The Bronx Opera House is a former theater, part of the Subway Circuit now converted into a boutique hotel in the Bronx, New York It was designed by George M. Keister and built in 1913 at 436 East 149th Street on the site of Frederick Schnaufer’s stable. It was one of several theaters to come into the area that became known as the Hub. It was formally dedicated on opening night Saturday August 30, 1913.
It had a capacity of 1,892 seats divided as follows: 799 orchestra (floor) seats, 537 balcony seats, 478 gallery seats and 78 box seats. The stage had a proscenium opening of 34×28 ft. and a 4 ft. apron. The theatre was equipped with 110 A.C. electricity and the backstage area featured 12 dressing rooms.
The building, its façade still standing today, has a 97 feet wide fronting on 149th street, between Bergen and Brooke Avenue and it runs back 205 feet to 148th street. A three story commercial building was on 149th street. That space, apart from the 25 foot lobby leading to the theater, was originally leased to William Gibson and Gustave Beiswenger as a restaurant, café and banquet hall on the first and second floor named the Bronx Opera House Restaurant, the third floor being used as lodge rooms.
Emphasis was put on fire safety. An area-way demanded by the Department of Public Safety ran from street to street on either side of the theatre, affording ample space for substantial steel stairways leading down from the emergency exits.
An automatic asbestos safety curtain fronted the entr’acte drop, which was decorated with a damask valance separated into three sections, fringed with galloons. The centre of each section was embroidered with an embossed wreath, giving them a rich effect, materially enhanced by a highlight gold border running the full width of the curtain.
At the time of its opening, the color scheme interior of the house was ivory, green and old gold. The decorations were in the Italian Renaissance style. The ornamental work on the ceiling and box fronts and columns was old gold. The ornamental plaster work had been treated with an ivory tint, stenciled to harmonized with the wall coverings which were of silk damask. The body of the silk damask wall decorations was of a light green pattern harmonizing in color. Draperies of the same character in heavy velvet, treated with gold, with ornate center wreath medallions, constituted the box decorations.
Three mural paintings were adorning the auditorium ceiling. These represented the Temple of Love, Love Accused Before Jove, and Repose and Laughter.
In the foyer and aisles were carpets of green, two shades darker than the wall coverings and draperies. A feature of the Bronx Opera House was the diffused lighting arrangements. The sunburst, or center ceiling light fixture, was five feet in diameter. The small lights of the auditorium were so arranged as to be concealed from the eye. The second balcony and main auditorium were equipped with the same indirect alba glass globes.
Ventilation was achieved by a system of tubing built in the walls and foundations leading to and connecting on the roof with a high-power electric fan that drove the cold air down under the concrete floor of the auditorium, into which it was filtered by way of innumerable colanders installed under seats, making it possible to keep the temperature of the interior “healthful”, no matter what conditions prevailed outside.
Performers included the Marx Brothers, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Julia Marlowe, Ethel Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore, David Warfield. Other performers at the theatre included George M. Cohan, Eddie Cantor, John Bunny, Harry Houdini, Peggy Wood and Fats Waller. Post-Broadway shows were often performed and the theater hosted the Aborn Opera Company.
The Bronx Opera House is often confused with the Percy G. Williams’ New Bronx Opera House built in 1909 and located at 567 Melrose Avenue (corner of 150th Street), later renamed the B.F. Keith’s Bronx Theatre, which was a different venue featuring vaudeville shows.
Development and construction (1911-1913)
George M. Cohan and Sam H. Harris had the idea of building a combination theater above the Harlem River probably as early as 1911 as they were actively looking for a site at the very beginning of 1912. The trade newspaper Variety was reporting at the time that the two sites considered were at 150th street and Westchester Avenue and the other at 163rd Street and Prospect Avenue.
Speculations were Cohan and Harris had secured a contract from Morgenthau-Hudson realty to build a 1,600 seats theatre for them at the 150th street location. Trouble occurred when it was announced on the front page of Variety on January 20, 1912 that the Shuberts were planning to build a legitimate house in the Bronx as well. New York theater managers generally felt that while the Bronx was a fertile field for one such theatre to show the Broadway attractions at reasonable prices (all of the other theaters in the neighborhood were vaudeville), two theaters of similar policy in that section would only mean that either would be fortunate to break even.
There were good reasons to worry. A bitter competition already existed between Cohan & Harris’ Grand Opera House at 8th Avenue and 23rd Street and the Shuberts’ Manhattan Opera House at 34th Street. Sam H. Harris attempt at negotiating a deal with Lee Shubert failed and Cohan & Harris promptly announced the following week they were walking out on the entire project.
