The Orient Theater, Harlem, 1915

the-oeint-and-other-theatresHarlem, and the area close to 125th street, had a large number of theaters. There were theaters that are long gone in East Harlem, theaters that have survived are now churches and theaters that are just sealed up. 125th Street was the magnet for all things entertainment. Oscar Hammerstein invested in this uptown theater district. His Harlem Opera House opened in 1899 as a legit house, ultimately succumbing to vaudeville, movies and eventually the wrecking ball.

The photo above is the Orient Theater. It was in operation as early as 1915. It had a seating capacity of only 585. Usually, and I stress usually, a theater with a seating capacity of that size was not built with a stage. However, since my information on this theater is sketchy, it could have been built for legit. However, Harlem really developed in the late 19th century, as information about were the new subway was to be routed. A great deal of Harlem, especially west of the New York Central tracks, was built of quality.

The picture playing at the Orient is Exclusive Story, starring The Group Theater‘s very own Franchot Tone. It is an MGM picture released in 1936. Loew‘s owned MGM but perhaps not this theater. It could have been a second run independent house.

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