Bronx Opera House

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The Bronx Opera House
Bronx Opera House 2013.jpg
The Opera House Hotel, still under construction at the end of May 2013
General information
Type Boutique Hotel (opened August 11, 2013)[1]
Location 436 E 149th St
Bronx, NY 10455
United States
Coordinates 40°48′54″N 73°54′58″W / 40.8151°N 73.9161°W / 40.8151; -73.9161Coordinates: 40°48′54″N 73°54′58″W / 40.8151°N 73.9161°W / 40.8151; -73.9161
Construction started September 1912
Completed August 1913
Opening August 30, 1913
Cost $300,000[2]
Design and construction
Architect George M. Keister
Main contractor Cramp & Co.

The Bronx Opera House is a former theater, part of the Subway Circuit now converted into a boutique hotel in the Bronx, New York[3] It was designed by George M. Keister and built in 1913 at 436 East 149th Street on the site of Frederick Schnaufer's stable. It was one of several theaters to come into the area that became known as the Hub.[4] It was formally dedicated on opening night Saturday August 30, 1913.[2]

It had a capacity of 1,892 seats divided as follows: 799 orchestra (floor) seats, 537 balcony seats, 478 gallery seats and 78 box seats. The stage had a proscenium opening of 34x28 ft. and a 4 ft. apron. The theatre was equipped with 110 A.C. electricity and the backstage area featured 12 dressing rooms.[5]

The building, its façade still standing today, has a 97 feet wide fronting on 149th street, between Bergen and Brooke Avenue and it runs back 205 feet to 148th street. A three storey commercial building was on 149th street. That space, apart from the 25 foot lobby leading to the theater, was originally leased to William Gibson and Gustave Beiswenger as a restaurant, café and banquet hall on the first and second floor named the Bronx Opera House Restaurant,[6] the third floor being used as lodge rooms.

Emphasis was put on fire safety. An area-way demanded by the Department of Public Safety ran from street to street on either side of the theatre, affording ample space for substantial steel stairways leading down from the emergency exits.[7]

An automatic asbestos safety curtain fronted the entr'acte drop, which was decorated with a damask valance separated into three sections, fringed with galloons. The centre of each section was embroidered with an embossed wreath, giving them a rich effect, materially enhanced by a highlight gold border running the full width of the curtain.[7]

At the time of its opening, the color scheme interior of the house was ivory, green and old gold. The decorations were in the Italian Renaissance style. The ornamental work on the ceiling and box fronts and columns was old gold. The ornamental plaster work had been treated with an ivory tint, stenciled to harmonized with the wall coverings which were of silk damask. The body of the silk damask wall decorations was of a light green pattern harmonizing in color. Draperies of the same character in heavy velvet, treated with gold, with ornate center wreath medallions, constituted the box decorations.

Three mural paintings were adorning the auditorium ceiling. These represented the Temple of Love, Love Accused Before Jove, and Repose and Laughter.[8]

In the foyer and aisles were carpets of green, two shades darker than the wall coverings and draperies. A feature of the Bronx Opera House was the diffused lighting arrangements. The sunburst, or center ceiling light fixture, was five feet in diameter. The small lights of the auditorium were so arranged as to be concealed from the eye.[9] The second balcony and main auditorium were equipped with the same indirect alba glass globes.

Ventilation was achieved by a system of tubing built in the walls and foundations leading to and connecting on the roof with a high-power electric fan that drove the cold air down under the concrete floor of the auditorium, into which it was filtered by way of innumerable colanders installed under seats, making it possible to keep the temperature of the interior "healthful", no matter what conditions prevailed outside.[7]

Performers included the Marx Brothers, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Julia Marlowe, Ethel Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore, David Warfield.[4][10] Other performers at the theatre included George M. Cohan, Eddie Cantor, John Bunny, Harry Houdini, Peggy Wood[11] and Fats Waller.[12] Post-Broadway shows were often performed and the theater hosted the Aborn Opera Company.[3]

The Bronx Opera House is often confused with the Percy G. Williams’ New Bronx Opera House built in 1909 and located at 567 Melrose Avenue (corner of 150th Street), later renamed the B.F. Keith’s Bronx Theatre, which was a different venue featuring vaudeville shows.

Development and construction (1911-1913)[edit]

The Bronx Opera House at the end of its construction phase in August 1913

George M. Cohan and Sam H. Harris had the idea of building a combination theater above the Harlem River probably as early as 1911 as they were actively looking for a site at the very beginning of 1912. The trade newspaper Variety was reporting at the time that the two sites considered were at 150th street and Westchester Avenue and the other at 163rd Street and Prospect Avenue.[13]

Speculations were Cohan and Harris had secured a contract from Morgenthau-Hudson realty to build a 1,600 seats theatre for them at the 150th street location.[13] Trouble occurred when it was announced on the front page of Variety on January 20, 1912 that the Shuberts were planning to build a legitimate house in the Bronx as well. New York theater managers generally felt that while the Bronx was a fertile field for one such theatre to show the Broadway attractions at reasonable prices (all of the other theaters in the neighborhood were vaudeville), two theaters of similar policy in that section would only mean that either would be fortunate to break even.[14]

