Bronx Opera House

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The Bronx Opera House
Bronx Opera House 2013.jpg
The Opera House Hotel, still under construction at the end of May 2013
General information
TypeBoutique Hotel (opened August 11, 2013)[2]
Location436 E 149th St
Bronx, NY 10455
United States
Coordinates40°48′54″N 73°54′58″W / 40.8151°N 73.9161°W / 40.8151; -73.9161Coordinates: 40°48′54″N 73°54′58″W / 40.8151°N 73.9161°W / 40.8151; -73.9161
Construction startedSeptember 1912
CompletedAugust 1913
OpeningAugust 30, 1913
Design and construction
ArchitectGeorge M. Keister
Main contractorCramp & Co.

The Bronx Opera House is a former theater, part of the Subway Circuit, now converted into a boutique hotel in the Bronx, New York[3] 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.[4] It was formally dedicated on opening night Saturday, August 30, 1913.[1]

Performers included the Marx Brothers, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Julia Marlowe, Ethel Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore, David Warfield.[4][5] Other performers at the theatre included George M. Cohan, Eddie Cantor, John Bunny, Harry Houdini, Peggy Wood[6] and Fats Waller.[7] Post-Broadway shows were often performed and the theater hosted the Aborn Opera Company.[3]

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.


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 34x28 ft. and a 4 ft. apron. The theatre was equipped with 110 A.C. electricity. The backstage area featured 12 dressing rooms.[8]

The building, its façade still standing today, has a 97-foot-wide (30 m) fronting on 149th Street, between Bergen and Brook 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,[9] 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.[10]

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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[10]

Development and construction (1911–1913)[]

The Bronx Opera House at the end of its construction phase in August 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.[13]

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.[13] 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.[14]

Bronx Opera House in March 1914

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.[14] Sam H. Harris's 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.[15]

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.[16] 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 Theatre 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,[17] for a cafe, restaurant and banquet hall on 149th street before construction has even begun.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]

September 9, 1912, the Daily Standard Union: Brooklyn announces Cramp & Co. has been awarded the construction contract[21] for the Bronx Opera House, a fireproof building with exterior of brick, limestone and terra cotta requiring an expenditure of $250,000.[22]

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-seat house is expected to be ready by December. This partnership with 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.[23] Rumors are promptly denied by both parties.[24]

It seems unlikely that the Bronx Opera House could have opened 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 one is that of the walls, which are not of the required thickness.[25] 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.[26] 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.[1]

Theatrical seasons[]

Robert Edeson as Robert Reynolds and Lolita Robertson as Jane Reynolds in 1912 for the original stage production of Fine Feathers


Manager: Richard Madden
Treasurer: Harry Cullen

Show times: Evening, 8:15 pm, matinees (Wed., Sat. and holidays), 2.15 pm
Ticket prices: twenty-five cents to a dollar with bargain matinees at twenty-five and fifty cents.[27]

August 30, 1913: Opening night. Cohan, Harris and Woods' plan to offer Broadway plays at popular prices north of 125th street seems to pay off. The Bronx Opera House opens its doors to "an immense audience"[11] with Frazee's production of Fine Feathers.[1] 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.[28]

Inside, George Cohan, Sam H. Harris, A. H. Woods and Harry 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.[28] 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.[28]

Outside, the crowd gathering is such that the police is called to clear the sidewalk and the street.[29]

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.[28]

Fine Feathers concludes a successful nine days engagement and is replaced the following week by the de Koven Opera Company production of Robin Hood.[30] Attendance for the second week shows no sign of slowing down; it is described as a "large audience".[31]

The above-mentioned shows had two things in common, they were both long-running commercial successes and they both featured their original Broadway cast. In the case of Fine Feathers it was the same cast that not only staged the play for over one 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[according to whom?] 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 went on the stage of the Bronx Opera House for the first time October 13, 1913, in a production of In Old Dublin. He will invariably appear every season for the next ten years making him a staple of the theater.

Another memorable night[according to whom?] 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, having 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.[32]

This was the offering of the Bronx Opera House for the 1913–1914 season (not including Sunday afternoon's vaudeville).

