Theatre Republic, Belasco Theatre, Minsky's Burlesque, Victory Theater
The New Victory Theater in 2019
|Address||209 W. 42nd Street|
New York City
|Owner||City and State of New York|
|Operator||New 42nd Street|
|Opened||September 27, 1900|
|Reopened||December 11, 1995|
|New 42nd Street|
The New Victory Theater is an off-Broadway theater located at 209 West 42nd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues, in Midtown Manhattan. The New Victory presents work for children and family audiences year-round, programming a full season of theater, dance, puppetry, circus, opera, physical theater and other types of performance art from around the world. In 2012, The New Victory Theater received a special Drama Desk Award for "providing enchanting, sophisticated theater that appeals to the child in all of us, and for nurturing a love of theater in young people."
Built by Oscar Hammerstein I in 1900 and designed by architect Albert Westover, the theater opened as the Theatre Republic  on September 27, 1900, with Lionel Barrymore in James Herne's play Sag Harbor. It was the third theater built on West 42nd Street. Inside the theater, the elaborately decorated interior was crowned with a large dome that featured lyre-playing cherubs (or putti in Italian) perched on its rim. All of the original putti and one lyre still remain today.
Two years later the house was leased by David Belasco, who renamed it the Belasco Theatre and made major renovations to both the house and the stage, which included wrought-iron stanchions with carved bees to the end of each row-- an homage to his first initial "B". Belasco produced a series of plays at the theater starring Mrs. Leslie Carter, George Arliss, Mary Pickford, and Lillian Gish.
In 1910 the name became Republic Theatre when Belasco renamed his Stuyvesant Theatre on West 44th Street for himself. The Republic's most famous tenant during this time was the play Abie's Irish Rose, which ran for 2,327 performances between 1922 and 1927.
Billy Minsky converted the Republic into Broadway's first burlesque house in 1931, calling it Minsky's Burlesque. It remained as such until 1941. Minsky built a double runway down the middle of the auditorium for his strippers, the most famous of whom was Gypsy Rose Lee.
In 1942, it became a movie theater called The Victory, named to support the war effort during World War II. In 1972, as the neighborhood gradually declined, it became the first theater on 42nd Street to exhibit XXX pornographic films. In the early 1990s, the Victory returned to legitimate theater, using its stage space as a venue for offering plays by non-profit companies. It presented the En Garde Arts company's production of the play Crowbar in 1990 and in 1991 the Theater for a New Audience offered Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, followed by other productions.
In 1990, New York City, together with the State of New York, jointly took possession of the Victory. In 1992, it was one of seven 42nd Street theaters to fall under the auspices of New 42nd Street, a non-profit corporation set up to oversee the redevelopment of these historic theaters and operate three projects: The New Victory Theater, The New 42nd Street Studios and The Duke on 42nd Street.
The Victory was the first theater to be restored in an effort to revitalize 42nd Street and Times Square by The New 42nd Street organization. Between 1994 and 1995 it underwent an $11.4 million renovation headed by the architectural firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates. The restoration included rebuilding the original exterior double staircase that had been removed in 1911 for the widening of West 42nd Street, and returning the rest of the theater to much the way it looked during the Belasco era.
On December 11, 1995, the refurbished theater, renamed The New Victory Theater, opened as New York's first and only off-Broadway theater for kids and families. Upon its reopening, it became once more the oldest operating theater in New York City. The 499-seat theater presents up to 16 productions each year.
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Before The New 42nd Street, Inc. took over the theater's lease in the early 1990s, several films were shot at the Victory Theater. In Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, the scene where Robert De Niro takes Cybill Shepherd to the movies was shot there. The scene's exterior shot shows them entering the former Lyric Theatre, which was next door. Scenes in Woody Allen's 1993 film Manhattan Murder Mystery were also filmed there. Toward the end of the movie, Diane Keaton's character is held hostage in the Victory's dressing rooms and the finale of the film was shot on the stage.
The exterior of the New Victory Theater is shown in the 1998 film The Siege, when a bomb is detonated inside the theater by terrorists.
For the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey were filmed outside the theater, on the staircase and on the main floor of the auditorium. These scenes were cut from the film but are included as deleted scenes on the DVD. An episode of Sex and the City filmed scenes in the theater.
The façade of The New Victory Theater is in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV. During the sequence in "Liberty City's" fictionalized 42nd Street/Times Square, the theater is featured. In the game, the theater is called the Liberteen and presents shows like Banging Trash Can Lids for an Hour.