The Sheridan Theater opened on September 18, 1921 and operated until 1969.It occupied the triangle of land lately used as the St. Vincent’s Hospital garden and Materials Handling Facility.Strangely, its address was 200-202 West 12th Street, but the entrance was on the northwest corner of Greenwich Avenue and Seventh Avenue.Contrary to some accounts it was never named the Mark Strand Sheridan. (There was a cinema of that name at Broadway and 47th Street.)
Unlike most of the West Village cinemas that we will visit, the Sheridan was neither small nor artsy.It was a “Roxy,” seating 2,342.(A “Roxy” is a large cinema showing first-run films, named after the original 6,000 seater Roxy at 153 West 50th Street, built by Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel in 1926.)The owner installed an Austin organ Opus 1007 at a cost of $9,400.(That’s $122,729 in 2015 dollars.)The architects were Reilly and Hall. Its 27 exits opened onto all three sides of the triangle.The Sheridan opened with “Disraeli,” starring George Arliss.
As the Sheridan’s opening date neared, the New York Times reported that it would be the first theater south of 42nd Street to show only moving pictures.These would, of course, have been silent films, often called photoplays.The first real feature-length Hollywood talkie, The Jazz Singer, with Al Jolson, did not open until October 1927.
The Exhibitors Trade Review, February 25, 1922, published an interview with the Sheridan’s Manager, Edwin T. Emery, who explained that (the Sheridan) was a neighborhood theater with a metropolitan, cosmopolitan and suburban patronage.Because of the legends of Greenwich Village and its qualities as an art followers’ rendezvous it attracted all classes of people.“Sunday audiences embrace the commuter from Morristown, NJ, the Bronxvillan, the Harlemite and the downtowner; the artist, the collector, the fancier in his limousine, the folk of the stage, idle on the Sabbath, and the worker from lower New York,” he said.He added that one innovation was advanced reserved seating.
A year later the Review noted that the theater published a weekly program, another first.
In 1926, the Loew’s Corporation took it over, and it became the Loew’s Sheridan.
In the 1960s attendance fell and the Sheridan closed its balcony.When it finally closed in 1969, St. Vincent’s Hospital bought the plot and demolished the theater, intending to build a nurses’ residence.Instead, it remained vacant until the hospital planted a garden and later still built its materials facility.
However, the cinema lives on in an Edward Hopper painting, The Sheridan Theatre.Hopper lived in Washington Square and was an avid moviegoer.He began this painting in January 1937, while taking breaks from looking after his wife, who had colitis.To get the full dimness effect he painted in darkness in his studio.
One writer has stated that this painting was a rare occurrence of Hopper painting a specific and identifiable subject.His other cinema paintings are imaginative.
Author’s note:I had never heard of the Sheridan until I began research for this article.I was amazed to find out about it because I have lived across the street from its site for 38 years.A neighbor recalls seeing Barbarella (starring Jane Fonda) there in 1968.She told me, “The theater was beautiful. Very ornate. You got a sense of how elegant it must have been when it was first built.”
Levin, G., “Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography”, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1995.
Architecture and Building, Vol. LIV, Jan 1922-Dec 1922, pp 18, 19.(University of Michigan College of Architecture.)
Cinematreasures.org. (Contributors: John Chappell, Dan Braun, Al Alvarez.)
New York Times Archives.
Theatre Talks, Cezar Del Valle, Prop.