Three months later however, in early May, Sam H. Harris confirmed to Variety they had secured a site on 149th Street just east of 3rd avenue to build a sister theater to their Manhattan Grand Opera House and that it would be in operation by November. Then on June 8, 1912 details of the project are officially announced. The name of the theater is The Bronx Opera House at 438 to 444 east 149th street, the lease secured from Frederick Schnaufer that same day. George M. Keister who designed the George M. Cohan Theater at Broadway and 43rd Street is the architect and he has the plans ready. Cohan & Harris via their Bronx 149th Street Realty Company have already leased the commercial space to Gibson and Beiswenger, who own the Criterion Restaurant at the corner of 3rd Avenue, for a cafe, restaurant and banquet hall on 149th street before construction has even begun.
Despite their clever maneuvering with the Shuberts, Cohan and Harris still end up facing competition in the Bronx. On August 29, John Cort announces the construction of the “Royal Theatre” in association with Frank Gersten. A combination house with a seating capacity of 2,500 located at Westchester, 3rd Avenue and 150th Street, a mere four block away from the Bronx Opera House that is to be completed by December 15.
This latest announcement revives the anxieties of theater managers in New York. When asked if he was interested in any new theaters in the city beyond the Harlem River, Harry Frazee was quoted by the New York Sun as saying he thanked the creator that he had no project underway in the Bronx.
September 9, 1912, the Daily Standard Union: Brooklyn announces Cramp & Co. has been awarded the construction contract for the Bronx Opera House, a fireproof building with exterior of brick, limestone and terra cotta requiring an expenditure of $250,000.
As construction gets quickly underway, a partnership is formed with A.H. Woods who came on board with an interest of one-third and an interest in management as well. There is little or no excavation to be done and the then estimated 2,500 seats house is expected to be ready by December. This partnership with A.H. Woods is perceived by many in the industry as a game changer. It is seen either as an attempt by the two firms to break free from the Syndicates or an attempt to become their own Syndicate altogether. Rumors are promptly denied by both parties.
It seems unlikely that the Bronx Opera House could have open in November or even December 1912 as announced, construction having started in September. Besides, it would have been odd to open a new theater in the middle of the theatrical season.
In the meantime, the development of its direct competitor, Cort and Gersten’s Royal Theatre, seems to be plagued with an unnatural number of problems. The first major blow comes in late February 1913 when the Building Department, fed up with the construction being pushed forward despite the numerous violations issued against the building, obtains a court order restraining the contractors from doing any further work until all said violations are cleared up. The most serious is said to be on the walls, which are not of the required thickness. Then two months later, the Shuberts and Klaw & Erlanger announce that they will play all their shows at the Bronx Opera House, shutting out the Royal Theatre. This must have been devastating news to Cort and Gersten. They had started building their theater with the expectation they would play the Shuberts and other shows, now they have to rely primarily on John Cort’s attractions. Despite all these hurdles, the Royal Theatre will finally open ten days after the Bronx Opera House on September 8, 1913.
The Bronx Opera House is officially dedicated on August 30, 1913 and opens with Eugene Walter’s play Fine Feathers
Manager: Richard Madden
Treasurer: Harry Cullen
Show times: Evening, 8:15 pm, matinees (Wed., Sat. & holidays), 2.15 pm
Ticket prices: twenty-five cents to a dollar with bargain matinees at twenty-five and fifty cents.
August 30, 1913: Opening night. Cohan, Harris and Woods’ plan to offer Broadway plays at popular prices north of 125th street seem to pay-off. The Bronx Opera House opens its doors to “an immense audience” with the H.H. Farzee’s production of Fine Feathers. It’s a scene long to be remembered as the crowd gathers around the entrance. Old Bronxites stand amazed as car after car whirls up to the curb and discharges its burden of fashion, wealth and beauty. It’s Broadway transferred uptown. Longacre Square at its busiest hour could not show a more fashionable or a more cultured assemblage. Long before opening time, the street is jammed with a good humored crowd.
Inside, George Cohan, Sam Harris, A.H. Woods and H.H. Frazee all attend the performance. There is also a delegation from the New York Friars’ Club in the audience, George Cohan being the Abbot of the organization at the time. Sam Harris is indefatigable and everywhere, acting as manager, usher and doorman. Max Figman, who plays in Fine Feathers, delivers an address presenting the theatre on behalf of the management and the address of acceptance on behalf of the people of the Bronx is made by Assemblyman Louis D. Gibbs during which he pays a tribute to the genius and enterprise who gave to the Borough one of the most beautiful theatres in the world.
Outside, the crowd gathering is such that the Police is called to clear the sidewalk and the street.
The play is a huge hit and at the end of the last act, the cast has to answer to no less than six curtain calls.
