December 24, 2013

Photo Essay: A Hidden Theater in the Heart of Times Square (Closed to Public As of 2014)

[Update: This location permanently closed in 2014.]

"I can't believe I didn't know this place was here," said my friend Michelle - who, having moved to New York City a year after I did, has now been an NYC resident longer than I ever was.

And even though The Embassy Theater reopened as the Times Square Museum & Visitors Center in 1998 (the year after my arrival), I'd never heard of it either.

That is, until I was planning my trip back to NYC for the holidays.

I'd been looking for some new places that had opened since I'd moved, and I'd been remembering some places I never made it (despite my best intentions). I didn't expect to find a place like this: not new in New York, only new to me.

Wedged into a small lot on Broadway's east side - alongside Times Square's northern triangle known as Duffy Square, across from the TKTS booth and next to McDonald's - hangs an LED marquee for the Times Square Visitor's Center.

It's an attraction seemingly only for tourists, avoided at all costs by locals.

But when you walk under the marquee through the outer lobby / entry corridor, past blaring and flickering purple LED curtains... begin to experience the glory and opulence of what was once The Embassy Theater from 1925: an exclusive, high society movie theater owned by MGM and designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb. Four years later, it became the first newsreel theater in the U.S., and was designated an interior landmark in 1987.

In 1997, it closed its doors as a theater and to undergo renovations for the visitors center.

 The interior lobby brings you past many original decorative elements, including marble trim, carved wooden doors and panels with mirrored accents...

...and brass doors with stained glass exit signs.

Inside... see more chandeliers...

...hanging from an embellished ceiling.

Similar plasterwork flanks the small stage.

The auditorium is quite small - the theater itself being somewhat of a miniature - but its dimensions are pretty much preserved from its original configuration (despite nearly 600 seats being removed).

In side alcoves, there are various interpretive displays about the history of Times Square, including the original Peep O-Rama sign...

...a history of Broadway...

...and a Wishing Wall, where people post their hopes and dreams...

...written on slips of confetti...

...that will be dropped with the ball in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

The museum also displays one of those such balls:

...the "Centennial Ball" from 2007, made of Waterford Crystal triangles lit by 9576 Philips Luxeon LEDs... commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the ball-dropping ceremony. The following year, it was replaced by the ball that currently descends at midnight, which is housed permanently atop One Times Square.

I've never done Times Square on New Year's. Fighting the drunken crowd on the street never seemed like very much fun to me. But this year, I wrote a wish on a piece of confetti that will drop down upon Times Square as the ball is lowered, even though I myself won't be there. 

Maybe someone will see my one little piece in the ton of confetti that will be released. Maybe someone will read it. Maybe someone will keep it.

Maybe my wish will come true...

Thanks to ScoutingNY for the tip!

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