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1560 Broadway (bet. 46th and 47th Streets), Embassy Theater, reconsideration of an application for modification and restoration

At the scheduled monthly meeting of Community Board Five on Thursday, October 10, 2013, the Board passed the following resolution by a vote of 38 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, At the scheduled monthly meeting of Community Board Five on Thursday, July 11, 2013, the Board passed the following resolution by a vote of 38 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, The owners of 1560 Broadway (bet. 46th and 47th Streets), have filed an application with LPC for modification and restoration of portions of the Embassy Theater, an Interior Landmark, Designated November 17, 1987, located on the first floor of the building; and

WHEREAS, The Embassy Theatre, located on the East side of Broadway in Times Square, was an experiment by Loew's, Inc., which conceived an elegant and intimate 556-seat theatre that would attract an exclusive high-society audience; and

WHEREAS, The Theater was designed by Thomas W. Lamb, a prominent architect and designer of over 300 theaters and movie palaces in  20th Century United States,  as well as the Landmarked Paramount Hotel, also in CB5; and

WHEREAS, The Theater was decorated by the Rambusch Studio, an outstanding NYC design and lighting company and the ornate French-inspired interior featured elaborate plasterwork and murals by the Canadian painter, Arthur Crisp; and

WHEREAS, Furthering its salon-like appeal, the Embassy was the first movie house on Broadway to employ a woman manager, the heiress Gloria Gould, and it had the distinction of being operated almost exclusively by women; and

WHEREAS, Beginning with its gala opening on August 26, 1925, the Embassy was a reserved-seat showcase for some of the major MGM releases; and

WHEREAS, After four years, Loew's took over the nearby Mayfair and Criterion theatres, and the Embassy was acquired by Guild Enterprises on November 1, 1929; and

WHEREAS, The Embassy reopened as the first theater in the United States to have an all-newsreel format; and

WHEREAS, In 1949, when the appeal of old-style theatrical newsreels and screen magazines waned with the onset of television news, and with its small audience shrinking, the Embassy once again became a first-run movie theatre, showing feature films from Hollywood and the occasional foreign film; and

WHEREAS, After the Embassy closed in 1997, the theatre was renovated and reopened in 1998 as the Times Square Visitors Center with most of its interior features still intact; and

WHEREAS, The current owners propose major changes to this remarkable space to capitalize on the potential for retail leasing in the lower level of the building, including an intrusive escalator in the outer lobby to provide access to the basement, and reconfiguring the inner lobby and rear wall of the theater; and

WHEREAS, While some of the proposed modifications and renovations are not deemed objectionable, the overall effect of the plan would significantly alter the character of the landmarked interior and is not deemed warranted when there are alternative, undesignated locations in the building for providing basement access; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends denial of the application for 1560 Broadway (bet. 46th and 47th Streets), for modification and restoration of the Embassy Theater; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant, after taking into consideration CB5's concerns, decided to postpone its LPC Hearing and change its Application in two significant ways:

1.      To move the proposed new escalators leading to the basement level toward the front of the building, to place them in only a portion of the Landmark vestibule and to move the lobby doors toward the front of the entry to the theater;

2.      To level the floor of the theater proper to eliminate the rake effect except for the perimeter of the theater where it is now planning to do extensive renovations to the murals and other wall decorations that it did not recite in the earlier Application; and

WHEREAS, The proposed escalators are intended to improve basement access and the leveling of the theater floor is intended similarly for enhanced economic value for leasing purposes; and

WHEREAS, CB5 still finds the escalator installation intrusive and inappropriate to this Interior Landmark when suitable space for an escalator is available in the adjacent retail space which is not designated; and

WHEREAS, CB5 appreciates the benefits of the restoration program proposed by the Applicant and encourages it to be initiated; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends denial of the application for modification and restoration of the interior landmark at 1560 Broadway which is deemed inappropriate to the designated interior.

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