Bronx Opera House in March 1914

There were good reasons to worry. A bitter competition already existed between Cohan & Harris' Grand Opera House at 8th Avenue and 23rd Street and the Shuberts’ Manhattan Opera House at 34th Street.[14] Sam H. Harris attempt at negotiating a deal with Lee Shubert failed and Cohan & Harris promptly announced the following week they were walking out on the entire project.[15]

Three months later however, in early May, Sam H. Harris confirmed to Variety they had secured a site on 149th Street just east of 3rd avenue to build a sister theater to their Manhattan Grand Opera House and that it would be in operation by November.[16] Then on June 8, 1912 details of the project are officially announced. The name of the theater is The Bronx Opera House at 438 to 444 east 149th street, the lease secured from Frederick Schnaufer that same day. George M. Keister who designed the George M. Cohan Theater at Broadway and 43rd Street is the architect and he has the plans ready. Cohan & Harris via their Bronx 149th Street Realty Company have already leased the commercial space to Gibson and Beiswenger, who own the Criterion Restaurant at the corner of 3rd Avenue,[17] for a cafe, restaurant and banquet hall on 149th street before construction has even begun.[18]

Despite their clever maneuvering with the Shuberts, Cohan and Harris still end up facing competition in the Bronx. On August 29, John Cort announces the construction of the "Royal Theatre" in association with Frank Gersten. A combination house with a seating capacity of 2,500 located at Westchester, 3rd Avenue and 150th Street, a mere four block away from the Bronx Opera House that is to be completed by December 15.[19]

This latest announcement revives the anxieties of theater managers in New York. When asked if he was interested in any new theaters in the city beyond the Harlem River, Harry Frazee was quoted by the New York Sun as saying he thanked the creator that he had no project underway in the Bronx.[20]

September 9, 1912, the Daily Standard Union: Brooklyn announces Cramp & Co. has been awarded the construction contract[21] for the Bronx Opera House, a fireproof building with exterior of brick, limestone and terra cotta requiring an expenditure of $250,000.[22]

As construction gets quickly underway, a partnership is formed with A.H. Woods who came on board with an interest of one-third and an interest in management as well. There is little or no excavation to be done and the then estimated 2,500 seats house is expected to be ready by December. This partnership with A.H. Woods is perceived by many in the industry as a game changer. It is seen either as an attempt by the two firms to break free from the Syndicates or an attempt to become their own Syndicate altogether.[23] Rumors are promptly denied by both parties.[24]

It seems unlikely that the Bronx Opera House could have open in November or even December 1912 as announced, construction having started in September. Besides, it would have been odd to open a new theater in the middle of the theatrical season.

In the meantime, the development of its direct competitor, Cort and Gersten's Royal Theatre, seems to be plagued with an unnatural number of problems. The first major blow comes in late February 1913 when the Building Department, fed up with the construction being pushed forward despite the numerous violations issued against the building, obtains a court order restraining the contractors from doing any further work until all said violations are cleared up. The most serious is said to be on the walls, which are not of the required thickness.[25] Then two months later, the Shuberts and Klaw & Erlanger announce that they will play all their shows at the Bronx Opera House, shutting out the Royal Theatre.[26] This must have been devastating news to Cort and Gersten. They had started building their theater with the expectation they would play the Shuberts and other shows, now they have to rely primarily on John Cort's attractions. Despite all these hurdles, the Royal Theatre will finally open ten days after the Bronx Opera House on September 8, 1913.

The Bronx Opera House is officially dedicated on August 30, 1913 and opens with Eugene Walter's play Fine Feathers[2]

Theatrical Seasons[edit]

Robert Edeson as Robert Reynolds and Lolita Robertson as Jane Reynolds in 1912 for the original stage production of Fine Feathers

1913-1914[edit]

Manager: Richard Madden
Treasurer: Harry Cullen

Show times: Evening, 8:15 pm, matinees (Wed., Sat. & holidays), 2.15 pm
Ticket prices: twenty-five cents to a dollar with bargain matinees at twenty-five and fifty cents.[27]

August 30, 1913: Opening night. Cohan, Harris and Woods' plan to offer Broadway plays at popular prices north of 125th street seem to pay-off. The Bronx Opera House opens its doors to "an immense audience"[8] with the H.H. Farzee's production of Fine Feathers.[2] It's a scene long to be remembered as the crowd gathers around the entrance. Old Bronxites stand amazed as car after car whirls up to the curb and discharges its burden of fashion, wealth and beauty. It's Broadway transferred uptown. Longacre Square at its busiest hour could not show a more fashionable or a more cultured assemblage. Long before opening time, the street is jammed with a good humored crowd.[28]

Inside, George Cohan, Sam Harris, A.H. Woods and H.H. Frazee all attend the performance. There is also a delegation from the New York Friars' Club in the audience, George Cohan being the Abbot of the organization at the time. Sam Harris is indefatigable and everywhere, acting as manager, usher and doorman.[28] Max Figman, who plays in Fine Feathers, delivers an address presenting the theatre on behalf of the management and the address of acceptance on behalf of the people of the Bronx is made by Assemblyman Louis D. Gibbs during which he pays a tribute to the genius and enterprise who gave to the Borough one of the most beautiful theatres in the world.[28]

Outside, the crowd gathering is such that the Police is called to clear the sidewalk and the street.[29]

The play is a huge hit and at the end of the last act, the cast has to answer to no less than six curtain calls.[28]

Fine Feathers concludes a successful nine days engagement and is replaced the following week by the de Koven Opera Company production of Robin Hood.[30] Attendance for the second week shows no sign of slowing down, it is described as a "large audience".[31]

The above mentioned shows had two things in common, they were long running commercial success and they both featured their original Broadway cast. In fact, in the case of Fine Feathers it was the same cast that not only staged the play for over a hundred shows at the Astor but also at the Cort in Chicago where it premiered the year before with the notable exception of the role of the maid. In other words, Cohan & Harris were playing it safe for their grand opening.