Fine Feathers concludes a successful nine days engagement and is replaced the following week by the de Koven Opera Company production of Robin Hood. Attendance for the second week shows no sign of slowing down, it is described as a “large audience”.
The above-mentioned shows had two things in common, they were long running commercial success and they both featured their original Broadway cast. In fact, in the case of Fine Feathers it was the same cast that not only staged the play for over a hundred shows at the Astor but also at the Cort in Chicago where it premiered the year before with the notable exception of the role of the maid. In other words, Cohan & Harris were playing it safe for their grand opening.
There is little doubt that the highlight of this first season was “Broadway Jones”, a comedy written, produced, directed and played by George M. Cohan in his own brand new theater in the Bronx. It was a vehicle for his farewell tour as an actor and both his parents were on stage with him. The play was due to open on Monday September 22 was postponed until the next day because Cohan wanted one more day for rehearsal.
The singer-actor, Fiske O’Hara, goes on the stage of the Bronx Opera House for the first time October 13, 1913 in “In Old Dublin”. He will invariably appear every season for the next ten years making him a staple of the theater.
Another memorable night would have been December 8, 1913 for the premiere of George Middleton’s The Prodigal Judge. The Bronx crowds were used to post-Broadway shows making their way to their borough, a new play making its debut in the Bronx was something else. That Monday night, every seat was occupied, even the boxes being filled with first-nighters.
This was the offering of the Bronx Opera House for the 1913-1914 season (not including Sunday afternoon’s vaudeville)
|08/30/1913||Fine Feathers||Eugene Walter||H.H. Frazee|
|09/08/1913||Robin Hood||Reginald De Koven||de Koven Opera Company|
|09/15/1913||Stop Thief||Carlyle Moore||Cohan & Harris|
|09/23/1913||Broadway Jones||George M. Cohan||Cohan & Harris|
|09/29/1913||The Ghost Breaker||Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard||Maurice Campbell|
|10/06/1913||Years of Discretion||Frederick Hatton and Fanny Locke Hatton||David Belasco|
|10/13/1913||In Old Dublin||Augustus Pitou, Sr.||Augustus Pitou, Jr.|
|10/20/1913||The Argyle Case||Harriet Ford and Harvey J. O’Higgins||Klaw & Erlanger|
|10/27/1913||The Master Mind||Daniel D. Carter||Louis F. Werba and Mark A. Luescher|
|11/03/1913||Widow by Proxy||Catherine Chisholm Cushing||Liebler & Co.|
|11/10/1913||Who’s Who?||Richard Harding Davis||Charles Frohman|
|11/17/1913||Spring Maid||Harry B. Smith and Robert B. Smith||Louis F. Werba and Mark A. Luescher|
|11/24/1913||The Inner Shrine||Channing Pollock||Arthur G. Delamater|
|12/01/1913||The Conspiracy||John Roberts||Charles Frohman|
|12/08/1913||The Prodigal Judge||George Middleton||Arthur G. Delamater|
|12/15/1913||The Old Homestead||Denman Thompson and George W. Ryer||Cohan & Harris|
|12/22/1913||Mutt and Jeff in Panama||Owen Davis and Will H. Cobb|
|12/29/1913||Maggie Pepper||Charles Klein||Henry B. Harris|
|01/05/1914||Primrose and Dockstader’s Twentieth Century Minstrels|
|01/12/1914||The Typhoon||Emil Nyitray and Byron Ongley||Walker Whiteside|
|01/19/1914||The Man Inside||Roland Burnham Molineux||David Belasco|
|01/26/1914||The Rainbow||A. E. Thomas||Henry Miller|
|02/02/1914||The Trail of the Lonesome Pine||Eugene Walter||Klaw & Erlanger|
|02/09/1914||The Fight||Bayard Veiller||Joseph M. Gaites|
|02/16/1914||The Grain of Dust||Louis Evan Shipman||James K. Hackett|
|02/23/1914||Damaged Goods||Eugene Brieux and James Warbasse||Richard Bennett and Wilton Lackaye, Jr.|
|03/02/1914||Shameen Dhu||Rida Johnson Young||Henry Miller|
|03/09/1914||Adele||Adolf Philipp and Edward A. Paulton||New Era Producing Co.|
|03/16/1914||The Madcap Duchess||David Stevens and Justin Huntly McCarthy||H. H. Frazee|
|03/23/1914||Nearly Married||Edgar Selwyn||Cohan & Harris|
|03/30/1914||The Strange Woman||William J. Hurlbut||Klaw & Erlanger|
|04/06/1914||The Midnight Girl||Paul Hervé||Adolf Philipp company|
|04/13/1914||Along Came Ruth||Holman Day||Henry W. Savage|
|04/20/1914||Madame X||Alexandre Bisson|
|04/27/1914||Everywoman (two weeks)||Walter Browne||Henry W. Savage|
In its November 7, 1914 edition, Variety estimates that “The Story of the Rosary” brought in $6,900 to the Bronx Opera House but that the theatre has had an average of 9 to $10,000 per week since the beginning of the season. Pretty good considering the 1914-1915 season showed an almost unbroken line of failures at the box office in the industry in general. Although poor performance is generally attributed to war uncertainties, the Bronx Opera House good numbers are most likely due to the elimination of the Royal Theatre. By mid January 1915 it is estimated to be the most profitable combination theater in New York with an average business of $8,000 a week. Potash and Perlmutter alone did an estimated $9,900 in one week and The Crinoline Girl $9,700.
