I was just doing research for a project and came across this photo. It’s Gloria Swanson photographed in the ruins of the Roxy Theater as the were demolishing it in 1960. When the theater opened in 1927, The Love of Sunya, starring Gloria Swanson was the first film they showed.
In her autobiography Swanson on Swanson (which I just happen to have) she talks about the opening of the Roxy:
Before we went into production I had a call from S.L. Rothafel, the Sid Grauman of the East Coast, better known as Roxy, who was then constructing the Roxy Theatre at Seventh Avenue and Fiftieth Street, the ultimate movie palace, the “cathedral of the motion picture,” as he called it. It would be open in March, he said, and he wanted my first production to be his initial offering. He told me he would see to it that the premiere would be remembered forever as the biggest movie night in history.
“Is it a deal?” Roxy asked.
“Absolutely,” I said.
Then he asked me to visit the construction site that week and sign my name in huge letters on the gold-leaf dome. When I left the site, I trembled at what I had done. I had borrowed over $200,000 and promised a picture for the spring to the greatest showman in America for the biggest opening night in the history of New York, and so far I had not one foot of film to back me up. At least, though, I thought, swallowing with difficulty, I had a deadline.
She goes on to describe opening night at the Roxy in great length:
The Roxy, which seated 6,214 people and cost $10 million to build, opened on March 11, 1927. First-night tickets sold for $11, and scalpers in the last days before the opening were getting five times that. Nothing had so captured the imagination of New Yorkers since —according to which paper you read—the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge (which had cost $1 million less to build than the Roxy) in 1883 or the presentation of Jenny Lind at Castle Garden by P. T. Barnum in 1850…
…Inside the monumental foyer, in front of an inclined bank of red and white carnations that spelled out his name, Roxy stood with his family, being photographed with celebrities. Henri and I joined them to kiss and shake hands with the people we knew in a steady blaze of flash powder…
Source: Swanson on Swanson by Gloria Swanson. Random House, 1980
Movie Review from the New York Times, dated March 12, 1927