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On this Day in Movie History, April 12, 1905: New York Hippodrome Opens

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On this day, April 12. 1905 the Hippodrome opened in New York City with the gala musical revue, “A Yankee Circus on Mars”.

The Hippodrome Theatre, also called the New York Hippodrome, was a theater in New York City from 1905 to 1939, located on Sixth Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets in the Theater District of Midtown Manhattan. It was called the world’s largest theater by its builders and had a seating capacity of 5,300, with a 100x200ft (30x61m) stage. The theater had state of the art theatrical technology, including a rising glass water tank.

For a time the Hippodrome was the largest and most successful theater in New York. Until the end of World War I, the Hippodrome housed all sorts of spectacles then switched to musical extravaganzas produced by Charles Dillingham, including “Better Times,” which ran for more than 400 performances.

When Dillingham left in 1923 to pursue other interests, the Hippodrome was leased to Keith-Albee, which hired architect Thomas W. Lamb to turn it into a vaudeville theater by building a much smaller stage and discarding all of its unique features. The most popular vaudeville artists of the day, including illusionist Harry Houdini, performed at the Hippodrome during its heyday. Others might vanish rabbits, but in 1918, on the brightly-lit stage of the Hippodrome, Houdini made a 10,000-pound elephant disappear, creating a sensation.

The Hippodrome’s huge running costs made it a perennial financial failure, and a series of producers tried and failed to make money from the theater.

In 1933, it was re-opened as the New York Hippodrome cinema, and became the stage for Billy Rose’s Jumbo in 1935. The theater closed in August 1939 for demolition. In 1952 a large modern office building known as “The Hippodrome Center” (1120 Avenue of the Americas), opened on the site.

Birthdays
1923 – Ann Miller (Lucille Ann Collier) (actress, dancer: Easter Parade, Sugar Babies, You Can’t Take It with You, Hit the Deck, Kiss Me Kate, On the Town, Room Service, Lovely to Look At; died Jan 22, 2004)

1926 – Jane Withers (actress: Captain Newman, M.D., Giant, The Farmer Takes a Wife, Bright Eyes, TV commercials: Josephine the plumber)

1946 – Ed O’Neill (actor: Married……with Children, Little Giants, Wayne’s World, Deliverance, Dragnet [2003])

1947 – Dan Lauria (actor: The Wonder Years, Amazing Grace, In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco, Stakeout)

1950 – David Cassidy (actor: The Partridge Family, Spirit of ’76, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; singer: Cherish, I Think I Love You; son of actors: Jack Cassidy, Evelyn Ward)

1956 – Andy Garcia (actor: When a Man Loves a Woman, A Show of Force, The Godfather: Part 3, The Untouchables, Blue Skies Again)

1971 – Shannen Doherty (actress: Beverly Hills 90210, Our House, Little House on the Prairie, Night Shift, Heathers)

1979 – Claire Danes (actress: How to Make an American Quilt, Home for the Holidays, Little Women, My So Called Life, Law & Order, The Mod Squad [1999])

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