Beacon Theatre (New York City)
Beacon Theatre, advertising a concert with The Pretenders, 2003
|Location||2124 Broadway (at West 74th Street), New York City, New York|
|Opened||December 24, 1929|
|Owner||Beacon Broadway Company
(operated by The Madison Square Garden Company)
Beacon Theater and Hotel
|Location||2124 Broadway, Manhattan, New York City|
|Architect||Walter W. Ahlschlager|
|NRHP Reference #||82001187|
|Added to NRHP||November 4, 1982|
The Beacon Theatre is a historic theater at 2124 Broadway (at West 74th Street) on Broadway in upper Manhattan, New York City. The 2,894-seat, three-tiered theatre was designed by Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager as a movie palace for motion pictures and vaudeville. Today it is one of New York's leading live music and entertainment venues, and controlled by Madison Square Garden, Inc.
The Beacon Theatre was originally conceived by film producer Herbert Lubin in 1926 as part of a projected chain of deluxe New York City movie palaces. The planned Roxy Theatre Circuit was to be operated by Lubin and Samuel L. "Roxy" Rothafel with the famous Roxy Theatre as its flagship. Planned as the Roxy Midway Theatre, the future Beacon was designed by Walter W. Ahlschlager of Chicago, the architect of the 6000 seat Roxy, as a smaller mate to the larger Times Square theater. However, the collapse of Lubin's fortunes doomed the Roxy scheme and the Midway was never opened. The nearly completed theater sat vacant for a time and was eventually acquired by Warner Theatres to be a first-run showcase for Warner Brothers films on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The renamed Warner's Beacon Theatre opened on December 24, 1929. Designed as a silent film showplace, the theater's delayed opening featured a talking picture (Tiger Rose with Lupe Vélez), silent films having already become obsolete.
Later operated by Brandt Theaters, the Beacon continued as a primarily first-run movie theater into the early 1970s. In 1974, Steven Singer bought the theater to present live pop concerts promoted by Stephen Metz. They were followed by Marvin Getlan and Allen Rosoff who bought the theater in 1976 and continued its new life as a major presenter of live concerts, including a series of 1976 concerts by the Grateful Dead. In November 1977 the Beacon hosted a performance of Erik Satie’s symphonic drama Socrate in tribute to the mobile artist Alexander Calder, featuring a recreation of Calder's set for a 1936 production of the work.
In 1987, an effort to convert the theater into a nightclub was blocked in court on the grounds that it would irreparably damage the theater's historic and protected architecture. Subsequently the theater underwent a revival in its concert hall business, filling New York's low-to-mid-sized venue notch between the larger Radio City Music Hall and various smaller clubs and ballrooms. The Madison Square Garden Company began operating the Beacon in 2006.
The Allman Brothers Band
Starting in 1989, the The Allman Brothers Band began a run of twenty consecutive years performing at the Beacon Theatre. Over the decades, their appearance became something of a pilgrimage for fans attending multiple nights of concerts for sold-out crowds. They chose the theatre to record a live album in March 2000 and released Peakin' at the Beacon on November 14, 2000 on the Epic label.
In 2009, the Allman Brothers Band celebrated its 40th anniversary by inviting famous musical guests from an impressive array of genres to perform with them at the Beacon Theatre. Dedicated to the band's founder and original frontman, Duane Allman, the engagement lasted three weeks rather than three-days, as in previous years. Some of the invitees included Eric Clapton, who invited Duane Allman to perform with his then band, Derek and the Dominos, on its 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Boz Scaggs, and Levon Helm, formerly of The Band, who arrived the first day with his own drum kit.
In January 2010, the Beacon's management announced it would be unable to accommodate the Allman Brothers Band that year because it had booked an extended run of a new Cirque du Soleil production, forcing the band to move its annual New York engagement to a new venue, the United Palace Theater. According to The New York Times, this marked the end of a string in which the Allmans had played "190 shows over the past 20 years", beginning in 1989.
However, the Allman Brothers were invited back to the Beacon Theater in 2011, and played 13 shows from March 10 to 26. The March 25 show was their 200th at the Beacon.