A motion picture will be shown for the first time at the Bronx Opera House on December 14. A silent documentary titled Belgian War Scenes, it featured an actual battle in progress, shells bursting, men falling in the trenches and the care of the wounded.
John Barrymore is on stage April 19 for a week in Willard Mack’s Kick-In.
Offering for the 1914-1915 season:
|09/05/1914||To-Day||George Broadhurst||(Company A. cast)|
|09/14/1914||Peg O’ My Heart||J. Hartley Manners||Oliver Morosco|
|09/28/1914||Seven Keys to Baldpate||George M. Cohan||Cohan & Harris|
|10/12/1914||The Crinoline Girl||Otto Hauerbach||A. H. Woods|
|10/19/1914||Madam President||Jose G. Levy||Charles Frohman|
|10/26/1914||The Story of the Rosary||Walter Howard||Comstock & Gest|
|11/02/1914||The Dummy||Harvey J. O’Higgins and Harriet Ford||Play-Producing Co.|
|11/09/1914||The Things That Count||Laurence Eyre||William A. Brady|
|11/16/1914||Within the Law||Bayard Veiller||Selwyn and Company|
|11/23/1914||Too Many Cooks||Frank Craven||William A. Brady|
|11/30/1914||The Midnight Girl||Paul Hervé|
|12/07/1914||The Third Party||Mark Swan||F. Ray Comstock|
|12/14/1914||Belgian war scenes, motion pictures||Edwin F. Weigle (Director)||The Popular Motion Picture Co.|
|12/25/1914||The Miracle Man||George M. Cohan||Cohan & Harris|
|12/28/1914||Sari||Emmerich Kálmán||Henry W. Savage|
|01/04/1915||Potash and Perlmutter||Montague Glass and Charles Klein||A. H. Woods|
|01/11/1915||Heart of Paddy Whack||Rachel Crothers||Henry Miller|
|01/18/1915||The High Cost of Loving||Frank Mandel||A. H. Woods|
|01/25/1915||Innocent||George Broadhurst||A. H. Woods|
|02/01/1915||So Much for So Much||Willard Mack||H. H. Frazee|
|02/08/1915||The Belle of Bond Street||Harold Atteridge and Owen Hall||Lee & J.J. Shubert|
|02/15/1915||The Misleading Lady||Charles W. Goddard and Paul Dickey||William H. Harris, Jr.|
|03/01/1915||Seven Keys to Baldpate||George M. Cohan||Cohan & Harris|
|03/08/1915||A Pair of Sixes||Edward Peple||H. H. Frazee|
|03/15/1915||Bunny in Funnyland||John Bunny|
|03/22/1915||The Beauty Shop||Channing Pollock||Cohan & Harris|
|03/29/1915||The Bird of Paradise||Richard Walton Tully||Oliver Morosco|
|04/05/1915||Jack’s Romance||Augustus Pitou, Sr.||Augustus Pitou, Jr.|
|04/12/1915||The Prince of Pilsen||Gustav Luders|
|04/19/1915||Kick-In||Willard Mack||A. H. Woods|
|04/26/1915||A Mix Up||Parker A. Hord||Lee & J.J. Shubert|
Manager: J. J. Rosenthal
Show times: Evening, 8:15 pm, matinees (Wed., Sat. & holidays), 2.15 pm
Ticket prices: twenty-five cents to a dollar with bargain matinees at twenty-five and fifty cents.
A young Richard Dix was on the stage of the Bronx Opera House on December 7 for a one-week engagement of The Hawk.
D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation was shown for two weeks accompanied by a thirty pieces orchestra. It was scheduled for an encore presentation on May 1, 1916 but was cancelled to make room for The House of Glass.