Date Show Author Production
August 30, 1913 Fine Feathers Eugene Walter H.H. Frazee
September 8, 1913 Robin Hood Reginald De Koven de Koven Opera Company
September 15, 1913 Cohan & Harris
September 23, 1913 George M. Cohan Cohan & Harris
September 29, 1913 The Ghost Breaker Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard Maurice Campbell
October 6, 1913 Frederick Hatton and Fanny Locke Hatton David Belasco
October 13, 1913 Augustus Pitou, Sr. Augustus Pitou, Jr.
October 20, 1913 Harriet Ford and Harvey J. O'Higgins Klaw & Erlanger
October 27, 1913 Daniel D. Carter Louis F. Werba and Mark A. Luescher
November 3, 1913 Catherine Chisholm Cushing Liebler & Co.
November 10, 1913 Richard Harding Davis Charles Frohman
November 17, 1913 Harry B. Smith and Robert B. Smith Louis F. Werba and Mark A. Luescher
November 24, 1913 Channing Pollock Arthur G. Delamater
December 1, 1913 The Conspiracy John Roberts Charles Frohman
December 8, 1913 George Middleton Arthur G. Delamater
December 15, 1913 Denman Thompson and George W. Ryer Cohan & Harris
December 22, 1913 Owen Davis and Will H. Cobb
December 29, 1913 Maggie Pepper Charles Klein Henry B. Harris
January 5, 1914 Primrose and Dockstader's Twentieth Century Minstrels
January 12, 1914 The Typhoon Emil Nyitray and Byron Ongley Walker Whiteside
January 19, 1914 The Man Inside Roland Burnham Molineux David Belasco
January 26, 1914 The Rainbow A. E. Thomas Henry Miller
February 2, 1914 The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Eugene Walter Klaw & Erlanger
February 9, 1914 The Fight Bayard Veiller Joseph M. Gaites
February 16, 1914 The Grain of Dust Louis Evan Shipman James K. Hackett
February 23, 1914 Damaged Goods Eugene Brieux and James Warbasse Richard Bennett and Wilton Lackaye, Jr.
March 2, 1914 Rida Johnson Young Henry Miller
March 9, 1914 Adele Adolf Philipp and Edward A. Paulton New Era Producing Co.
March 16, 1914 The Madcap Duchess David Stevens and Justin Huntly McCarthy H. H. Frazee
March 23, 1914 Nearly Married Edgar Selwyn Cohan & Harris
March 30, 1914 The Strange Woman William J. Hurlbut Klaw & Erlanger
April 6, 1914 The Midnight Girl Paul Hervé Adolf Philipp company
April 13, 1914 Holman Day Henry W. Savage
April 20, 1914 Alexandre Bisson
April 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.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

A motion picture was 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.[36]

John Barrymore is on stage April 19 for a week in Willard Mack's Kick-In.

Offering for the

Date Show Author Production
September 5, 1914 To-Day George Broadhurst (Company A. cast)
September 14, 1914 Peg O' My Heart J. Hartley Manners Oliver Morosco
September 28, 1914 Seven Keys to Baldpate George M. Cohan Cohan & Harris
October 12, 1914 The Crinoline Girl Otto Hauerbach A. H. Woods
October 19, 1914 Madam President Jose G. Levy Charles Frohman
October 26, 1914 The Story of the Rosary Walter Howard Comstock & Gest
November 2, 1914 The Dummy Harvey J. O'Higgins and Harriet Ford Play-Producing Co.
November 9, 1914 The Things That Count Laurence Eyre William A. Brady
November 16, 1914 Within the Law Bayard Veiller Selwyn and Company
November 23, 1914 Too Many Cooks Frank Craven William A. Brady
November 30, 1914 The Midnight Girl Paul Hervé
December 7, 1914 The Third Party Mark Swan F. Ray Comstock
December 14, 1914 Belgian war scenes, motion pictures Edwin F. Weigle (Director) The Popular Motion Picture Co.
December 25, 1914 The Miracle Man George M. Cohan Cohan & Harris
December 28, 1914 Sari Emmerich Kálmán Henry W. Savage
January 4, 1915 Potash and Perlmutter Montague Glass and Charles Klein A. H. Woods
January 11, 1915 Heart of Paddy Whack Rachel Crothers Henry Miller
January 18, 1915 The High Cost of Loving Frank Mandel A. H. Woods
January 25, 1915 Innocent George Broadhurst A. H. Woods
February 1, 1915 So Much for So Much Willard Mack H. H. Frazee
February 8, 1915 The Belle of Bond Street Harold Atteridge and Owen Hall Lee & J.J. Shubert
February 15, 1915 The Misleading Lady Charles W. Goddard and Paul Dickey William H. Harris, Jr.
February 22, 1915 Sis Hopkins
March 1, 1915 Seven Keys to Baldpate George M. Cohan Cohan & Harris
March 8, 1915 A Pair of Sixes Edward Peple H. H. Frazee
March 15, 1915 Bunny in Funnyland John Bunny
March 22, 1915 The Beauty Shop Channing Pollock Cohan & Harris
March 29, 1915 The Bird of Paradise Richard Walton Tully Oliver Morosco
April 5, 1915 Jack's Romance Augustus Pitou, Sr. Augustus Pitou, Jr.
April 12, 1915 The Prince of Pilsen Gustav Luders
April 19, 1915 Kick-In Willard Mack A. H. Woods
April 26, 1915 A Mix Up Parker A. Hord Lee & J.J. Shubert