There is little doubt that the highlight of this first season was "Broadway Jones", a comedy written, produced, directed and played by George M. Cohan in his own brand new theater in the Bronx. It was a vehicle for his farewell tour as an actor and both his parents were on stage with him. The play was due to open on Monday September 22 was postponed until the next day because Cohan wanted one more day for rehearsal.

The singer-actor, Fiske O'Hara, goes on the stage of the Bronx Opera House for the first time October 13, 1913 in "In Old Dublin". He will invariably appear every season for the next ten years making him a staple of the theater.

Another memorable night would have been December 8, 1913 for the premiere of George Middleton's "The Prodigal Judge". The Bronx crowds were used to post-Broadway shows making their way to their borough, a new play making its debut in the Bronx was something else. That Monday night, every seat was occupied, even the boxes being filled with first-nighters.[32]

This was the offering of the Bronx Opera House for the 1913-1914 season (not including Sunday afternoon's vaudeville)

Date Show Author Production
08/30/1913 Fine Feathers Eugene Walter H.H. Frazee
09/08/1913 Robin Hood Reginald De Koven de Koven Opera Company
09/15/1913 Stop Thief Carlyle Moore Cohan & Harris
09/23/1913 Broadway Jones George M. Cohan Cohan & Harris
09/29/1913 The Ghost Breaker Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard Maurice Campbell
10/06/1913 Years of Discretion Frederick Hatton and Fanny Locke Hatton David Belasco
10/13/1913 In Old Dublin Augustus Pitou, Sr. Augustus Pitou, Jr.
10/20/1913 The Argyle Case Harriet Ford and Harvey J. O'Higgins Klaw & Erlanger
10/27/1913 The Master Mind Daniel D. Carter Louis F. Werba and Mark A. Luescher
11/03/1913 Widow by Proxy Catherine Chisholm Cushing Liebler & Co.
11/10/1913 Who's Who? Richard Harding Davis Charles Frohman
11/17/1913 Spring Maid Harry B. Smith and Robert B. Smith Louis F. Werba and Mark A. Luescher
11/24/1913 The Inner Shrine Channing Pollock Arthur G. Delamater
12/01/1913 The Conspiracy John Roberts Charles Frohman
12/08/1913 The Prodigal Judge George Middleton Arthur G. Delamater
12/15/1913 The Old Homestead Denman Thompson and George W. Ryer Cohan & Harris
12/22/1913 Mutt and Jeff in Panama Owen Davis and Will H. Cobb
12/29/1913 Maggie Pepper Charles Klein Henry B. Harris
01/05/1914 Primrose and Dockstader's Twentieth Century Minstrels
01/12/1914 The Typhoon Emil Nyitray and Byron Ongley Walker Whiteside
01/19/1914 The Man Inside Roland Burnham Molineux David Belasco
01/26/1914 The Rainbow A. E. Thomas Henry Miller
02/02/1914 The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Eugene Walter Klaw & Erlanger
02/09/1914 The Fight Bayard Veiller Joseph M. Gaites
02/16/1914 The Grain of Dust Louis Evan Shipman James K. Hackett
02/23/1914 Damaged Goods Eugene Brieux and James Warbasse Richard Bennett and Wilton Lackaye, Jr.
03/02/1914 Shameen Dhu Rida Johnson Young Henry Miller
03/09/1914 Adele Adolf Philipp and Edward A. Paulton New Era Producing Co.
03/16/1914 The Madcap Duchess David Stevens and Justin Huntly McCarthy H. H. Frazee
03/23/1914 Nearly Married Edgar Selwyn Cohan & Harris
03/30/1914 The Strange Woman William J. Hurlbut Klaw & Erlanger
04/06/1914 The Midnight Girl Paul Hervé Adolf Philipp company
04/13/1914 Along Came Ruth Holman Day Henry W. Savage
04/20/1914 Madame X Alexandre Bisson
04/27/1914 Everywoman (two weeks) Walter Browne Henry W. Savage

1914-1915[edit]

In its November 7, 1914 edition, Variety estimates that "The Story of the Rosary" brought in $6,900 to the Bronx Opera House but that the theatre has had an average of 9 to $10,000 per week since the beginning of the season. Pretty good considering the 1914-1915 season showed an almost unbroken line of failures at the box office in the industry in general.[33] Although poor performance is generally attributed to war uncertainties, the Bronx Opera House good numbers are most likely due to the elimination of the Royal Theatre.[34] By mid January 1915 it is estimated to be the most profitable combination theater in New York with an average business of $8,000 a week. Potash and Perlmutter alone did an estimated $9,900 in one week and the Crinoline Girl $9,700.[35]

A motion picture will be shown for the first time at the Bronx Opera House on December 14. A silent documentary titled Belgian War Scenes, it featured an actual battle in progress, shells bursting, men falling in the trenches and the care of the wounded.[36]

John Barrymore is on stage April 19 for a week in Willard Mack's Kick-In.

