Another reason to visit the Times Square Visitor Center, other than to see the Peep-O-Rama sign and the sad display of neutered sex booths, is to enjoy the interior of the Embassy Theater in which it is housed.
NY State Museum
Opened in 1925 and closed in 1997, the Embassy is a landmark designed by Thomas Lamb, who also designed the nearby Mayfair. It began life as a newsreel theater in 1929, running a continuous 25-cent show, but was originally planned as a small "theaterette," a salon-like destination for the city's elite.
Says the website for the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (the Embassy had an organ): "the ornate French-inspired interior featured elaborate plasterwork and murals by Arthur Crisp. Furthering its salon-like appeal, the Embassy was the first movie house on Broadway to employ a woman manager, the heiress Gloria Gould, and it had the distinction of being operated almost exclusively by women."
“I believe women are more reliable, and I shall employ only women in the Embassy Theater,” said Gloria Gould. According to this account, "The ushers were planned to be young ladies in ballet costumes." But then Gloria bailed on the project in 1925, hopping on a steamer bound for France. Said the heiress, “I could not afford to live in New York any more even if I wanted to.”
MGM was paying her $250 a week to manage the Embassy.
The main floor of the Visitor Center is actually the auditorium, with all the seats removed. It's surrounded by Arthur Crisp's painted murals. His work adorns theaters, hotels, and other sites across the city, the country, and Canada.
Where movie posters used to line the entryway, now are video clips from Times Square's history. (Tourists, sensing a romantic setting, make out under the chandeliers.)
There's a bunch of other stuff inside--a New Year's Eve ball, a confetti "wishing wall"--along with this little treasure, an old Mutoscope with a one-cent movie called Jungle Queen.
A few tidbits about Mutoscope: "The company was founded in 1895 to make peep shows of girls going to bed, the cook kissing the policeman and little Johnny getting a spanking. One of the firm's early artists was Mary Pickford, hired to pose at $5 per day when the weather was good."
Mary Pickford, to my knowledge, does not play the Jungle Queen. You can't view Jungle Queen, either, but if you could, you might see something like this.