American Airlines Theatre

227 West 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 18, 2006 at 5:12 pm

I was back on the Duece a few nights ago, with my new Digital SLR in hand and snapped this photo of the American Airlines Theater marquee and the new office building that was erected on the site of the collapsed Selwyn Building back in 2000.

hardbop
hardbop on November 4, 2006 at 4:46 am

I was at the IFC last night and as anyone who attends films there knows, they screen a short before most features. Well, last night I was delighted to see a short film about “The Grand Luncheonette” that we were discussing above and that was located under the marquee of the theater. The same family owned or ran the luncheonette and it was there for 58 years before closing in October 1997. Fortunately, the filmmaker received the cooperation of the family that ran the luncheonette and was able to make the short film and capture this slice of a now vanished New York. It is places like the luncheonette that made New York New York and one great quote in the film has a family member saying that soon all of American will look alike with MacDonalds and Starbucks on every corner. That comment was made in 1997 and I can’t imagine what he would think of “The Deuce” or NYC now. There is a web site by the filmmaker that I will try to remember as I’m going back to the IFC later today.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 3, 2006 at 11:52 am

Here’s a great B&W night-time shot of the Selwyn marquee and its neighbors to the west along the north side of the Duece, circa October, 1970.

For good measure, here’s one more.

This flickr account’s photostream is worth a scroll-through as there are a number of similar photos taken on 42nd Street and the Times Square area (Times Squarea?) from this same time. Thanks, Lost Memory, for pointing this one out to me.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 14, 2006 at 9:07 am

Warren, the Rossellini film, The Greatest Love (also known as Europe ‘51) is not the stinker you assert it to be. Many now consider it one of his best works, an essay on the nature of goodness and whether its extremes can become insanity. Martin Scorsese admires this film a great deal, and his 35mm print of it was shown at the New York Film Festival in 1980 as a revival-tribute. Vincent Canby in The New York Times of October 12 that year called it “One of this festival’s bravest —maybe even finest— moments.” I attended that showing and the audience reaction was a very good one. I have watched it many times in 16mm and on video and am always moved by this key Italian film of the 1950s and its moving, even mystical, qualities. The film is indeed peculiar, has its detractors, but it has great admirers as well. It was a movie very much ahead of its time and had a great influence, along with Rossellini’s Voyage to Italy, another trashed masterpiece, on the French new wave directors. Read Tag Gallagher’s volume on Rossellini for an elaborate discourse. My point is a simple one…problematic? Perhaps. A stinker? Absolutely not! Absolutely not!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 11, 2006 at 5:17 am

Here are a pair clippings from the Movie Clock sections of the Post in 1980 and 1982 showing that quite a number of the 42nd Street grinders were listed in the papers during this period:

NY Post 12/11/80
NY Post 3/10/82

The Daily News only carried the Cine 42 Twin in its Movie timetable. I even found a few ads from both papers that listed a few Duece theaters under the “Now Playing” banner – the Liberty, New Amsterdam, Times Square and even the Anco – but not the Selwyn, alas.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 11, 2006 at 5:02 am

Here are a few images of the Selwyn I’ve collected on my photobucket site. They include a couple of exterior shots I took myself back in October ‘93 plus a few images I’ve found on the web that I haven’t seen previously posted or linked to from this page:

1986 sci-fi horror grind
Matt Weber shot 1980’s Grand Luncheonette
Old Selwyn Building & marquee 1993 (damn bus!)
1993 – Cooped up?
1990’s Grand Luncheonette
Late 1990’s auditorium prior to renovations

If I were a more patient photographer back in 1993, I might have re-taken that shot of the facade after the city bus blocked my view under the marquee. I might have even made sure the composition wasn’t so crooked! Oh well. My apologies if any of these images are repeats.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 3, 2006 at 8:47 am

“Ladies Night in a Turkish Bath” was the original title of a farce-comedy “Good Night Ladies!” by the then-famous comic playwright Avery Hopwood who was active on the Bway stage in the 1910’s era. The play was revived in the 1940s and toured into the 1950s. It could easily have been condensed and presented at the Selwyn in 1950. I saw it in 1952 at the Majestic, Boston.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 3, 2006 at 7:57 am

I read on the internet broadway database (ibdb.com) that the Selwyn began a peculiar and short lived policy in 1950 of presenting a 60 minute play before each showing of their feature film. With an average of 4 to 5 shows a day, that meant some 30 live performances each week! Two of these plays are listed as having been a part of this policy (the site does not detail how often the show was changed): “The Respectable Prostitute” written by Jean Paul Sartre and “Ladies Night in a Turkish Bath”. Were there ever two more appropriate titles for live theatrical presentation during the height of the Deuce’s grind house days?

Here is the ibdb page for the Selwyn.