Offering for the 1914-1915 season:

Date Show Author Production
09/05/1914 To-Day George Broadhurst (Company A. cast)
09/14/1914 Peg O' My Heart J. Hartley Manners Oliver Morosco
09/28/1914 Seven Keys to Baldpate George M. Cohan Cohan & Harris
10/12/1914 The Crinoline Girl Otto Hauerbach A. H. Woods
10/19/1914 Madam President Jose G. Levy Charles Frohman
10/26/1914 The Story of the Rosary Walter Howard Comstock & Gest
11/02/1914 The Dummy Harvey J. O'Higgins and Harriet Ford Play-Producing Co.
11/09/1914 The Things That Count Laurence Eyre William A. Brady
11/16/1914 Within the Law Bayard Veiller Selwyn and Company
11/23/1914 Too Many Cooks Frank Craven William A. Brady
11/30/1914 The Midnight Girl Paul Hervé
12/07/1914 The Third Party Mark Swan F. Ray Comstock
12/14/1914 Belgian war scenes, motion pictures Edwin F. Weigle (Director) The Popular Motion Picture Co.
12/25/1914 The Miracle Man George M. Cohan Cohan & Harris
12/28/1914 Sari Emmerich Kálmán Henry W. Savage
01/04/1915 Potash and Perlmutter Montague Glass and Charles Klein A. H. Woods
01/11/1915 Heart of Paddy Whack Rachel Crothers Henry Miller
01/18/1915 The High Cost of Loving Frank Mandel A. H. Woods
01/25/1915 Innocent George Broadhurst A. H. Woods
02/01/1915 So Much for So Much Willard Mack H. H. Frazee
02/08/1915 The Belle of Bond Street Harold Atteridge and Owen Hall Lee & J.J. Shubert
02/15/1915 The Misleading Lady Charles W. Goddard and Paul Dickey William H. Harris, Jr.
02/22/1915 Sis Hopkins
03/01/1915 Seven Keys to Baldpate George M. Cohan Cohan & Harris
03/08/1915 A Pair of Sixes Edward Peple H. H. Frazee
03/15/1915 Bunny in Funnyland John Bunny
03/22/1915 The Beauty Shop Channing Pollock Cohan & Harris
03/29/1915 The Bird of Paradise Richard Walton Tully Oliver Morosco
04/05/1915 Jack's Romance Augustus Pitou, Sr. Augustus Pitou, Jr.
04/12/1915 The Prince of Pilsen Gustav Luders
04/19/1915 Kick-In Willard Mack A. H. Woods
04/26/1915 A Mix Up Parker A. Hord Lee & J.J. Shubert

1915-1916[edit]

Newspaper Ad for the Aborn Opera Company's program in the Spring of 1916

Manager: J. J. Rosenthal
Show times: Evening, 8:15 pm, matinees (Wed., Sat. & holidays), 2.15 pm
Ticket prices: twenty-five cents to a dollar with bargain matinees at twenty-five and fifty cents.

A young Richard Dix was on the stage of the Bronx Opera House on December 7 for a one week engagement of The Hawk.

D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation was shown for two weeks accompanied by a thirty pieces orchestra.[37] It was scheduled for an encore presentation on May 1, 1916 but was cancelled to make room for The House of Glass.[38]

On June 7, during the six weeks engagement of the Aborn Opera Company, Beppo, a donkey who was appearing on stage in Pagliacci was tied by its keeper to a car parked in front of the theater. The Aborn Company was putting on Cavalleria Rusticana after Pagliacci and the keeper whose sympathies were divided between mules and music thought to slip back in the theater and hear an aria or two. When the keeper came out, the red car was gone and so was Beppo the donkey, a ten years veteran of the stage.[39]

Date Show Author Production
08/28/1915 The Yellow Ticket Michael Morton A. H. Woods
09/06/1915 Twin Beds Salisbury Field and Margaret Mayo William H. Harris, Jr.
09/13/1915 On Trial Elmer L. Rice Cohan & Harris
09/20/1915 It Pays to Advertise Roi Cooper Megrue and Walter Hackett Cohan & Harris
09/27/1915 Under Cover Roi Cooper Megrue Selwyn & Co.
10/04/1915 A Full House Fred Jackson H. H. Frazee
10/11/1915 Kick In Willard Mack A. H. Woods
10/18/1915 Song of Songs Edward Sheldon A. H. Woods
10/25/1915 High Jinks Otto Hauerbach Arthur Hammerstein
11/15/1915 The Bubble Edward Locke Lee & J.J. Shubert
11/22/1915 Cousin Lucy (Two Weeks) Charles Klein A. H. Woods
12/07/1915 The Hawk Francis De Croisset
12/18/1915 The Birth of a Nation D. W. Griffith D. W. Griffith
12/27/1915 Young America Fred Ballard Cohan & Harris
01/03/1916 The Road to Happiness Lawrence Whitman Lee Shubert
01/17/1916 Marie Odile Edward Knoblauch David Belasco
01/24/1916 Beverly's Balance Paul Kester
02/07/1916 Experience George V. Hobart William Elliott
02/14/1916 The Girl Who Smiles Paul Hervé & Jean Briquet
02/21/1916 The New Henrietta Bronson Howard Klaw & Erlanger
02/28/1916 Some Baby Zellah Covington and Jules Simonson
03/13/1916 Daddy Long Legs Jean Webster Henry Miller
03/20/1916 Kilkenny Augustus Pitou, Sr. Augustus Pitou, Jr.
04/17/1916 Potash and Perlmutter in Society Montague Glass A. H. Woods
04/24/1916 The Lie Margaret Illington
05/01/1916 The House of Glass Max Marcin Cohan & Harris
05/08/1916 Madama Butterfly (in English) Giacomo Puccini The Aborn Opera Company
05/11/1916 Martha (in English) Friedrich von Flotow The Aborn Opera Company
05/12/1916 Hansel and Gretel (in English, just one matinee) Engelbert Humperdinck The Aborn Opera Company
05/15/1916 Aida (in English) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
05/18/1916 Il Trovatore (in English) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
05/22/1916 Carmen (in English) Georges Bizet The Aborn Opera Company
05/25/1916 The Tales of Hoffman (in English) Jacques Offenbach The Aborn Opera Company
05/26/1916 Hansel and Gretel (in English, one matinee) Engelbert Humperdinck The Aborn Opera Company
05/29/1916 Lucia di Lammermoor (in English) Gaetano Donizetti The Aborn Opera Company
06/01/1916 Rigoletto Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
06/05/1916 Pagliacci & Cavalleria Rusticana Leoncavallo & Mascagni The Aborn Opera Company
06/08/1916 Faust Charles Gounod The Aborn Opera Company
06/12/1916 The Bohemian Girl Alfred Bunn & Michael William Balfe The Aborn Opera Company