Other bands, concerts and award shows
The theater's stage has also supported political debates, gospel choirs, and a wide variety of dramatic productions. VH-1 broadcast its popular production Divas Live from there. Many of George Carlin's HBO comedy specials have been broadcast from or filmed there. Conan O'Brien taped his Late Night 10th anniversary special at the theater in 2003, and made a brief return to New York with a week's worth of shows for his current series, Conan, from October 31 to November 3, 2011. In the 2000s, the Beacon Theater often offers light comedy geared toward African-American audiences, making it a favorite destination for troupes working the Chitlin Circuit. The 2008 IMAX film of a live concert by The Rolling Stones, Shine a Light, directed by Martin Scorsese was filmed at the Beacon Theatre. Progressive rock band Dream Theater performed at the theatre in August 2009 on its Black Clouds & Silver Linings tour and again in October 2011 during the A Dramatic Turn Of Events tour.
In November 2006, the theater commenced a 20-year lease by Cablevision, which also leases Radio City Music Hall and owns Madison Square Garden. The company announced a planned $10 million renovation of the theater.
On November 10, 2010, the Broadway League announced that the Beacon Theatre would host the 65th Tony Awards on June 12, 2011. On July 25, 2011, the League announced that the theatre would host the Tony Awards again in 2012.
Duran Duran recorded a live concert here on August 31, 1987 called Live at the Beacon Theatre released as a download by EMI on September 27, 2010. The show was a charity event for The Association To Benefit Children.
Architecture and decor
The Beacon's ornate neo-Grecian interior features 30 ft (9.1 m) tall Greek goddesses flanking the proscenium arch of its curtainless stage, which can rise from its basement level carrying a full classical orchestra. Under its marquee is an exterior lobby with tile flooring extending to the sidewalk along Broadway between 74th and 75th Streets, across from the Beaux-Arts Ansonia Hotel. Entry is gained through its bronze-doored vestibule into an opulent two-story circular lobby. White marble floors give way to mahogany bars on both the orchestra and mezzanine levels, and two more levels provide access to both the foot and top of its steeply inclined upper balcony. Exquisite detailing abounds throughout, including elaborate gilded plaster moldings, polished hardwood, and brass staircase rails. Corridor murals depict atmospheric Eastern scenes of trading caravans complete with elephants, camels and other animals.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot; AIA Guide to New York City, 4th Edition; New York Chapter, American Institute of Architects; Crown Publishers/Random House. 2000. ISBN 0-8129-3106-8; ISBN 0-8129-3107-6. p.343.
- "Roxy Theatre". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- Anne B. Covell (September 1982). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Beacon Theater and Hotel". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved March 25, 2011. See also: "Accompanying 11 photos".
- Calders Sets in N.Y "Socrate" The Hour 26 October 1977
- Cablevision Leases Beacon Theater
- William, Ruhlmann, (August 6, 2011). "The Allman Brothers Band Peakin' at the Beacon". Allmusic.com. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- Gebriel J. Hernandez (March 11, 2009). "Allman Brothers Rock the Beacon, Night No. 2". Gibson Guitar Corporation. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- John Barry (March 10, 2009). "Allman Brothers Kick Off Beacon Theatre Run With Levon Helm, Taj Mahal". Rolling Stone (rollingstone.com). Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- Itzkoff, Dave (January 5, 2010). "The Beacon Is Booked, So Allmans Will Move". New York Times (NYTimes.com). p. C1. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- Andrew Gans (November 10, 2010). "Theatre Tony Awards to Be Presented Live from the Beacon Theatre". Playbill (playbill.com). Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- Andrew Gans (July 26, 2011). "Theatre 2012 Tony Awards Will Again Play the Beacon Theatre". Playbill (playbill.com). Retrieved June 11, 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Beacon Theatre (New York City).|
- Official Beacon Theatre website
- Theatre.com listing for Beacon
- Cinema Treasures listing for the Beacon
- Vintage photos of the theatre Theatre Historical Society of America, Joe Coco Collection
- Beacon Theatre 2009 Restoration Photos