American Airlines Theatre

227 West 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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American Airlines (Selwyn) Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Built as a live theater venue amid the bustling theater district of 42nd Street, the former Selwyn Theater opened in 1918. After sixteen years of ups and downs, the format switched to movies in 1934 and remained that way until the 1990s.

The theater was restored and renovated in the late 90s as part of the Times Square Redevelopment Project and became the new home for live theater and the Roundabout Theatre company.

Thanks to a large donation and support by the airline company, the Selwyn was renamed for its generous benefactor, to the American Airlines Theatre.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 75 comments)

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on November 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

A color photo of the Selwyn and adjoining theatres can be found here: nytimes

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 7, 2011 at 11:54 am

That’s the 42nd Street I remember and loved as a teenager. In fact, I clearly recall seeing the double feature of the British action flick “The Final Option” and the awful horror pic “The Beast Within” at the Times Square Theatre (the marquee of which is partially seen at far right in this image) in October of 1983, which is when I would date this photo. Turned out I had already seen that supporting feature about a year or so earlier when it was the top billed feature somewhere along the block – and when I realized this, about 15 or 20 minutes into the showing, I got up and walked out. One of the few times I ever walked out on a supporting feature anywhere.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I don’t know why but this was my favorite heater on the block.

robboehm
robboehm on December 18, 2011 at 6:48 am

They did a fabulous job rejuvenating this gem.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on December 18, 2011 at 8:18 am

If you compare it to what Disney did across the street they actually did a pretty half-assed job. The murals are badly faded or covered in dust and many of the wood finishes are damaged or rotting away.

LuisV
LuisV on December 18, 2011 at 5:14 pm

I have to say that I have to agree. The New Amsterdam is a stunning achievement where this theater renovation was disappointing (imo). Granted, the New Amsterdam was one of the most beautiful theaters ever built so perhaps it is unfair to compare the two, but I guess I just did. :–)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 19, 2011 at 9:09 am

In all fairness, I’m sure Disney had a significantly bigger budget for their restoration of the New Amsterdam (which was also in a poorer state of disrepair) than the Roundabout had for its clean-up of the old Selwyn. The New Amsterdam sparkles like the crown jewel that it is. I haven’t been inside the Beacon Theatre since its multi-million dollar overhaul by Cablevision, but I imagine it is on a par with the work done at the New Amsterdam.

LuisV
LuisV on December 19, 2011 at 9:17 am

Agreed Ed, from what I’ve read about the Beacon, it is truly spectacular. But I still came away disappointed from the Selwyn nonetheless. That said, there is no doubt that the Selwyn was never in the same league as its more celebrated brethren. I’m still very happy that the theater was saved.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 19, 2011 at 10:01 am

I’m with you there, Luis. The sad thing is, of the 9 historic theaters on the block (not counting the stripped down and presumably unsalvageable Anco) that were touted to be held by either the State or the 42nd Street Development Corp for preservation and restoration, we really only have three theaters that remain in a state of preservation: the Selwyn, New Amsterdam and New Victory (another gem).

On a secondary tier of preservation, the shell of the Empire Theatre remains as a lobby to the AMC multiplex that bears its name, and the Lyric and Apollo Theatres were disassembled with only segments of historical interior elements (mostly from the Apollo) used in the reconstructed theater that now sits within their combined footprint.

The Times Square still sits there with its future up in the air and reports are that the Liberty’s auditorium – which sat vacant but largely intact for many years – has recently been stripped away. And most unforgiveably, the Harris Theatre – which was in as good a shape as any of the theatres on the block – wasn’t even given any consideration for preservation, having been completely demolished for the Madame Tussaud’s project.

While I celebrate the survival of the Selwyn, New Amsterdam and New Victory, I bemoan the loss of the Lyric and Harris and feel saddened as the slim hopes for the Times Square and Liberty seem to be slipping away.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on August 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Marquee pictured in this 1937 trade ad: Boxoffice

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