a long absence of stock-companies;
half a million dollars was lost in the effort, and persons of experience, knowledge, and taste have had an opportunity to see what the much-vaunted 'commercialism'
has really done for the American Stage, and how necessary it is that other forces should control it."
(William Winter, The Wallet of Time. Moffat, Yard and Company, New York 1913, vol. 1, p. 36.)
- Main Vestibule and Poster Stand -
The building was located a mile above the theatre district, and it was exceedingly expensive to maintain. Financially, the venture proved to be a boondoggle.
At the end of the second season, it was found to be impracticable to plan for a third. The building was leased to other theatre managers, who changed the name
to the Century Theatre (1911), the Century Opera House (1913), the Century once more (1915), with Florenz Ziegfeld as manager.
- Staircases -
In 1917, producers Florenz Ziegfeld and Charles Dillingham opened the roof garden as a nightclub and named it the Cocoanut Grove, based on the success of a similar venue,
Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic at the New Amsterdam Theatre. It was of no use. The "Shrine of Snobbism" as a populist New York paper dubbed it (WPA Guide) was demolished and the
Art Deco Century Apartments, designed by the office of Irwin S. Chanin, rose on the site in 1931.
- Rooftop Pavilion and 1909 Print-
Programs available from this theatre:
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