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Hudson Theatre, New York

Hudson Theatre, New York

Former Names: CBS Radio Theatre, Avon-Hudson, The Savoy

Website: http://www.thehudsonbroadway.com/ Open website in new window

Telephone: (646) 975-4619 Call (646) 975-4619

Address: 141 West 44th St, New York, NY 10036 Show address in Google Maps (new window)

 Featured Photos

 Overview

The Hudson is Broadway’s oldest surviving theatre, having opened on 19th October 1903 just weeks before the opening of the extant New Amsterdam and Lyceum theatres – opened late October 1903 and early November 1903 respectively. After a period of private use, the Hudson was reopened in February 2017 as the 41st theatre on Broadway in New York.

At its opening in October 1903, with a production of “Cousin Kate” starring Ethyl Barrymore, the Hudson was noted for its stunning backlit triple-dome Tiffany ceiling in the lobby, which was unusually spacious for the time at over 100ft long and 30ft wide. The entire enterprise spanned an entire city block, with patrons entering on 44th Street and the artistes entering the Stage Door on 45th Street.

The outer/ticket lobby, finished in Greco-Roman style, features a black marble box office adorned with bronze Hermae heads, and a square coffered ceiling that originally featured a bare electric lamp centered in each of the 264 coffers. In 1903 this electric lighting would have been a novelty to behold. The Tiffany Dome bar, now separated from the ticket lobby by doors, is the highlight of the theatre.

The auditorium was executed in a mixture of styles popular in the early 1900s: Beaux-Arts, Neo-Classical, and Neo-Renaissance. Decoration featured Roman-themed works, including friezes copied from Nero’s Golden House and the Baths of Titus over the proscenium and lining the walls of the lobby, respectively. Tiffany tiles feature on the proscenium and around the boxes.

The theatre’s exterior brick and limestone façade is somewhat understated but its Renaissance style and modest scale fitted-in well with its original surroundings of brownstone houses.

The hidden cove lighting around the proscenium and above the sounding board was noted as being “extremely pleasant on the eye” at the theatre’s opening in 1903; this diffuse lighting was contrasted with bare electric lamps arranged in geometric “constellations” in the auditorium’s ceiling. So admired were these features, particularly the cove lighting, that theatre designers and engineers were sent to study their design and execution. The theatre originally seated 1,100; capacity is now 975.

In addition to its fine architectural features, the Hudson was noted for its fire safety from the outset, boasting a water sprinkler system and 28 fire exits affording rapid evacuation of the audience if necessary.

The theatre was built and managed by producer Henry B. Harris, the youngest of a family of noted theatre operators. The architectural firm initially employed was J. B. McElfatrick & Son, but Israels & Harder ultimately completed the building – no records remain documenting why there was a change of firm. Harris perished in the sinking of RMS Titanic in 1912; thereafter his wife Renee assumed management of the theatre and, battling against all financial odds, kept the business afloat and in doing so became the first female theatrical manager and producer in the US.

Following the Great Depression, Renee lost the Hudson to foreclosure, however starting in 1934 the theatre was leased to CBS for occasional use as a radio studio between the declining theatrical engagements. In 1939 the Shuberts took over management of the theatre, before it was sold in 1944 to Lindsay & Crouse (a noted writing team, famous for the book of “Anything Goes”, “The Sound of Music”, and “Call Me Madam”).

In 1950 NBC bought the theatre to make it their home for “Broadway Open House” Link opens in new window, followed in 1954 by a new television show called “The Steve Allen Show” Link opens in new window, which broadcast from the theatre for over five years and quickly transformed into “The Tonight Show”, setting the initial standard for US late-night television.

Developer Abraham Hirschfield bought the theatre in 1956, then following NBC’s move of operations to Los Angeles in 1959, NBC renovated the theatre to its original appearance and gave it over to legitimate theatre until their lease expired in 1962. Legitimate theatre played at the Hudson from 1960 until burlesque entertainment moved into the theatre in 1965.

In 1974 the Hudson became a movie theatre for adult films under the management of the Avon chain of theatres, and the theatre’s name was changed to the Avon-Hudson. Narrowly avoiding conversion to a parking lot in 1975, the Hudson was bought in 1980 by rock promoter Ron Delsner and became the Savoy rock club.

The theatre was landmarked in 1987, and in the 1990s the surrounding buildings were transformed into the Millennium Broadway hotel, with the Hudson becoming a conference and events venue for the hotel. It was also occasionally used for Comedy Central cable network television tapings.

