American Airlines Theatre

227 West 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 19, 2011 at 3:01 pm

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.

LuisV
LuisV on December 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm

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 2:09 pm

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 18, 2011 at 10:14 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. :–)

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on December 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm

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.

robboehm
robboehm on December 18, 2011 at 11:48 am

They did a fabulous job rejuvenating this gem.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 18, 2011 at 1:22 am

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

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm

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.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on May 10, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Thanks for the heads up. That slip of the Selwyn would be 1956. I found it nostalgic because around this time the WB catalogue was being re-released and I saw quite a few on 42nd Street.

KenC
KenC on June 20, 2010 at 6:16 pm

In “THE JAMES DEAN STORY”, there are some great shots of Times Square. At 27 minutes and 24 seconds into the film, there is a quick shot of the Selwyn ;on the marquee: “ADVENTURES of ROBIN HOOD” plus “COLORADO TERRITORY”. At the 54 minute mark, there is a great shot of the Fox theatre in Hollywood. Really nice and unique marquee; theatre is showing “CURUCU, BEAST OF THE AMAZON” plus “THE MOLE PEOPLE”. Can be seen- for free- at Hulu.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on September 5, 2009 at 5:50 am

In the summer of 1952,

The Apollo was most probably presenting a double feature of foreign nudie nonsense sold as art, as the pre-porn house really always was.

deleted user
[Deleted] on September 4, 2009 at 6:07 pm

In Ruth Orkin’s photo, the rounded marquee in the foreground with the man on the ladder belongs to the Apollo Theatre, but the view is too close to make out what program was being presented. But it was probably a double-bill of “foreign” imports.

jflundy
jflundy on September 2, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Warren G. Harris provided this link to a 1952 photo by Ruth Orkin of the Selwyn. An extremely fine image.
View link

raybradley
raybradley on August 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm

1944 Selwyn view from LIFE -
View link

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on June 17, 2009 at 10:59 pm

The Selwyn is on the left in this February 1954 photo from the NY Daily News:
http://tinyurl.com/m26jpw

LuisV
LuisV on April 25, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Just saw The Philanthropist at this theater last night. I haver to admit that I was was too scared to have ever seen a single film on the Deuce back in it’s prime decadent period of the 70’s through early 90’s so this was my first time in the theater and I have to say that it is a very handsome Broadway playhouse; a beautiful restoration and a joy to see a play in as the chairs had ample legroom.

That said, it didn’t have that “movie palace” feeling and obviously it wasn’t built as a movie palace but that didn’t stop the New Amsterdam or Radio City from feeling like palaces even though they too were built for legit and not movies. Still a great theater though!

KingBiscuits
KingBiscuits on November 21, 2008 at 8:31 pm

That’s somewhat interesting that the Rutger Hauer Zatoichi update “Blind Fury” actually ran. I thought that it never ran in New York.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on November 21, 2008 at 8:17 pm

Here is a 1944 photo from Life Magazine. Unfortunately the focus was on the blind street musician and not the theater in the background.
http://tinyurl.com/6j942j

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 8, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Excerpt from a New York Times review dated January 18, 1968:

“THE BIGGEST BUNDLE OF THEM ALL” …lasts 106 minutes, of which the last 15 are worth seeing if you are really intent on going to a movie.

The afternoon price of admission at the Selwyn Theater on 42d Street, where the film opened yesterday, is only 85 cents; and although the theater is perhaps not the best ventilated in New York and the audience is not the most reverent, the movie is worth the price of admission, as long as the first 91 minutes are skipped.

woody
woody on December 19, 2007 at 2:16 pm

the closed up Selwyn see here in this shot of the north side of 42nd st in 1996 with 42 on its marquee
http://www.flickr.com/photos/woody1969/2120645173/
same shot from 2007 showing the american airlines theatre new frontage
http://www.flickr.com/photos/woody1969/2121424824/

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 7, 2007 at 2:34 am

In 1990, the Selwyn was still showing movies as evidenced by this image that I captured from a video clip on YouTube about how these grind houses were fast disappearing from the Duece. In fact, by this time only the Selwyn, Lyric, Harris and Rialto (using its Seventh Ave entrance) were still hanging on. By 1992, only the Harris would remain.

This image from the same video shows the Selwyn’s marquee beckoning folks to bring the entire family down to 42nd Street to enjoy a movie. Ha! Ri-iiight…

Ian
Ian on March 16, 2007 at 7:11 pm

A couple of interior pics during the restoration of the theatre in 2000 here :–

View link

View link

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 25, 2007 at 10:59 pm

Nice shot, Bryan. According to imdb, “Sex and Violence” was released in the U.S. in November, 1979. The co-feature, “The Day After Halloween” is actually an Aussie horror flick from 1979 called “Snapshot” that was released in the U.S. (again, per imdb) in October, 1980. So… that would date the photo to 1980. Of course, release date information is probably pretty sketchy – even on imdb – for films of this nature. I’m sure many Duece engagements flew well under the radar.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 14, 2007 at 7:13 pm

Just to quickly follow up, I found this web site that seems to have an excellent overview of all the art installations that presided over the ghost town that was 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues in 1993 and 1994. If you click on the colored circles within the text on the page, it will bring you to each installation – some of which occupied theater vestibules and marquees while others adorned the vacant retail units that filled the gaps in between the old movie houses. The page I linked to lists all the 1993 projects, while the bottom-most orange circle along the left pane of the page will lead you to a similar listing of the 1994 installations.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 14, 2007 at 6:16 pm

I’ve been searching around the internet for some time trying to find some of the art projects that were allowed installation within or upon some of the dormant grind houses on the Duece in the early ‘90’s. In addition to the “poetic” phrases that graced all the marquees along the strip around 1992, I seem to recall one or two installations in the lobby space and entry foyer space of one or two of the theaters along the north side of the block.

I came across this web site, which describes a work called “Mimesis” by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel that was installed in the entrance to the Selwyn back in 1993. There is a small image of the installation when you first open the link, and several more if you click on either of the “Mimesis” links at the bottom of the page.

Does anyone recall a similar installation in the Times Square vestibule? I seem to recall an almost holographic image of an blinking eye, but my memory is fuzzy. It might have been another work by Jones and Ginzel (there are many listed on the website, but not all of them have links with images and descriptions).