American Airlines Theatre

229 W. 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

Unfavorite 12 people favorited this theater

Showing 51 - 64 of 64 comments

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.

42ndStreetMemories on February 26, 2005 at 9:29 am

I just found a beautiful color clip of the Selwyn and entire north side of 42nd Street from 1956 on the website. The Selwyn is showing (3 Coins in the Fountain & Love is a Many Splendid Thing), Apollo (Naked Night & Divided Heart), Times Square (Best of the Badmen & Badman’s Territory), Lyric (Man in the Grey Flannel Suit & Magnificent Roughnecks), Victory (Purple Heart & Guadalcanal Diary). Here’s the link View link

Jerry 42nd Street Memories

caspers42 on January 15, 2005 at 9:58 pm

I find it quite interesting how the front of this theatre just happened to “collapse”, and now there is bright neon lights on its front, was the current home of Pax a part of the Selwyn’s lobby, and was their just office space in the floors above the original and current entrances?

42ndStreetMemories on January 14, 2005 at 7:11 pm

Usually the Lyric & New Amsterdam billings (my time….1950s-early 1970s)would be listed in the newspapers because they were showing 1st run (post-Broadway)films and they would appear in the ad taken out by the films' distributor. The Selwyn would show the same double feature as the Lyric but a week later, as the Harris did after the New Amsterdam ran it. So in theory if you missed a double feature one week, you knew that it would be at the Selwyn. No one would say “Let’s go to the Selwyn”, it was always “let’s go to the Deuce” and most likely you’d end up at the Empire, Anco or Victory which didn’t advertise at all and had the most creative re-release double features. Jerry 42nd Street Memories

AndyT on January 14, 2005 at 6:43 am

I don’t think so —– I know I didn’t. I believe that these theaters were not even included in specific movie display ads, and the owners certainly didn’t spend money on advertising.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 14, 2005 at 6:40 am

So people did not typically decide to go to these theatres by seeing them in newspaper listings or ads?

AndyT on January 14, 2005 at 6:35 am

I think that most of us were unable to distinguish between the various theaters even when they were showing films. Ownership did little to establish identities for the grind houses —– the prospective customer simply walked up the street until they were seduced by a triple feature. I think there were few of us that said “Let’s go to the Selwyn.”

RobertR on January 14, 2005 at 4:55 am

This theatre I think would be called American Airlines Theatre becauce most New Yorkers (except theatre buffs) have no idea anymore which theatre was which from the movie days.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 14, 2005 at 4:44 am

In everyday conversation, do New Yorkers actually call it the ‘American Airlines Theatre’, or do they still call it the Selwyn?

42ndStreetMemories on December 28, 2004 at 5:12 am

The Selwyn of the 50s-60s usually showed the double features that had previously played at the Lyric. The theater was the first one you approached on the southside of the street going from west to east. It was situated next to the Apollo. The Travel Channel has been playing an hour long program on Times Square this week with shots of the Deuce from the 70s. Jerry 42nd Street Memories

dave-bronx™ on October 6, 2004 at 2:19 pm

A former doorman at City Cinemas, who had previously worked at the Selwyn in the late 80s-early 90s, told me that at some point while he worked there they closed the orchestra and made all the customers sit upstairs in the balcony. This was because the rats in the orchestra section were chasing the customers away.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 14, 2003 at 7:34 pm

The theater has been lovingly restored to it’s original luster after many years as a typical 42nd Street grind-house. The original lobby occupied the ground floor of the 5 or 6 story Selwyn building, which collapsed while renovations were being made to the theater in December of 1999 (just days before the huge annual New Years Eve celebration in Times Square — making cleanup and safety concerns a pressing concern). As I recall the theater from the ‘70’s and '80’s, there was a huge boxy marquee that ran the entire width of the Selwyn building… and just to the right of the theater entrance (but still under the marquee), one could grab a quick bite or soft-drink at the VERY greasy-spoon diner called The Grand. On the exposed east-side brick wall of the Selwyn theater could be seen a large but fading mural advertising the pleasures of enjoying a fine movie at one of 42nd Street’s many air-conditioned theaters. I have a photo of it somewhere. If I can find it and get a good scan, I’ll email it to this site’s host.