On June 7, during the six weeks engagement of the Aborn Opera Company, Beppo, a donkey who was appearing on stage in Pagliacci was tied by its keeper to a car parked in front of the theater. The Aborn Company was putting on Cavalleria Rusticana after Pagliacci and the keeper whose sympathies were divided between mules and music thought to slip back in the theater and hear an aria or two. When the keeper came out, the red car was gone and so was Beppo the donkey, a ten years veteran of the stage.
|08/28/1915||The Yellow Ticket||Michael Morton||A. H. Woods|
|09/06/1915||Twin Beds||Salisbury Field and Margaret Mayo||William H. Harris, Jr.|
|09/13/1915||On Trial||Elmer L. Rice||Cohan & Harris|
|09/20/1915||It Pays to Advertise||Roi Cooper Megrue and Walter Hackett||Cohan & Harris|
|09/27/1915||Under Cover||Roi Cooper Megrue||Selwyn & Co.|
|10/04/1915||A Full House||Fred Jackson||H. H. Frazee|
|10/11/1915||Kick In||Willard Mack||A. H. Woods|
|10/18/1915||Song of Songs||Edward Sheldon||A. H. Woods|
|10/25/1915||High Jinks||Otto Hauerbach||Arthur Hammerstein|
|11/15/1915||The Bubble||Edward Locke||Lee & J.J. Shubert|
|11/22/1915||Cousin Lucy (Two Weeks)||Charles Klein||A. H. Woods|
|12/07/1915||The Hawk||Francis De Croisset|
|12/18/1915||The Birth of a Nation||D. W. Griffith||D. W. Griffith|
|12/27/1915||Young America||Fred Ballard||Cohan & Harris|
|01/03/1916||The Road to Happiness||Lawrence Whitman||Lee Shubert|
|01/17/1916||Marie Odile||Edward Knoblauch||David Belasco|
|01/24/1916||Beverly’s Balance||Paul Kester|
|02/07/1916||Experience||George V. Hobart||William Elliott|
|02/14/1916||The Girl Who Smiles||Paul Hervé & Jean Briquet|
|02/21/1916||The New Henrietta||Bronson Howard||Klaw & Erlanger|
|02/28/1916||Some Baby||Zellah Covington and Jules Simonson|
|03/13/1916||Daddy Long Legs||Jean Webster||Henry Miller|
|03/20/1916||Kilkenny||Augustus Pitou, Sr.||Augustus Pitou, Jr.|
|04/17/1916||Potash and Perlmutter in Society||Montague Glass||A. H. Woods|
|04/24/1916||The Lie||Margaret Illington|
|05/01/1916||The House of Glass||Max Marcin||Cohan & Harris|
|05/08/1916||Madama Butterfly (in English)||Giacomo Puccini||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/11/1916||Martha (in English)||Friedrich von Flotow||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/12/1916||Hansel and Gretel (in English, just one matinee)||Engelbert Humperdinck||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/15/1916||Aida (in English)||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/18/1916||Il Trovatore (in English)||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/22/1916||Carmen (in English)||Georges Bizet||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/25/1916||The Tales of Hoffman (in English)||Jacques Offenbach||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/26/1916||Hansel and Gretel (in English, one matinee)||Engelbert Humperdinck||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/29/1916||Lucia di Lammermoor (in English)||Gaetano Donizetti||The Aborn Opera Company|
|06/01/1916||Rigoletto||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
|06/05/1916||Pagliacci & Cavalleria Rusticana||Leoncavallo & Mascagni||The Aborn Opera Company|
|06/08/1916||Faust||Charles Gounod||The Aborn Opera Company|
|06/12/1916||The Bohemian Girl||Alfred Bunn & Michael William Balfe||The Aborn Opera Company|
Common Clay breaks the house record on September 4 (Labor Day) drawing $9,697.
John Barrymore is back on the stage of the Bronx Opera House September 26 in John Galsworthy’s Justice
Julian Eltinge returns to the Bronx Opera House on Christmas Day with Cousin Lucy, a show so successful the previous season, it had been extended a second week. The cast remains the same but this 1916 production of the show features new songs, new music and new costumes, “those who saw it before will have to rub their eyes to make sure they are not really looking at a new production”.