DONKIM
DONKIM on October 13, 2005 at 6:59 pm

You can see 2 color interior photos of this theatre in a decayed state in the Vol. 6, No. 2 issue of 2wice magazine.
There are shots of the torn up seats as well as a Matador outfit hanging in a dressing room photographed by Andrew Moore.
Their website is:www.2wice.org
(Just click on the Glow issue)
In addition there are other photos of the rundown 42nd Street theatres on the photographers website at www.andrew-moore.info
(Click on Times Square 1995-2005 and enjoy!)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 11, 2005 at 8:10 am

If you take a look at the third photo in Jerry’s post of July 27th, you can also see a “Soda Fountain” sign for the Grand Luncheonette that was located (as discussed above) under the marquee sharing the 1st floor of the now-collapsed Selwyn building with the theater’s outer lobby. The Grand might have operated under a different name at the time this photo was taken.

I recently found the negatives for a series of photos I took on 42nd Street and Times Square in October of ‘93. I’m going to have them transferred onto disc and will link to them on this site as soon as I can post them on my photobucket account.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on July 27, 2005 at 5:19 am

Ken,
If you look at the last image above, you get a partial view of Bickford’s. j

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on July 27, 2005 at 5:14 am

Sorry, something amiss with my earlier post. Here is the 3rd link. 3D on the Deuce: j

View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 27, 2005 at 5:02 am

Note that behind the Selwyn marquee is the Apollo showing The Lost One (La Traviata). Opera on 42nd Street!

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on July 27, 2005 at 4:13 am

Here are some Selwyn images from 1953 & 1954 including 3D on the Deuce: j

View link

View link

View link

rlvjr
rlvjr on June 18, 2005 at 10:28 am

The SELWYN or American Airlines THEATRE is a beautifully created and beautifully restored theatre. The lobby and entrance, site of the collapse, are new. The ill-informed staff there think the theatre used to be the “Sullivan” and when asked will either tell you it’s brand new/modern or restored classic; whatever you want to hear. Never mind. Great theatre. The show, THE CONSTANT WIFE, was AAA+. LADIES, tell you a secret: Avoid the long line at the Ladies Room near the Bar. Go downstairs to the big lobby down there — NO LINE at the downstairs (main) rest room.

br91975
br91975 on April 20, 2005 at 8:08 pm

Here’s a news story confirming the Grand Luncheonette’s location underneath the marquee of and to the right side of the entranceway to the Selwyn: View link

(The Nedick’s made reference to earlier today was located on the southwest corner of 7th and 42nd, on the spot presently occupied by Champs Sports.)

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on April 20, 2005 at 6:48 pm

Benjamin,
I have a postcard from the Museum of the City of NY with a 1950 shot of a crowd going into the Garden. Send me your email address and I’ll try to get a scanned copy to you.

I just tried the link above to the video clip and it worked. After clicking on the link, it should take you to the getty images website then click on “play clip”. It’s a great clip (from 8mm in a moving car?) of the entire north side. Jerry

Benjamin
Benjamin on April 20, 2005 at 3:11 pm

Jerry, thanks for the confirmation and added details about MSG! (I know you’re looking for photos of 42nd St.; I’d love to run across a photo of the inside of the MSG “arcade.” So far, I’ve only been able to find photos of the exterior that just give a hint of the aracade.)

Regarding, the photo of the New Amsterdam: if I’m looking at the correct photo on the New Amsterdam page (posted on Sun., 4/17/05), the Nedick’s shown is on the southwest corner of 42nd and Seventh Ave., a few doors down from the New Amsterdam.

But there used to be a snack stand that was just “inside” the entrance to a theater on the north side of 42nd St. (This snack stand was on the right side of the entrance.) Whether this was the Selwyn Theater, or another theater, I’m not sure. Also, whether it was a true “Nedick’s” — or a Nedick’s-“type” place — I’m also not sure.

I haven’t been able to access your video clip to compare it to what I remember. But I’m guessing that perhaps you just never gave the snack stand a second thought because to you it seemed like just another snack stand on 42nd St. “next to” — rather than “inside” — a movie theater entrance? This would certainly be a reasonable perception, since it really WAS just another snack stand on 42nd St. next to a movie theater entrance. The “inside” part, while somewhat unusual was also somewhat subtle — and perhaps more noticeable to people unfamiliar with 42nd St.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on April 20, 2005 at 2:35 pm

I don’t recall a snack stand inside any of the entrances. There was a Nedicks next to the New Amsterdam (see the photo I posted under the New Amsterdam earlier this week). The only Nedicks that I recall on the north side was in the subway entrance at 8th ave.

See the video clip of the north side from the mid 50s that I posted earlier Here’s the link View link

And yes, Benjamin, the old MSG at 50th & 8th had a Davega Sporting Goods and a Nedick’s in the arcade entrance. Jerry

hardbop
hardbop on April 20, 2005 at 12:45 pm

That sounds right Benjamin. Thanx. It is part of a vanished New York.

