Olympia Theatre (New York City)
Hammerstein's Olympia, New York Theatre, Loew's New York, Criterion Theatre, Criterion Center Stage Right
New York City
|Years active||1890–1935; 1989–1999|
|Architect||J. B. McElfatrick & Son|
The Olympia Theatre (1514-16 Broadway at 44th Street), also known as Hammerstein's Olympia, was a theatre complex built by impresario Oscar Hammerstein I in Longacre Square (later Times Square), New York City, opening in 1895. It consisted of a theatre, a music hall, a concert hall, and a roof garden. It was later named the New York Theatre and Loew's New York.
According to The New York Times, Olympia was a "massive gray stone building", and extended 203 feet (62 m) on Longacre Square, 104 feet (32 m) on 45th Street, and 101 feet (31 m) on 44th Street. It was made from Indiana limestone, featured an imposing façade, and followed French Renaissance designs. It was designed by J. B. McElfatrick & Son.
The building was opened on November 25, 1895, with over 30 performers from Europe appearing. It was the second theater to open in what is now known as the Theater District. The first was the Empire Theatre, on the Southeast corner of 40th Street and Broadway. The Olympia was later named the New York Theatre and Loew's New York.
In 1935, architects Thomas W. Lamb and Eugene DeRosa redesigned the site. Historic sources are unclear as to whether some or all buildings in the complex were demolished and rebuilt, or the shells gutted and remodeled to build a nightclub/dancehall, the International Casino, and the Criterion Theatre, a cinema.
In 1988, the Criterion was converted to a live theatre, the Criterion Center Stage Right, and from 1991 to 1999, the space was leased to Roundabout Theatre Company, a prominent non-profit theatre company. Notable productions during Roundabout's tenure at the Criterion include the 1993 revival of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie (featuring Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson in their Broadway debuts), and the 1995 revival of Stephen Sondheim's Company.
Current site use
In 2000, Toys R Us announced plans to spend approximately $35 million on a flagship store on the site of the old Olympia (1514-1520 Broadway). The new store was devised as a bid to "re-establish [Toys R Us] as the top retailer in its field", and would feature a 60-foot in-store Ferris Wheel. Upon expiration of its lease, Toys R Us closed on December 30, 2015. The decision was attributed primarily to a rise in property values in Times Square that would increase its rent from $12 million to upwards of $42 million a year. In June 2015, Gap Inc. signed a lease and expected to open stores for its Gap and Old Navy brands in 2017. Combined, the Gap and Old Navy stores will account for 62,000 square feet of the 100,000-square-foot store. In July 2016, during the construction of the Gap and Old Navy flagship store, remnants of the original Olympia Theatre were found under the floors of the Toys R Us.
- Morrison, William (1999). Broadway Theatres: History and Architecture (trade paperback). Dover Books on Architecture. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. pp. 24–26. ISBN 0-486-40244-4.
- "Olympia Ready to Open". The New York Times. November 24, 1895.
- "Police Call in Olympia". The New York Times. November 26, 1895.
- https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/02/nyregion/toys-r-us-to-build-the-biggest-store-in-times-sq.html "
- "Several Days After Christmas, Toys ‘R’ Us Closes in Times Square;" New York Times, December 30, 2015
- CinemaTreasures.org entry for Criterion Theatre (single screen), New York
- CinemaTreasures.org entry Loew's Criterion Theatre (multiplex), New York
- Olympia Theatre: Music Hall at the IBDB database
- Criterion Center Stage Right at the IBDB database