Offering for the 1916-1917 season:
|09/02/1916||Common Clay||Cleves Kinkead||A. H. Woods|
|09/18/1916||Broadway and Buttermilk||Willard Mack & Charles Grant||Frederic McKay|
|09/26/1916||Justice||John Galsworthy||Corey-Williams-Riter, Inc.|
|10/02/1916||Hobson’s Choice||Harold Brlghthouse||F. Ray Comstock|
|10/09/1916||The Fear Market||Amélie Rives||Harrison Grey Fiske and George Mooser|
|10/23/1916||Very Good Eddie||Philip Martholomae||Marbury-Comstock Co.|
|11/06/1916||Just a Woman||Eugene Walter||Lee & J.J. Shubert|
|11/27/1916||His Bridal Night (two weeks)||Lawrence Rising||A. H. Woods|
|12/11/1916||Erstwhile Susan||Marian De Forest||Corey-Williams-Riter, Inc.|
|12/25/1916||Cousin Lucy||Charles Klein||A. H. Woods|
|01/01/1917||Fair and Warmer||Avery Hopwood||Selwyn & Co.|
|01/08/1917||The Flame||Richard Walton Tully||Richard Walton Tully|
|01/22/1917||His Heart’s Desire||Anna Nichols & Adelaide Matthews||Augustus Pitou Jr.|
|01/29/1917||His Majesty Bunker Bean||Lee Wilson Dodd||Joseph Brooks|
|02/05/1917||Good Gracious Annabelle||Clare Kummer||Arthur Hopkins|
|02/12/1917||Watch your Step||Irving Berlin||Charles Dillingham|
|02/19/1917||Pollyanna||Catherine Chisholm Cushing||Klaw & Erlanger|
|02/26/1917||The Heart of Paddy Whack||Ernest R. Ball||Henry Miller|
|03/05/1917||Alone at Last||Franz Lehár||Lee & J.J. Shubert|
|03/12/1917||Captain Kidd, Jr.||Rida Johnson Young||Cohan & Harris|
|03/19/1917||So Long Letty||Earl Carroll||Oliver Morosco|
|03/26/1917||Pom Pom||Hugo Felix||Henry W. Savage|
|04/09/1917||The Great Lover||Leo Ditrichstein, Frederic Hatton and Fanny Hatton||Cohan & Harris|
|04/16/1917||The Great Divide||William Vaughn Moody||Henry Miller|
|04/23/1917||Little Lady in Blue||Horace Hodges & T. Wigney Percyval||David Belasco|
|04/30/1917||The Princess Pat||Victor Herbert||John Cort|
|05/07/1917||Madama Butterfly||Giacomo Puccini||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/10/1917||La Boheme||Giacomo Puccini||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/28/1917||The Blue Paradise||Edmund Eysler & Sigmund Romberg||The Aborn Opera Company|
|06/04/1917||The Chocolate Soldier||Oscar Straus||The Aborn Opera Company|
Manager J.J. Rosenthal fires the first gun of the theatrical season by giving a monster patriotic benefit August 19, 1917. The theatre has been redecorated and with the Golden Lobby of fame looking more attractive than ever, is ready to receive Emma Dunn in Old Lady 31, Saturday, August 25 as the opening attraction of the regular season.
John and Lionel Barrymore are on stage November 19 in John Raphael’s play Peter Ibbetson.
The third mini-season of the Aborn Opera Company does not fare as well as the previous two. The contract’s terms were the same: booked for three weeks with more time optional. However returns were not found satisfactory and their engagement ended after only two weeks.
Offering for the 1917-1918 season:
|08/11/1917||My Irish Cinderella||Cecil Spooner|
|08/25/1917||Old Lady 31||Rachel Crothers||Lee Kugel|
|09/03/1917||Cheating Cheaters||Max Marcin||A. H. Woods|
|09/10/1917||The Knife||Eugene Walter||Lee & J.J. Shubert|
|09/17/1917||The Brat||Maude Fulton||Oliver Morosco|
|09/24/1917||Lilac Time||Jane Cowl||Selwyn & Co.|
|10/01/1917||Molly Dear||Cecil B. DeMille||Andrew Mack|
|10/15/1917||Her Soldier Boy||Sigmund Romberg & Emmerich Kalman||Lee & J.J. Shubert|
|10/22/1917||The Inner Man||Abraham Schomer||Lee & J.J. Shubert|
|10/29/1917||Upstairs and Down||Frederic Hatton and Fanny Hatton||Oliver Morosco|
|11/05/1917||Chin Chin||Anne Caldwell & R.H. Burnside||Charles Dillingham|
|11/12/1917||Mary’s Ankle||May Tully||A. H. Woods|
|11/19/1917||Peter Ibbetson||John N. Raphael||Lee & J.J. Shubert|
|11/26/1917||The Man Who Came Back (two weeks)||Jules Eckert Goodman||William A. Brady|
|12/10/1917||The Thirteenth Chair||Bayard Veiller||William Harris, Sr. & William H. Harris, Jr.|
|12/17/1917||The Very Idea||William Le Baron||G. M. Anderson & L. Lawrence Weber|
|12/24/1917||Leave it to Jane||Book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse; Music by Jerome Kern||Elliott, Comstock, Gest|
|12/31/1917||Daybreak||Jane Cowl||Selwyn & Co.|
|01/07/1918||Once Upon a Time||Rachel Crothers||Cohan & Harris|
|01/14/1918||Pollyanna||Catherine Chisholm Cushing||Klaw & Erlanger|
|01/21/1918||The Man from Wicklow||Anne Nichols||Augustus Pitou, Jr.|