Benjamin
Benjamin on April 20, 2005 at 12:39 pm

From the descriptions in the two previous posts (hardbop and br91975), it seems to me that people might get the mistaken idea that the eatery (at one time, I believe, a “Nedick’s”) was actually intended primarily for the patrons of the Selwyn, and that pedestrians walking by on 42nd St. could somehow go into the theater to patronize it. (And that theater patrons could somehow go to this snack stand without leaving the theater.)

However, if I am remembering the theater entrance correctly, I would describe the relationship between the theater and the snack stand somewhat differently. Basically, if I recall it correctly, the theater had a very wide entrance that was somewhat “arcade-like,” and the “Nedick’s” storefront opened up onto this “arcade” instead of directly out onto the street. (My fuzzy recollection is that the doorway to the small office building that was located above the Selwyn’s “tunnel lobby” was on the other side of this wide entrance.)

So although a Selwyn patron wouldn’t have to go out into the rain, for instance, to patronize this Nedick’s, he or she still would have to walk down the long ticket lobby and actually exit the theater — for good — past the ticket taker to get to this 42nd St. snack stand. And of course, to a 42nd St. pedestrian, the “Nedick’s” would appear to be just another 42nd St. snack stand, although one that happened to open off a wide movie theater entrance instead of directly onto the street.

These very wide “arcade” type entrances (which I’ve always liked) are, unfortunately, rare in New York City. The New Amsterdam (as a movie theater grind house) had a somewhat similarly wide entrance (but no snack stand that I recall). And there are three or four “older” NYC office buildings that come to mind, that also have something that is somewhat similar. But perhaps the best example along these lines was the old Madison Sq. Garden on Eighth Ave. It’s arcade entrance (before you got to the ticket takers) seemed to be a recessed “mini-plaza” with a number of stores / snack stands, etc. opening off of it (at least that’s the way it seemed to me as a child).

But getting back to the case of the Selwyn, I think it’s more accurate to describe the “snack bar/restaurant” as just another 42nd St. snack stand / hot dog stand / luncheonette(?) — but one that happened, however, to open up onto a very wide theater entrance instead of directly onto the street.

br91975
br91975 on April 20, 2005 at 11:26 am

Coincidentally enough, hardbop, it was this theatre which had that snack bar – the Grand Luncheonette (one of the symbols of the ‘old’ Times Square which wrongfully went away) – under its marquee.

hardbop
hardbop on April 20, 2005 at 10:43 am

I was never brave enough to attend a film in any of the 42nd Street grindhouses in their heyday, but I do remember occasionally venturing on that block of 42nd Street and I remember one of those theatres, on the north side of the street, had a snack bar/restaurant that could be accessed by the general public. You did not have to enter the theatre to patronize the snack bar. It was under the marquee.

Anyone know what the theatre was? The snack bar and maybe the theatre was one of the last to stay open if my faulty memory serves me correctly.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 2, 2005 at 10:47 pm

I think that New York Post feature I’m thinking of was called “Neighborhood Movie Clock”…

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 2, 2005 at 10:45 pm

Casper… The original Selwyn Building — with theater marquee, entrance and front lobby on the ground floor and offices above — collapsed completely. I suppose the auditorium itself was not structurally attached to this building in any significant way as there was little if any damage to the theater itself. The building that now serves as entrance, lobby and offices, is entirely new construction built in 2000 – 2001.

I love reading the recollections on this site… particularly of how most of these theaters (save the New Amsterdam and Lyric) did not advertise in newspapers nor did their attractions appear in the “movie times” listings. Ads for individual films would list the theaters — that is, if the main attraction was still in wide release and running ads. Also, the New York Post had an odd feature called “Movie Clock”, if memory serves, that ran separately from their more comprehensive “movie timetable” listings. Most of the theaters listed in this column were Porn houses (the Mayfair and Austin Theaters in Queens, The Globe in the Bronx, etc.), but the 42nd Street grind houses found a home here as well.

But as AndyT accurately portrayed in his post, we’d just hit 42nd and check out the movie titles and those lurid cardboard advertising placards that festooned the area beneath the Marquees as well as the publicity stills and lobby cards displayed behind the glass of the outer foyers looking for something that piqued our interests or fit our moods on a particular day. Didn’t matter if you walked in half-way through one of the films… you’d just stay until you caught up to where you came in. On an island void of drive-ins, this is where you’d come to see “The Corpse Grinders” and “Count Dracula and His Vampire Brides” or “That Man Bolt” and “Shaft in Africa” or “The Five Deadly Venoms” and “The Streets of Hong Kong”.

Those days are gone forever.