1916-1917[edit]

Common Clay breaks the house record on September 4 (Labor Day) drawing $9,697.[40]

John Barrymore is back on the stage of the Bronx Opera House September 26 in John Galsworthy's Justice

Julian Eltinge returns to the Bronx Opera House on Christmas Day with Cousin Lucy, a show so successful the previous season, it had been extended a second week. The cast remains the same but this 1916 production of the show features new songs, new music and new costumes, "those who saw it before will have to rub their eyes to make sure they are not really looking at a new production".[41]

Offering for the 1916-1917 season:

Date Show Author Production
09/02/1916 Common Clay Cleves Kinkead A. H. Woods
09/18/1916 Broadway and Buttermilk Willard Mack & Charles Grant Frederic McKay
09/26/1916 Justice John Galsworthy Corey-Williams-Riter, Inc.
10/02/1916 Hobson's Choice Harold Brlghthouse F. Ray Comstock
10/09/1916 The Fear Market Amélie Rives Harrison Grey Fiske and George Mooser
10/23/1916 Very Good Eddie Philip Martholomae Marbury-Comstock Co.
11/06/1916 Just a Woman Eugene Walter Lee & J.J. Shubert
11/27/1916 His Bridal Night (two weeks) Lawrence Rising A. H. Woods
12/11/1916 Erstwhile Susan Marian De Forest Corey-Williams-Riter, Inc.
12/25/1916 Cousin Lucy Charles Klein A. H. Woods
01/01/1917 Fair and Warmer Avery Hopwood Selwyn & Co.
01/08/1917 The Flame Richard Walton Tully Richard Walton Tully
01/22/1917 His Heart's Desire Anna Nichols & Adelaide Matthews Augustus Pitou Jr.
01/29/1917 His Majesty Bunker Bean Lee Wilson Dodd Joseph Brooks
02/05/1917 Good Gracious Annabelle Clare Kummer Arthur Hopkins
02/12/1917 Watch your Step Irving Berlin Charles Dillingham
02/19/1917 Pollyanna Catherine Chisholm Cushing Klaw & Erlanger
02/26/1917 The Heart of Paddy Whack Ernest R. Ball Henry Miller
03/05/1917 Alone at Last Franz Lehár Lee & J.J. Shubert
03/12/1917 Captain Kidd, Jr. Rida Johnson Young Cohan & Harris
03/19/1917 So Long Letty Earl Carroll Oliver Morosco
03/26/1917 Pom Pom Hugo Felix Henry W. Savage
04/09/1917 The Great Lover Leo Ditrichstein, Frederic Hatton and Fanny Hatton Cohan & Harris
04/16/1917 The Great Divide William Vaughn Moody Henry Miller
04/23/1917 Little Lady in Blue Horace Hodges & T. Wigney Percyval David Belasco
04/30/1917 The Princess Pat Victor Herbert John Cort
05/07/1917 Madama Butterfly Giacomo Puccini The Aborn Opera Company
05/10/1917 La Boheme Giacomo Puccini The Aborn Opera Company
05/28/1917 The Blue Paradise Edmund Eysler & Sigmund Romberg The Aborn Opera Company
06/04/1917 The Chocolate Soldier Oscar Straus The Aborn Opera Company

1917-1918[edit]

Manager J.J. Rosenthal fires the first gun of the theatrical season by giving a monster patriotic benefit August 19, 1917. The theatre has been redecorated and with the Golden Lobby of fame looking more attractive than ever, is ready to receive Emma Dunn in Old Lady 31, Saturday, August 25 as the opening attraction of the regular season.[42]

John and Lionel Barrymore are on stage November 19 in John Raphael's play Peter Ibbetson.