Newspaper Ad for the Aborn Opera Company's program in the Spring of 1916

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-piece orchestra.[37] It was scheduled for an encore presentation on May 1, 1916 but was cancelled to make room for The House of Glass.[38]

On June 7, during the six-week 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-year veteran of the stage.[39]

Date Show Author Production
August 28, 1915 The Yellow Ticket Michael Morton A. H. Woods
September 6, 1915 Twin Beds Salisbury Field and Margaret Mayo William H. Harris, Jr.
September 13, 1915 On Trial Elmer L. Rice Cohan & Harris
September 20, 1915 It Pays to Advertise Roi Cooper Megrue and Walter Hackett Cohan & Harris
September 27, 1915 Under Cover Roi Cooper Megrue Selwyn & Co.
October 4, 1915 A Full House Fred Jackson H. H. Frazee
October 11, 1915 Kick In Willard Mack A. H. Woods
October 18, 1915 Song of Songs Edward Sheldon A. H. Woods
October 25, 1915 High Jinks Otto Hauerbach Arthur Hammerstein
November 15, 1915 The Bubble Edward Locke Lee & J.J. Shubert
November 22, 1915 Cousin Lucy (Two Weeks) Charles Klein A. H. Woods
December 7, 1915 The Hawk Francis De Croisset
December 18, 1915 The Birth of a Nation D. W. Griffith D. W. Griffith
December 27, 1915 Young America Fred Ballard Cohan & Harris
January 3, 1916 The Road to Happiness Lawrence Whitman Lee Shubert
January 17, 1916 Marie Odile Edward Knoblauch David Belasco
January 24, 1916 Beverly's Balance Paul Kester
February 7, 1916 Experience George V. Hobart William Elliott
February 14, 1916 The Girl Who Smiles Paul Hervé & Jean Briquet
February 21, 1916 The New Henrietta Bronson Howard Klaw & Erlanger
February 28, 1916 Some Baby Zellah Covington and Jules Simonson
March 13, 1916 Daddy Long Legs Jean Webster Henry Miller
March 20, 1916 Kilkenny Augustus Pitou, Sr. Augustus Pitou, Jr.
April 17, 1916 Potash and Perlmutter in Society Montague Glass A. H. Woods
April 24, 1916 The Lie Margaret Illington
May 1, 1916 The House of Glass Max Marcin Cohan & Harris
May 8, 1916 Madama Butterfly (in English) Giacomo Puccini The Aborn Opera Company
May 11, 1916 Martha (in English) Friedrich von Flotow The Aborn Opera Company
May 12, 1916 Hansel and Gretel (in English, just one matinee) Engelbert Humperdinck The Aborn Opera Company
May 15, 1916 Aida (in English) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
May 18, 1916 Il Trovatore (in English) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
May 22, 1916 Carmen (in English) Georges Bizet The Aborn Opera Company
May 25, 1916 The Tales of Hoffmann (in English) Jacques Offenbach The Aborn Opera Company
May 26, 1916 Hansel and Gretel (in English, one matinee) Engelbert Humperdinck The Aborn Opera Company
May 29, 1916 Lucia di Lammermoor (in English) Gaetano Donizetti The Aborn Opera Company
June 1, 1916 Rigoletto Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
June 5, 1916 Pagliacci & Cavalleria Rusticana Leoncavallo & Mascagni The Aborn Opera Company
June 8, 1916 Faust Charles Gounod The Aborn Opera Company
June 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.[40]

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".[41]

Offering for the 1916-1917 season:

Date Show Author Production
September 2, 1916 Common Clay Cleves Kinkead A. H. Woods
September 18, 1916 Broadway and Buttermilk Willard Mack & Charles Grant Frederic McKay
September 26, 1916 Justice John Galsworthy Corey-Williams-Riter, Inc.
October 2, 1916 Hobson's Choice Harold Brlghthouse F. Ray Comstock
October 9, 1916 The Fear Market Amélie Rives Harrison Grey Fiske and George Mooser
October 23, 1916 Very Good Eddie Philip Martholomae Marbury-Comstock Co.
November 6, 1916 Just a Woman Eugene Walter Lee & J.J. Shubert
November 27, 1916 His Bridal Night (two weeks) Lawrence Rising A. H. Woods
December 11, 1916 Erstwhile Susan Marian De Forest Corey-Williams-Riter, Inc.
December 25, 1916 Cousin Lucy Charles Klein A. H. Woods
January 1, 1917 Fair and Warmer Avery Hopwood Selwyn & Co.
January 8, 1917 The Flame Richard Walton Tully Richard Walton Tully
January 22, 1917 His Heart's Desire Anna Nichols & Adelaide Matthews Augustus Pitou Jr.
January 29, 1917 His Majesty Bunker Bean Lee Wilson Dodd Joseph Brooks
February 5, 1917 Good Gracious Annabelle Clare Kummer Arthur Hopkins
February 12, 1917 Watch your Step Irving Berlin Charles Dillingham
February 19, 1917 Pollyanna Catherine Chisholm Cushing Klaw & Erlanger
February 26, 1917 The Heart of Paddy Whack Ernest R. Ball Henry Miller
March 5, 1917 Alone at Last Franz Lehár Lee & J.J. Shubert
March 12, 1917 Captain Kidd, Jr. Rida Johnson Young Cohan & Harris
March 19, 1917 So Long Letty Earl Carroll Oliver Morosco
March 26, 1917 Pom Pom Hugo Felix Henry W. Savage
April 9, 1917 The Great Lover Leo Ditrichstein, Frederic Hatton and Fanny Hatton Cohan & Harris
April 16, 1917 The Great Divide William Vaughn Moody Henry Miller
April 23, 1917 Little Lady in Blue Horace Hodges & T. Wigney Percyval David Belasco
April 30, 1917 The Princess Pat Victor Herbert John Cort
May 7, 1917 Madama Butterfly Giacomo Puccini The Aborn Opera Company
May 10, 1917 La Boheme Giacomo Puccini The Aborn Opera Company
May 28, 1917 The Blue Paradise Edmund Eysler & Sigmund Romberg The Aborn Opera Company
June 4, 1917 The Chocolate Soldier Oscar Straus The Aborn Opera Company


Manager J. J. Rosenthal fired 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.[42]

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.[43]

Offering for the 1917–1918 season:

