December 4, 2008

All Seats 35 Cents!

Seventy-seven years ago today, on December 4, in 1931, Frankenstein premiered in New York at the Mayfair Theater. Pictured above is the original newspaper ad that ran on this day in The New York Daily News. The Monster’s image is based on the alternate, unused makeup with curious, stapled folds in the forehead.

The Mayfair originally opened as the Columbia, a Burlesque house, in 1910. The famous theater architect Thomas W. Lamb gave it an Art Deco makeover in 1930, when it became the RKO Mayfair, showing movies. In its heyday, sitting at Broadway and 47th, the building often carried a giant billboard poster, several stories high, that wrapped all the way around the corner.

It was called the DeMille in the Sixties, playing super-large screen 70MM and Todd-A-O blockbusters, its last hurrah before being chopped up and repurposed as the Embassy, a multiplex.

Abandoned and boarded up since 1998, the theater was demolished in 2007. It was the last of the old Times Square movie palaces to go.

Frankenstein Premieres
The Selling of Frankenstein


Anonymous said...

A "mechanical brain"?

David said...

It's nice to finally see a photo of what the Mayfair looked like--I wonder if they had a huge billboard display for FRANKENSTEIN?
Nice mini-history.

rob! said...

what a billboard! Jane Russell's boobs are huge--i mean even more so.

Pierre Fournier said...

Anon: Early advertising played up the mechanical aspect of The Monster. The "Frankenstein Premieres" link has a poster showing The Monster with what appears to be riveted metal arms.

David: No idea if they were using giant billboards back in 1931.

Rob: It's an underwater shot. Makes everything look bigger!

Karswell said...

God, what a sweet billboard... don't you wonder where that art is right now?

Pierre Fournier said...

I bet that billboard is landfill.

As a young man in the late 30s, my dad worked for a theater display company. Programs changed twice a week, and the crew would go around working overnight, setting up elaborate displays using giant painted masonite posters, drapes, lights, props. When a show closed, everything was broken up and thrown away. My Mom recalled making a dress out of some discarded velour drapes.