The third mini-season of the Aborn Opera Company does not fare as well as the previous two. The contract's terms were the same: booked for three weeks with more time optional. However returns were not found satisfactory and their engagement ended after only two weeks.[43]

Offering for the 1917-1918 season:

Date Show Author Production
08/11/1917 My Irish Cinderella Cecil Spooner
08/20/1917 Jerry Catherine Chisholm
08/25/1917 Old Lady 31 Rachel Crothers Lee Kugel
09/03/1917 Cheating Cheaters Max Marcin A. H. Woods
09/10/1917 The Knife Eugene Walter Lee & J.J. Shubert
09/17/1917 The Brat Maude Fulton Oliver Morosco
09/24/1917 Lilac Time Jane Cowl Selwyn & Co.
10/01/1917 Molly Dear Cecil B. DeMille Andrew Mack
10/15/1917 Her Soldier Boy Sigmund Romberg & Emmerich Kalman Lee & J.J. Shubert
10/22/1917 The Inner Man Abraham Schomer Lee & J.J. Shubert
10/29/1917 Upstairs and Down Frederic Hatton and Fanny Hatton Oliver Morosco
11/05/1917 Chin Chin Anne Caldwell & R.H. Burnside Charles Dillingham
11/12/1917 Mary's Ankle May Tully A. H. Woods
11/19/1917 Peter Ibbetson John N. Raphael Lee & J.J. Shubert
11/26/1917 The Man Who Came Back (two weeks) Jules Eckert Goodman William A. Brady
12/10/1917 The Thirteenth Chair Bayard Veiller William Harris, Sr. & William H. Harris, Jr.
12/17/1917 The Very Idea William Le Baron G. M. Anderson & L. Lawrence Weber
12/24/1917 Leave it to Jane Book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse; Music by Jerome Kern Elliott, Comstock, Gest
12/31/1917 Daybreak Jane Cowl Selwyn & Co.
01/07/1918 Once Upon a Time Rachel Crothers Cohan & Harris
01/14/1918 Pollyanna Catherine Chisholm Cushing Klaw & Erlanger
01/21/1918 The Man from Wicklow Anne Nichols Augustus Pitou, Jr.
01/28/1918 De Luxe Annie Edward Clark Arthur Hammerstein
02/25/1918 The Country Cousin Booth Tarkington & Julian Street Klaw & Erlanger
03/04/1918 What's Your Husband Doing? George V. Hobart Hobart-Jordan Co.
03/11/1918 The Boomerang Winchell Smith & Victor Mapes David Belasco
03/18/1918 Nothing but the Truth James Montgomery H. H. Frazee
04/01/1918 The Madonna of the Future Alan Dale Oliver Morosco
05/20/1918 Aida Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
05/21/1918 Pagliacci & Cavalleria Rusticana Leoncavallo & Mascagni The Aborn Opera Company
05/22/1918 Aida (Matine) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
05/22/1918 Lucia di Lammermoor (Evening) Gaetano Donizetti The Aborn Opera Company
05/23/1918 La Gioconda Amilcare Ponchielli The Aborn Opera Company
05/24/1918 Rigoletto (evening) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
05/25/1918 Lucia di Lammermoor (Matine) Gaetano Donizetti The Aborn Opera Company
05/25/1918 Il Trovatore (Evening) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
05/27/1918 Pagliacci & Cavalleria Rusticana Leoncavallo & Mascagni The Aborn Opera Company
05/28/1918 La Gioconda Amilcare Ponchielli The Aborn Opera Company
05/29/1918 Il Trovatore (Matine) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
05/29/1918 Rigoletto (evening) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
05/30/1918 The Barber of Seville Gioachino Rossini The Aborn Opera Company
05/31/1918 La Traviata Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
06/01/1918 Faust (Matine) Charles Gounod The Aborn Opera Company
06/01/1918 Aida (Evening) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company

1918-1919[edit]

Manager: J.J. Rosenthal (Until December), Mike Selwyn (January through June)
Treasurer: Maurice Louis Silverstein
Doorman: August L. Heckler

The Bronx Opera House starts to experiment with ticket price increases. "Going Up" opens March 17 to a new scale of matinees: 25 cents to 75 cents; evenings: 25 cents to $1.50.[44]

Offering for the 1918-1919 season:

