Revamped Symphony/Thalia site sets gala

The Symphony Space and the historic Thalia repertory movie house on Gotham’s Upper West Side reopen next month after extensive redesign and renovation.

James Stewart Polshek of Polshek Partnership is the architect. Polshek’s other Gotham projects include the Rose Center for Earth & Space at the American Museum of Natural History and the renovation and expansion of Carnegie Hall and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

The new Symphony Space debuts April 8 with a gala event co-chaired by author Frank McCourt and actress Cynthia Nixon. Film programming at the Thalia begins April 13 with a free New York City-themed movie marathon, followed by a classic French cinema series.

New monikers

Symphony Space has incorporated a $12 million endowment drive within the $24 million goal of its current building campaign. In honor of its principal donors, the facilities will be known as Peter Norton Symphony Space and the Leonard Nimoy Thalia, with the main stage called the Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

Located at Broadway and 95th Street, the original Symphony Space building was constructed in 1915 and housed the open-air Astor Market. Two years later, it became the Crystal Palace skating rink, with its downstairs space the Sunken Gardens restaurant.

The Crystal Palace eventually became the Symphony movie theater, and the Sunken Gardens was turned into a smaller cinema, the Thalia. The latter remained in use as a repertory film theater, one of the most respected (if grungiest) in Gotham. As for the Symphony, it fell out of regular use and by the 1970s was the site of occasional boxing and wrestling matches.

Bach to future

In January 1978, Allan Miller and Isaiah Sheffer rented the Symphony for a one-day concert called Wall to Wall Bach. The success of that event led the pair to lease the building and establish a not-for-profit organization, Symphony Space.

Today, Sheffer is artistic director and Joanne Cossas is executive vice president. The programming staff includes dance curator Kay Cummings, film curator Fabiano Canosa and family program curators Rachel Chanoff and Laurie Cearley.

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