|01/28/1918||De Luxe Annie||Edward Clark||Arthur Hammerstein|
|02/25/1918||The Country Cousin||Booth Tarkington & Julian Street||Klaw & Erlanger|
|03/04/1918||What’s Your Husband Doing?||George V. Hobart||Hobart-Jordan Co.|
|03/11/1918||The Boomerang||Winchell Smith & Victor Mapes||David Belasco|
|03/18/1918||Nothing but the Truth||James Montgomery||H. H. Frazee|
|04/01/1918||The Madonna of the Future||Alan Dale||Oliver Morosco|
|05/20/1918||Aida||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/21/1918||Pagliacci & Cavalleria Rusticana||Leoncavallo & Mascagni||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/22/1918||Aida (Matine)||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/22/1918||Lucia di Lammermoor (Evening)||Gaetano Donizetti||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/23/1918||La Gioconda||Amilcare Ponchielli||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/24/1918||Rigoletto (evening)||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/25/1918||Lucia di Lammermoor (Matine)||Gaetano Donizetti||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/25/1918||Il Trovatore (Evening)||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/27/1918||Pagliacci & Cavalleria Rusticana||Leoncavallo & Mascagni||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/28/1918||La Gioconda||Amilcare Ponchielli||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/29/1918||Il Trovatore (Matine)||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/29/1918||Rigoletto (evening)||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/30/1918||The Barber of Seville||Gioachino Rossini||The Aborn Opera Company|
|05/31/1918||La Traviata||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
|06/01/1918||Faust (Matine)||Charles Gounod||The Aborn Opera Company|
|06/01/1918||Aida (Evening)||Giuseppe Verdi||The Aborn Opera Company|
Manager: J.J. Rosenthal (Until December), Mike Selwyn (January through June)
Treasurer: Maurice Louis Silverstein
Doorman: August L. Heckler
The Bronx Opera House starts to experiment with ticket price increases. “Going Up” opens March 17 to a new scale of matinees: 25 cents to 75 cents; evenings: 25 cents to $1.50.
Offering for the 1918-1919 season:
|9/2/1918||The Little Teacher||Harry James Smith||Cohan & Harris|
|9/9/1918||Eyes of Youth||Max Marcin & Charles Guernon||A.H. Woods & Lee and J.J. Shubert|
|9/16/1918||Oh Boy!||Book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse; Music by Jerome Kern||William Elliott and F. Ray Comstock|
|9/23/1918||The Man Who Stayed at Home||Lechmere Worrall and J. E. Harold Terry||William Moore Patach|
|9/30/1918||Turn to the Right||Winchell Smith and John E. Hazzard||Winchell Smith|
|10/7/1918||Seventeen||Hugh Stanislaus Stange and Stannard Mears||Stuart Walker|
|10/14/1918||Nancy Lee||Eugene Walter and H. Crownin Wilson||The Estate of Henry B. Harris|
|10/21/1918||Parlor, Bedroom and Bath||C. W. Bell and Mark Swan||A.H. Woods|
|10/28/1918||Tiger Rose||Willard Mack||David Belasco|
|11/11/1918||Eyes of Youth||Max Marcin & Charles Guernon||A.H. Woods & Lee and J.J. Shubert|
|11/18/1918||Getting Together||Ian Hay, J. Hartley Manners and Percival Knight||British-Canadian Recruiting Mission and U.S. Military and Naval Forces|
|11/25/1918||The Copperhead||Augustus Thomas||John D. Williams|
|12/2/1918||The Wanderer||Maurice V. Samuels||William Elliott, F. Ray Comstock and Morris Gest|
|12/23/1918||The Man Who Came Back||Jules Eckert Goodman||William A. Brady|
|12/30/1918||The Auctioneer||Charles Klein and Lee Arthur||David Belasco David Warfield|
|1/13/1919||Marry in Haste||Anna Nichols||Augustus Pitou|
|1/20/1919||Maytime||Book by Rida Johnson Young; Music by Sigmund Romberg||Lee & JJ Shubert|
|1/27/1919||Seven Days’ Leave||Walter Howard|
|2/3/1919||Polly With a Past||George Middleton and Guy Bolton||David Belasco|
|2/10/1919||Business Before Pleasure (Two Weeks)||Montague Glass and Jules Eckert Goodman||A. H. Woods|
|3/10/1919||Flo-Flo||Book by Fred De Gresac; Music by Silvio Hein; Lyrics by Edward Paulton and Fred De Gresac||John Cort|
|3/17/1919||Going Up||Book by Otto Hauerbach; Music by Louis A. Hirsch||Cohan & Harris|
|3/24/1919||A Tailor-Made Man||Harry James Smith||Cohan & Harris|
|3/31/1919||Lombardi, Ltd.||Frederic Hatton and Fanny Hatton||Oliver Morosco|
|4/7/1919||The Little Brother||Milton Goldsmith and Benedict James||Walter Hast|