Date Show Author Production
9/2/1918 The Little Teacher Harry James Smith Cohan & Harris
9/9/1918 Eyes of Youth Max Marcin & Charles Guernon A.H. Woods & Lee and J.J. Shubert
9/16/1918 Oh Boy! Book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse; Music by Jerome Kern William Elliott and F. Ray Comstock
9/23/1918 The Man Who Stayed at Home Lechmere Worrall and J. E. Harold Terry William Moore Patach
9/30/1918 Turn to the Right Winchell Smith and John E. Hazzard Winchell Smith
10/7/1918 Seventeen Hugh Stanislaus Stange and Stannard Mears Stuart Walker
10/14/1918 Nancy Lee Eugene Walter and H. Crownin Wilson The Estate of Henry B. Harris
10/21/1918 Parlor, Bedroom and Bath C. W. Bell and Mark Swan A.H. Woods
10/28/1918 Tiger Rose Willard Mack David Belasco
11/11/1918 Eyes of Youth Max Marcin & Charles Guernon A.H. Woods & Lee and J.J. Shubert
11/18/1918 Getting Together Ian Hay, J. Hartley Manners and Percival Knight British-Canadian Recruiting Mission and U.S. Military and Naval Forces
11/25/1918 The Copperhead Augustus Thomas John D. Williams
12/2/1918 The Wanderer Maurice V. Samuels William Elliott, F. Ray Comstock and Morris Gest
12/23/1918 The Man Who Came Back Jules Eckert Goodman William A. Brady
12/30/1918 The Auctioneer Charles Klein and Lee Arthur David Belasco David Warfield
1/13/1919 Marry in Haste Anna Nichols Augustus Pitou
1/20/1919 Maytime Book by Rida Johnson Young; Music by Sigmund Romberg Lee & JJ Shubert
1/27/1919 Seven Days' Leave Walter Howard
2/3/1919 Polly With a Past George Middleton and Guy Bolton David Belasco
2/10/1919 Business Before Pleasure (Two Weeks) Montague Glass and Jules Eckert Goodman A. H. Woods
3/10/1919 Flo-Flo Book by Fred De Gresac; Music by Silvio Hein; Lyrics by Edward Paulton and Fred De Gresac John Cort
3/17/1919 Going Up Book by Otto Hauerbach; Music by Louis A. Hirsch Cohan & Harris
3/24/1919 A Tailor-Made Man Harry James Smith Cohan & Harris
3/31/1919 Lombardi, Ltd. Frederic Hatton and Fanny Hatton Oliver Morosco
4/7/1919 The Little Brother Milton Goldsmith and Benedict James Walter Hast
4/14/1919 Tiger Rose Willard Mack David Belasco
4/21/1919 Maytime Book by Rida Johnson Young; Music by Sigmund Romberg Lee & JJ Shubert
4/28/1919 Richelieu Bulewer Lytton
4/29/1919 Hamlet William Shakespeare
4/30/1919 The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare
5/1/1919 King Lear William Shakespeare
5/2/1919 Macbeth William Shakespeare
5/3/1919 Richard III William Shakespeare
5/5/1919 The Crowded Hour Edgar Selwyn and Channing Pollock Selwyn & Co.
5/12/1919 The Voice of McConnell George M. Cohan Cohan & Harris
5/19/1919 Tiger! Tiger! Edward Knoblauch David Belasco
5/26/1919 Remnant Dario Niccodemi and Michael Morton Charles Emerson Cook
6/2/1919 So Long Letty Book by Oliver Morosco and Elmer Harris; Music & Lyrics by Earl Carroll Oliver Morosco

1919-1920[edit]

At the start of the season, the Riviera at 97th street (also part of the Subway Circuit) raise its top prices from $1 to $1.50, the Bronx Opera House quickly follows. This is the first permanent increase in ticket prices in 6 years but an expected one. Times Square theatres have titled their price scale to $2.50 and in some instances when the show is a hit, up to $3.50. Prices won't remain at $1.50 for long. October sees record Box Office numbers due higher prices.[45] By the end of November 1919, Subway Circuit theaters are already considering raising their ticket prices to $2. The Riviera will again take the lead and make the price hike effective December 22.[46]

Later Years[edit]

When it opened the opera house was considered the best theatre in Bronx borough. It had two separate balconies and a large crystal chandelier in the center of the ceiling. Performances included vaudeville and plays.

By the 1940s was converted to a late-run movie house, shuttering of the upper balcony reduced seating to 1,400, and it became known simply as Bronx Theatre. The theatre lost its license in 1943 after the rape of a 17-year-old worker. Chief Assistant District Attorney Sylvester Ryan said "the theatre as a rendezvous for degenerates and thugs." [47] Eight youths were sentenced to reformatory for the crime.[48][49] The theatre flourished during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as a Latin music dance club operating as Bronx Casino, Club Caravana and El Cerromar.[3] In the 1980s it was purchased by a pentecostal church.[3] Charlie Palmieri recorded Pachanga at the Caravana Club on site in 1961.[11]

Rebirth[edit]

Renovation plans to relaunch it as a performing art center developed in the 1980s but did not proceed. By 2004 the run down auditorium was part of a Spanish evangelical church. The church had moved out before the end of the decade. The auditorium has not survived. New construction is in the works to convert part of the building into a boutique hotel.[3][49] Those plans continued to develop in 2012. According to developer Jay Domb, performers at the theater included Harry Houdini and The Marx Brothers "got their vaudeville start here". Domb plans to decorate the hotel with relics and prints of artifcats from the theatre.[3]

Visits to the theatre are noted in the book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years.[50]

Myths[edit]

Was opened as Keith's Bronx Theatre[edit]

...and was later renamed. Dispelled by Bill Twomey in his book "The Bronx, in Bits and Pieces",[11] this myth originated in the "Directory of Historic American Theatres"[10] published in 1987 then quoted in "The Papers of Will Rogers: From Vaudeville to Broadway"[4] published in 2001. The Keith and the Opera House were not only at different locations but theaters of different policies. The Keith was vaudeville, the Opera House, legitimate combination. It makes the claim that the Marx Brothers, George Burns and Gracie Allen played on the stage of the Bronx Opera House dubious.

