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Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by Lewis Mindenhall No Comments

The Original Grindhouse Theatres. Located On 42nd Street, New York.

By Lewis Mindenhall

Greetings Earthlings, Space Cadets and Intergalactic Warriors. We have rounded up for you lovely people a nice collection of photographs of some of the original grindhouse movie theatres/cinemas located on 42nd Street, New York. These inner-city movie theatres originally showed burlesque shows, dating from 1931 with the opening of the first burlesque theatre on 42nd street called Minsky’s Republic (now called The New Victory), which featured the most famous burlesque performer of the day Gypsy Rose Lee. The Great Depression ushered in the greatest era for burlesque shows as few could afford the shows of Broadway theatres, and burlesque offered a cheaper alternative for the people who craved entertainment. This period saw a big growth in these theatres in the area. The term “grindhouse” originates from a film programming strategy from the early 1920’s known as the “grind policy” which offered continuous showings of films at low prices which rose in price over the course of each day. Theatres showing films that operated on grind policies attracted a lower class of audience and became notorious for showing disreputable types of films. Because of the proximity to the more respectable burlesque theatres nearby, which also included “bump n grind” style dancing from the performers, the term “grindhouse” was established. The name was also mentioned in the film Lady Of Burlesque made in 1943 and starring Barbara Stanwyck when a character refers to a burlesque show on 42nd street featuring bump and grind dancing as a “grindhouse”. From the late 1950’s until the late 1980’s, 42nd Street was also called “The Deuce”.

Another big factor in the creation of grindhouse cinema’s was the introduction of television, which had a major effect on the drive-in’s and single-screened movie theatres that were built during the cinema boom in the 1930’s. Most of these cinema’s were forced to close by the mid 60’s due to economic reasons. By this time grindhouse cinema’s and exploitation films had become integrated together, and were known for non-stop programs of B movies, usually consisting of double features played back to back. These films usually featured nudity and sex scenes, violence, gore, drug use and other taboos. The 1960’s and 1970’s also marked the golden age of the independent B-Movie, outside of the Hollywood system. Censorship pressures were lifted in the early 60’s, and by ’68 The Motion Picture Production Code was abolished.

The mid 1980’s, however, threatened the existence of grindhouse cinema’s due to the upsurge in home video and cable television, and by the early 1990’s the New York city government were forced into cleaning up the Times Square area of the city and closed down the grindhouse cinema’s. Since the mid 1990’s, 42nd Street has become a respectable area, mainly showing legitimate theatre and mainstream films. The area is now known as “New 42nd Street”.


42nd Street, New York in the early 1960’s

The Apollo Theatre (223 West 42nd Street, NY). Showing Loving Couples and Gate Of Flesh  circa 1964.

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The Rialto Theatre (1481 Broadway and 42nd Street, NY). Showing The Sexperts: Touched by Temptation and  Mme. Olga’s Massage Parlor circa 1965.


Harris Theatre (226 West 42nd Street, NY). Showing The Venetian Affair and Ride The High Wind  circa 1966.


The Victory Theatre (209 West 42nd Street, NY, and the first theatre to exhibit pornographic films). Showing The Notorious Daughter Of Fanny Hill and A Smell Of Honey, A Swallow Of Brine  circa 1966.


The Selwyn Theatre (229 West 42nd Street, NY). Showing The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Hammerhead in 1970.

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The Lyric Theatre (213 West 42nd Street, NY). Showing Maniac and Behind The Shutters in 1980.


Liberty Theatre (234 West 42nd Street, NY). Showing Cannibal Ferox aka Make Them Die Slowly and Demonoid: Messenger Of Death in 1981.


Empire Theatre (234 West, 42nd Street, NY). Showing A Fistful Of Talons and Kung Fu Zombie circa 1983.


ANCO Theatre (254 West 42nd Street, NY). Showing pornography. 1985.


Cine 42 Theatre (216 West 42nd street, NY). Signalling the death of the Grindhouse Cinema, 1993.

New York. 42nd street - Cine 42.1993


The Early Days of 42nd Street. Some photos of 42nd Street in the old days before the birth of the grindhouse theatre/cinema. The street held a special place in New Yorkers hearts at the turn of the century, and the area boasts some of New York’s best buildings including Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, United Nations and the Chrysler Building.


Broadway at 42nd Street, New York in 1898.


42nd Street in 1908. In the 1900’s the area showed legitimate theatre. The New Amsterdam Theatre was located at 214 West 42nd street, and was built in 1902-1903.

Broadway Advertising, 42nd St., New York City, ca. 1909

Broadway Advertising, 42nd Street, New York circa 1909.


42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. The street most associated with Times Square. Circa 1930’s.


Billy Minsky’s Burlesque Theatre at 209 West 42nd Street, NY. The home of American Burlesque. Started in 1912 and ended in 1937. Photo circa 1930’s


Times Square on 42nd Street circa 1940’s

New York City in 1955 (16)

Selwyn Theatre on 42nd Street, NY in 1955.

And 42nd Street today.


West 42nd Street, New York in 2014.


The New Victory Theatre on Times Square today.