UK-based Ambassador Theatre Group Link opens in new window signed a long-term lease on the Hudson in 2015 and invested in a $1.2 million refurbishment of the theatre. Since its triumphant return to Broadway in 2017 with a production of “Sunday In The Park With George” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, the Hudson has proved its popularity with a production of “The Parisian Woman”, various concerts, and its current production of “Head Over Heels”  Link opens in new window. The Hudson is one of the few Broadway theatres which offer theatre tours – see below for details.

NOTE: The Hudson graciously allowed us to take photos while they were preparing for the launch of “Head Over Heels” Link opens in new window, however at the time photos were taken all of the auditorium seats were covered with protective tarpaulin/plastic sheeting. Rest assured the Hudson is both a plush and comfortable venue – after all its seating is less than a year old – the newest across all Broadway theatres!

 Movie, TV & Music Video Appearances

Television

 How do I visit the Hudson Theatre?

Tours run regularly at the Hudson Theatre with the exact schedule available on the Tours section of the theatre’s website Link opens in new window. Expect the tour to last approximately 60 minutes and include some stairs. Tickets can be purchased in advance from the theatre’s website Link opens in new window, as of mid-2018 pricing was $19 Adult and $15 Senior/Student/Military.

Upcoming Special Events
Theatre Tour

Theatre Tour (12th December 2018, 5pm)

Visitors are invited to take a guided tour of the historic Hudson, Broadway’s oldest and newest theatre! On this behind-the-scenes walking tour you will learn the rich history of the 114-year-old building, examine the meticulous details in the architecture, gaze at the original Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass, and marvel at the Broadway stage where Helen Hayes, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Jane Fonda have taken their bows.

The walking tour is approximately 60 minutes and includes stairs. Please wear comfortable footwear.

Tickets: $25 Adults $15 for Students and members of the Military (Must present valid ID upon entrance).

For more info see: http://www.thehudsonbroadway.com/whatson/tours/ Link opens in new window

 Further Reading

Online

Books

 Technical Information

Flying System
System Type Counterweight; 4 lines per lineset; operated from Stage level Stage Left
Grid Height 62ft 2in to underside of Grid from Stage floor
Linesets 34 at 8in spacing (linesets 1 & 2 reserved for valence and curtain)
Pipe Length 42ft
Stage Dimensions
Apron Depth 2ft 3in
Orchestra Pit Depth 7ft 3in at center
Orhcestra Pit Width 34ft 4in
Proscenium Height 29ft 5.5in
Prsocenium Width 31ft 9in
Stage Depth 30ft 2in
Stage Width 57ft 3in clear wall-to-wall
Trap Room 10ft 8in height; 30 ft Downstage to Upstage
Historic Photos & Documents

Historic files shown here may be subject to copyright; review our “Fair Use” statement here.

 Photos of the Hudson Theatre

1903 Tiffany Bar

The Tiffany Bar is a rare example of a triple-domed Tiffany glass ceiling. In 1903 its lighting was noted for being diffuse and hidden - a novel feature in 1903.


Ambassador Lounge

The Ambassador Theatre Group Link opens in new window feature a VIP lounge in all of their theatres. The Hudson’s lounge is particularly grand, featuring a view over the crowds on 44th Street.


Auditorium - Grand Circle

The Grand Circle is the first level balcony above the Orchestra seating, with its name respecting the UK tradition of naming the first balcony as the Grand Circle.

NOTE: At the time of this photoshoot the Hudson was under preparing for the launch of “Head Over Heels” Link opens in new window and seats were covered with protective tarpaulin/plastic sheeting. The seating normally looks much more attractive!


Auditorium - Stalls

The Hudson follows UK theatre naming conventions and labels these seats the Stalls as opposed to the US equivalent of the Orchestra.

NOTE: At the time of this photoshoot the Hudson was under preparing for the launch of “Head Over Heels” Link opens in new window and seats were covered with protective tarpaulin/plastic sheeting. The seating normally looks much more attractive!


Auditorium - Upper Circle

NOTE: At the time of this photoshoot the Hudson was under preparing for the launch of “Head Over Heels” Link opens in new window and seats were covered with protective tarpaulin/plastic sheeting. The seating normally looks much more attractive!


Backstage

Exterior

Grand Circle Bar

Ticket Lobby

All photographs copyright © 2002-2018 Mike Hume/historictheatrephotos.com. For licensing and/or re-use contact me here.



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