Wasn't really an opera house[edit]

Found in Michael Seth Starr's book, Bobby Darin: A Life,[51] it should be placed in the historical context of the late 1940s early 1950s when the Bronx Opera House was no longer an Opera House but a movie theater. The Bronx Opera House not only featured comic opera as early as September 1913 but a substantial opera lineup during its 3rd, 4th and 5th season with the Aborn Opera Company.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Official Facebook page". Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d At the Theatres. New Rochelle Pioneer. 08/23/1913
  3. ^ a b c d e f Daniel Beekman Manhattan developer hard at work on boutique hotel in forgotten South Bronx opera house on E. 149th St. April 15, 2012
  4. ^ a b c The Papers of Will Rogers: From vaudeville to Broadway : September 1908 - August 1915 Volume 3
  5. ^ Cahn, Julius (1913). The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory. p. 427. 
  6. ^ "Dinner to President Miller". Hudson Evening Register. 12/04/1913. 
  7. ^ a b c "Bronx Becoming Play Center; New Theatre Model of Beauty". The New York Press. 08/31/1913
  8. ^ a b "Bronx Opera House". The New York Clipper. 09/06/1913. 
  9. ^ "New Theatre in Bronx Open Next Week". New York Herald. 1913-08-18. 
  10. ^ a b Frick, Ward et al. (1987). Directory of historic American theatres. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313248680. 
  11. ^ a b c Bill Twomey [1] The Bronx: In Bits and Pieces pages 198, 199
  12. ^ "Waller's Review Open Bronx Opera House". The Afro American. 1941-12-27. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Bronx Combination House Next for Cohan & Harris". Variety. Vol. 25. No. 5. 01/06/1912. p. 9
  14. ^ a b "Shuberts Splitting Bronx; Will Oppose Cohan & Harris", Variety. Vol. 25. No. 7. 01/20/1912. p. 3
  15. ^ "Turning Bronx Down". Variety. 02/03/1912. 
  16. ^ "Cohan & Harris Theatres Increased to Six by Two New". Variety 26 (9). 05/04/1912. p. 9. 
  17. ^ "Wonderful Money-Maker Now Ready". The Billboard. 1914-03-21. 
  18. ^ "Cohan's Bronx Theatre". The Sun. 06/09/1912. 
  19. ^ "Cort Theatre in the Bronx". The New York Times. 1912-08-30. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  20. ^ "Twenty New Theatres for New York This Year". The Sun (New York, N. Y.). 1912-10-27. p. 13, Section 4. 
  21. ^ "Amusement Notes". The Daily Standard Union: Brooklyn. 1912-09-09. 
  22. ^ "Contract Awarded". The New York Clipper 60 (33). 1912-09-28. p. 3. 
  23. ^ "A.H. Woods and Cohan & Harris Forming Strong Alliance". Variety 27 (2). 1912-06-15. p. 11. 
  24. ^ "Not Allied". The New York Dramatic Mirror. 1912-09-19. 
  25. ^ "Departmental Violations May Stop Theatre Building". Variety 30 (1). 03/07/1913. p. 11. 
  26. ^ "One of the Two New Theatres in Bronx Section Shut Out". Variety 30 (1). 1913-05-23. p. 11. 
  27. ^ "Bronx Theater Opens Next Week". The New York Dramatic Mirror. 1913-08-20. 
  28. ^ a b c d "Bronx Opera House Opens to a Crowded House". Harlem Home News. 09/04/1913. 
  29. ^ "Traffic Blocked as New Theatre in Bronx Opens". New York Herald. 1913-08-31. 
  30. ^ "Amusements". The Newtown Register. 09/04/1913. 
  31. ^ "Bronx Opera House". The New York Clipper. 1913-09-20. 
  32. ^ "Five New Shows Opening". Variety. 1913-12-12. 
  33. ^ "Shows at the Box Office; NY, London and Chicago". Variety. 11/07/1914. 
  34. ^ "Shows at the Box Office in New York and Chicago". Variety. 10/03/1914. 
  35. ^ "Shows at the Box Office in the Theatrical Center". Variety. 1915-01-16. 
  36. ^ "Belgian War Pictures". The Independent. 1914-12-14. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  37. ^ "Two Indian Dramas Among Varied Motion Picture Offerings". New York Herald. 1915-12-12. 
  38. ^ "Potash and Perlmutter in Society". Dobbs Ferry Register. 1916-04-14. 
  39. ^ "Donkey is Kidnapped by Big Red Automobile". New York Herald. 06/08/1916. 
  40. ^ "Three Records in Three Weeks". Variety. 1916-09-29. 
  41. ^ "Julian Eltinge Xmas Play at the Bronx Opera House". The Daily Argus. 1916-12-23. 
  42. ^ "Regular Season at Bronx". The Dramatic Mirror. 09/01/1917. 
  43. ^ "The Aborn Opera Company". Variety. 1918-05-31. 
  44. ^ "Raise Prices for Going Up". The New York Clipper. 03/12/1919. 
  45. ^ "Saturday Night Receipts Smash Box-Office Records". The New York Clipper. 1919-10-15. 
  46. ^ "Subway Circuit to Raise Admission to $2.00 Top". The New York Clipper. 1919-11-26. 
  47. ^ THEATRE LOSES LICENSE; Bronx Movie House Where Girl Was Raped Is Closed NY Times April 6, 1943
  48. ^ 8 SENTENCED FOR RAPE; Bronx Youths Denounced by Court for Attack in Theatre NY Times June 8, 1943
  49. ^ a b http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/7917 Bronx Theatre Cinema Treasure
  50. ^ Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years page 129
  51. ^ Starr, Michael Seth (2011). Bobby Darin: A Life. Taylor Trade Publications. p. 7. ISBN 1589795989.