American Airlines Theatre

227 West 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Showing 51 - 66 of 66 comments

Benjamin
Benjamin on April 20, 2005 at 3:39 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 2:26 pm

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 1:43 pm

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 3, 2005 at 1:47 am

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

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 3, 2005 at 1:45 am

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
42ndStreetMemories on February 26, 2005 at 12:29 pm

I just found a beautiful color clip of the Selwyn and entire north side of 42nd Street from 1956 on the gettyimages.com 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
caspers42 on January 16, 2005 at 12:58 am

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
42ndStreetMemories on January 14, 2005 at 10:11 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
AndyT on January 14, 2005 at 9:43 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 9:40 am

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

AndyT
AndyT on January 14, 2005 at 9:35 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
RobertR on January 14, 2005 at 7:55 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 7:44 am

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

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on December 28, 2004 at 8:12 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™
dave-bronx™ on October 6, 2004 at 5:19 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 10:34 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.