Date Show Author Production
August 11, 1917 My Irish Cinderella Cecil Spooner
August 20, 1917 Jerry Catherine Chisholm
August 25, 1917 Old Lady 31 Rachel Crothers Lee Kugel
September 3, 1917 Cheating Cheaters Max Marcin A. H. Woods
September 10, 1917 The Knife Eugene Walter Lee & J.J. Shubert
September 17, 1917 The Brat Maude Fulton Oliver Morosco
September 24, 1917 Lilac Time Jane Cowl Selwyn & Co.
October 1, 1917 Molly Dear Cecil B. DeMille Andrew Mack
October 15, 1917 Her Soldier Boy Sigmund Romberg & Emmerich Kalman Lee & J.J. Shubert
October 22, 1917 The Inner Man Abraham Schomer Lee & J.J. Shubert
October 29, 1917 Upstairs and Down Frederic Hatton and Fanny Hatton Oliver Morosco
November 5, 1917 Chin Chin Anne Caldwell & R.H. Burnside Charles Dillingham
November 12, 1917 Mary's Ankle May Tully A. H. Woods
November 19, 1917 Peter Ibbetson John N. Raphael Lee & J.J. Shubert
November 26, 1917 The Man Who Came Back (two weeks) Jules Eckert Goodman William A. Brady
December 10, 1917 The Thirteenth Chair Bayard Veiller William Harris, Sr. & William H. Harris, Jr.
December 17, 1917 The Very Idea William Le Baron G. M. Anderson & L. Lawrence Weber
December 24, 1917 Leave it to Jane Book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse; Music by Jerome Kern Elliott, Comstock, Gest
December 31, 1917 Daybreak Jane Cowl Selwyn & Co.
January 7, 1918 Once Upon a Time Rachel Crothers Cohan & Harris
January 14, 1918 Pollyanna Catherine Chisholm Cushing Klaw & Erlanger
January 21, 1918 The Man from Wicklow Anne Nichols Augustus Pitou, Jr.
January 28, 1918 De Luxe Annie Edward Clark Arthur Hammerstein
February 25, 1918 The Country Cousin Booth Tarkington & Julian Street Klaw & Erlanger
March 4, 1918 What's Your Husband Doing? George V. Hobart Hobart-Jordan Co.
March 11, 1918 The Boomerang Winchell Smith & Victor Mapes David Belasco
March 18, 1918 Nothing but the Truth H. H. Frazee
April 1, 1918 The Madonna of the Future Alan Dale Oliver Morosco
May 20, 1918 Aida Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
May 21, 1918 Pagliacci & Cavalleria Rusticana Leoncavallo & Mascagni The Aborn Opera Company
May 22, 1918 Aida (Matine) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
May 22, 1918 Lucia di Lammermoor (Evening) Gaetano Donizetti The Aborn Opera Company
May 23, 1918 La Gioconda Amilcare Ponchielli The Aborn Opera Company
May 24, 1918 Rigoletto (evening) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
May 25, 1918 Lucia di Lammermoor (Matine) Gaetano Donizetti The Aborn Opera Company
May 25, 1918 Il Trovatore (Evening) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
May 27, 1918 Pagliacci & Cavalleria Rusticana Leoncavallo & Mascagni The Aborn Opera Company
May 28, 1918 La Gioconda Amilcare Ponchielli The Aborn Opera Company
May 29, 1918 Il Trovatore (Matine) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
May 29, 1918 Rigoletto (evening) Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
May 30, 1918 The Barber of Seville Gioachino Rossini The Aborn Opera Company
May 31, 1918 La Traviata Giuseppe Verdi The Aborn Opera Company
June 1, 1918 Faust (Matine) Charles Gounod The Aborn Opera Company
June 1, 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.[44]

Offering for the 1918-1919 season:

Date Show Author Production
September 2, 1918 The Little Teacher Harry James Smith Cohan & Harris
September 9, 1918 Eyes of Youth Max Marcin & Charles Guernon A.H. Woods & Lee and J.J. Shubert
September 16, 1918 Oh Boy! Book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse; Music by Jerome Kern William Elliott and F. Ray Comstock
September 23, 1918 The Man Who Stayed at Home Lechmere Worrall and J. E. Harold Terry William Moore Patach
September 30, 1918 Turn to the Right Winchell Smith and John E. Hazzard Winchell Smith
October 7, 1918 Seventeen Hugh Stanislaus Stange and Stannard Mears Stuart Walker
October 14, 1918 Nancy Lee Eugene Walter and H. Crownin Wilson The Estate of Henry B. Harris
October 21, 1918 Parlor, Bedroom and Bath C. W. Bell and Mark Swan A.H. Woods
October 28, 1918 Willard Mack David Belasco
November 11, 1918 Eyes of Youth Max Marcin & Charles Guernon A.H. Woods & Lee and J.J. Shubert
November 18, 1918 Getting Together Ian Hay, J. Hartley Manners and Percival Knight British-Canadian Recruiting Mission and U.S. Military and Naval Forces
November 25, 1918 The Copperhead Augustus Thomas John D. Williams
December 2, 1918 The Wanderer Maurice V. Samuels William Elliott, F. Ray Comstock and Morris Gest
December 23, 1918 The Man Who Came Back Jules Eckert Goodman William A. Brady
December 30, 1918 The Auctioneer Charles Klein and Lee Arthur David Belasco David Warfield
January 13, 1919 Marry in Haste Anna Nichols Augustus Pitou
January 20, 1919 Maytime Book by Rida Johnson Young; Music by Sigmund Romberg Lee & JJ Shubert
January 27, 1919 Seven Days' Leave Walter Howard
February 3, 1919 Polly With a Past George Middleton and Guy Bolton David Belasco
February 10, 1919 Business Before Pleasure (Two Weeks) Montague Glass and Jules Eckert Goodman A. H. Woods
March 10, 1919 Flo-Flo Book by Fred De Gresac; Music by Silvio Hein; Lyrics by Edward Paulton and Fred De Gresac John Cort
March 17, 1919 Going Up Book by Otto Hauerbach; Music by Louis A. Hirsch Cohan & Harris
March 24, 1919 A Tailor-Made Man Harry James Smith Cohan & Harris
March 31, 1919 Lombardi, Ltd. Frederic Hatton and Fanny Hatton Oliver Morosco
April 7, 1919 The Little Brother Milton Goldsmith and Benedict James Walter Hast
April 14, 1919 Tiger Rose Willard Mack David Belasco
April 21, 1919 Maytime Book by Rida Johnson Young; Music by Sigmund Romberg Lee & JJ Shubert
April 28, 1919 Richelieu Bulewer Lytton
April 29, 1919 Hamlet William Shakespeare
April 30, 1919 The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare
May 1, 1919 King Lear William Shakespeare
May 2, 1919 Macbeth William Shakespeare
May 3, 1919 Richard III William Shakespeare
May 5, 1919 The Crowded Hour Edgar Selwyn and Channing Pollock Selwyn & Co.
May 12, 1919 The Voice of McConnell George M. Cohan Cohan & Harris
May 19, 1919 Tiger! Tiger! Edward Knoblauch David Belasco
May 26, 1919 Remnant Dario Niccodemi and Michael Morton Charles Emerson Cook
June 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.[45] 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.[46]