|4/14/1919||Tiger Rose||Willard Mack||David Belasco|
|4/21/1919||Maytime||Book by Rida Johnson Young; Music by Sigmund Romberg||Lee & JJ Shubert|
|4/30/1919||The Merchant of Venice||William Shakespeare|
|5/1/1919||King Lear||William Shakespeare|
|5/3/1919||Richard III||William Shakespeare|
|5/5/1919||The Crowded Hour||Edgar Selwyn and Channing Pollock||Selwyn & Co.|
|5/12/1919||The Voice of McConnell||George M. Cohan||Cohan & Harris|
|5/19/1919||Tiger! Tiger!||Edward Knoblauch||David Belasco|
|5/26/1919||Remnant||Dario Niccodemi and Michael Morton||Charles Emerson Cook|
|6/2/1919||So Long Letty||Book by Oliver Morosco and Elmer Harris; Music & Lyrics by Earl Carroll||Oliver Morosco|
At the start of the season, the Riviera at 97th street (also part of the Subway Circuit) raise its top prices from $1 to $1.50, the Bronx Opera House quickly follows. This is the first permanent increase in ticket prices in 6 years but an expected one. Times Square theatres have titled their price scale to $2.50 and in some instances when the show is a hit, up to $3.50. Prices won’t remain at $1.50 for long. October sees record Box Office numbers due higher prices. By the end of November 1919, Subway Circuit theaters are already considering raising their ticket prices to $2. The Riviera will again take the lead and make the price hike effective December 22.
When it opened the opera house was considered the best theatre in Bronx borough. It had two separate balconies and a large crystal chandelier in the center of the ceiling. Performances included vaudeville and plays.
By the 1940s was converted to a late-run movie house, shuttering of the upper balcony reduced seating to 1,400, and it became known simply as Bronx Theatre. The theatre lost its license in 1943 after the rape of a 17-year-old worker. Chief Assistant District Attorney Sylvester Ryan said “the theatre as a rendezvous for degenerates and thugs.” Eight youths were sentenced to reformatory for the crime. The theatre flourished during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as a Latin music dance club operating as Bronx Casino, Club Caravana and El Cerromar. In the 1980s it was purchased by a pentecostal church. Charlie Palmieri recorded Pachanga at the Caravana Club on site in 1961.
Visits to the theatre are noted in the book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years.
Rebirth as the Opera House Hotel
Renovation plans to relaunch it as a performing art center developed in the 1980s but did not proceed. By 2004 the run down auditorium was part of a Spanish evangelical church. The church had moved out before the end of the decade. The auditorium has not survived.
New construction began to convert part of the building into a boutique hotel. Those plans continued to develop in 2012. According to developer Jay Domb, performers at the theater included Harry Houdini and The Marx Brothers “got their vaudeville start here”. Domb plans to decorate the hotel with relics and prints of artifacts from the theatre.
The hotel opened in August 2013 and is one of eight hotel properties owned and operated by the Empire Hotel Group. The hotel is the first of several boutique hotels which have opened or are being constructed in the Bronx.
In the summer of 2015 the hotel’s water cooling tower was suspected in several cases of Legionnaires’ disease that occurred across several buildings in the area.
Was opened as Keith’s Bronx Theatre
…and was later renamed. Dispelled by Bill Twomey in his book “The Bronx, in Bits and Pieces”, this myth originated in the “Directory of Historic American Theatres”published in 1987 then quoted in “The Papers of Will Rogers: From Vaudeville to Broadway” published in 2001. The Keith and the Opera House were not only at different locations but theaters of different policies. The Keith was vaudeville, the Opera House, legitimate combination. It makes the claim that the Marx Brothers, George Burns and Gracie Allen played on the stage of the Bronx Opera House dubious.
Wasn’t really an opera house
Found in Michael Seth Starr’s book, Bobby Darin: A Life, it should be placed in the historical context of the late 1940s early 1950s when the Bronx Opera House was no longer an Opera House but a movie theater. The Bronx Opera House not only featured comic opera as early as September 1913 but a substantial opera lineup during its 3rd, 4th and 5th season with the Aborn Opera Company.