Later Years[]

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, the building was converted to a late-run movie house, shuttering of the upper balcony reduced seating to 1,400, and 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." [47] Eight youths were sentenced to reformatory for the crime.[48][49] The theatre flourished during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as a Latin music dance club operating as Bronx Casino, Club Caravana and El Cerromar.[3] In the 1980s it was purchased by a pentecostal church.[3] Charlie Palmieri recorded on site in 1961.[6]

Visits to the theatre are noted in the book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years.[50]

Rebirth as the Opera House Hotel[]

Renovation plans to relaunch it as a performing arts 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 named the Opera House Hotel.[3][49] Those plans continued to develop in 2012. According to developer , 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.[3]

The hotel opened in August 2013 and is one of eight hotel properties owned and operated by the Empire Hotel Group.[51] The hotel is the first of several boutique hotels which have opened or are being constructed in the Bronx.[52]

In summer 2015 the hotel's water cooling tower was suspected in several cases of Legionnaires’ disease that occurred across several buildings in the area.[53]


Was opened as Keith's Bronx Theatre[]

...and was later renamed. Dispelled by Bill Twomey in his book "The Bronx, in Bits and Pieces",[6] this myth originated in the "Directory of Historic American Theatres"[5] published in 1987 then quoted in "The Papers of Will Rogers: From Vaudeville to Broadway"[4] 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,[54] 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.


  1. ^ a b c d At the Theatres. New Rochelle Pioneer. August 23, 1913
  2. ^ "Official Facebook page". Facebook. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Daniel Beekman Manhattan developer hard at work on boutique hotel in forgotten South Bronx opera house on E. 149th St., April 15, 2012
  4. ^ a b c Rogers, Will; Gragert, Steven K.; Johansson, M. Jane (May 1, 2001). The Papers of Will Rogers: From vaudeville to Broadway : September 1908-August 1915. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806133157. Retrieved January 16, 2019 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b Frick, Ward; et al. (1987). Directory of historic American theatres. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313248680.
  6. ^ a b c Bill Twomey [1] The Bronx: In Bits and Pieces pages 198, 199
  7. ^ "Waller's Review Open Bronx Opera House". The Afro American. December 27, 1941. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  8. ^ Cahn, Julius (1913). The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory. p. 427.
  9. ^ "Dinner to President Miller". Hudson Evening Register. December 4, 1913.
  10. ^ a b c "Bronx Becoming Play Center; New Theatre Model of Beauty". The New York Press. August 31, 1913
  11. ^ a b "Bronx Opera House". The New York Clipper. September 6, 1913.
  12. ^ "New Theatre in Bronx Open Next Week". New York Herald. August 18, 1913.
  13. ^ a b "Bronx Combination House Next for Cohan & Harris". Variety. Vol. 25. No. 5. January 6, 1912. p. 9
  14. ^ a b "Shuberts Splitting Bronx; Will Oppose Cohan & Harris", Variety. Vol. 25. No. 7. January 20, 1912. p. 3
  15. ^ "Turning Bronx Down". Variety. February 3, 1912.
  16. ^ "Cohan & Harris Theatres Increased to Six by Two New". Variety. Vol. 26, no. 9. May 4, 1912. p. 9.
  17. ^ "Wonderful Money-Maker Now Ready". The Billboard. March 21, 1914.
  18. ^ "Cohan's Bronx Theatre". The Sun. September 6, 1912.
  19. ^ "Cort Theatre in the Bronx". The New York Times. August 30, 1912. Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  20. ^ "Twenty New Theatres for New York This Year" (PDF). The Sun. New York, N. Y. October 27, 1912. p. 13, Section 4.
  21. ^ "Amusement Notes". The Daily Standard Union: Brooklyn. September 9, 1912.
  22. ^ "Contract Awarded". The New York Clipper. Vol. 60, no. 33. September 28, 1912. p. 3.
  23. ^ "A.H. Woods and Cohan & Harris Forming Strong Alliance". Variety. Vol. 27, no. 2. June 15, 1912. p. 11.
  24. ^ "Not Allied". The New York Dramatic Mirror. September 19, 1912.
  25. ^ "Departmental Violations May Stop Theatre Building". Variety. Vol. 30, no. 1. March 7, 1913. p. 11.
  26. ^ "One of the Two New Theatres in Bronx Section Shut Out". Variety. Vol. 30, no. 1. May 23, 1913. p. 11.
  27. ^ "Bronx Theater Opens Next Week". The New York Dramatic Mirror. August 20, 1913.
  28. ^ a b c d "Bronx Opera House Opens to a Crowded House". Harlem Home News. September 4, 1913.
  29. ^ "Traffic Blocked as New Theatre in Bronx Opens". New York Herald. August 31, 1913.
  30. ^ "Amusements". The Newtown Register. September 4, 1913.
  31. ^ "Bronx Opera House". The New York Clipper. September 20, 1913.
  32. ^ "Five New Shows Opening". Variety. December 12, 1913.
  33. ^ "Shows at the Box Office; NY, London and Chicago". Variety. November 7, 1914.
  34. ^ "Shows at the Box Office in New York and Chicago". Variety. October 3, 1914.
  35. ^ "Shows at the Box Office in the Theatrical Center". Variety. January 16, 1915.
  36. ^ Livingston, William (December 14, 1914). "Belgian War Pictures". The Independent. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  37. ^ "Two Indian Dramas Among Varied Motion Picture Offerings". New York Herald. December 12, 1915.
  38. ^ "Potash and Perlmutter in Society". Dobbs Ferry Register. April 14, 1916.
  39. ^ "Donkey is Kidnapped by Big Red Automobile". New York Herald. June 8, 1916.
  40. ^ "Three Records in Three Weeks". Variety. September 29, 1916.
  41. ^ "Julian Eltinge Xmas Play at the Bronx Opera House". The Daily Argus. December 23, 1916.
  42. ^ "Regular Season at Bronx". The Dramatic Mirror. September 1, 1917.
  43. ^ "The Aborn Opera Company". Variety. May 31, 1918.
  44. ^ "Raise Prices for Going Up". The New York Clipper. March 12, 1919.
  45. ^ "Saturday Night Receipts Smash Box-Office Records". The New York Clipper. October 15, 1919.
  46. ^ "Subway Circuit to Raise Admission to $2.00 Top". The New York Clipper. November 26, 1919.
  47. ^ THEATRE LOSES LICENSE; Bronx Movie House Where Girl Was Raped Is Closed NY Times April 6, 1943
  48. ^ 8 SENTENCED FOR RAPE; Bronx Youths Denounced by Court for Attack in Theatre NY Times June 8, 1943
  49. ^ a b Bronx Theatre Cinema Treasure
  50. ^ Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years page 129
  51. ^ Garcia Conde, Ed (August 16, 2013). "First Luxury Hotel--The Opera House--Opens in the Bronx". Welcome@theBronx. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  52. ^ Slattery, Denis. "The Bronx is booming with boutique and luxury hotels". NY Daily News. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  53. ^ Hotel That Enlivened the Bronx Is Now a ‘Hot Spot’ for Legionnaires’. New York Times. August 10, 2015. Accessed August 11, 2015.
  54. ^ Starr, Michael Seth (2011). Bobby Darin: A Life. Taylor Trade Publications. p. 7. ISBN 978-1589795983.
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