New Amsterdam Theatre

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

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New Amsterdam Theatre

The New Amsterdam Theatre was opened as a live theatre on October 26, 1903 with a production of Shakspeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. The theatre was the first to be designed by the young architects Herts & Tallant, who had just returned to New York from a trip to Paris France, where they had seen examples of the ‘new’ Art Nouveau style, and they incorporated this in the design of the theatre. The New Amsterdam Theatre is a rare example of this style in the United States, and here it is certainly one of the most scrumptious examples of the style. The building also contained the 680-seat Ariel Gardens Rooftop Theatre which opened in June 1904 with Fay Templeton in “A Little Bit of Everything”, a musical revue.

The main house became well known as a venue for the lavish “Zeigfeld Follies” from 1913 to 1927, featuring stars such as Ruby Keeler, Fred & Adele Astaire, Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Marilyn Miller, Eddie Cantor, the Dolly Sisters, W.C. Fields and Helen Morgan. The New Amsterdam Theatre was closed as a live theatre in January 1937, with John Houston in Shakepeare’s “Othello”

It reopened as a 2nd run movie theatre in June 1937, with the Warner Bros. all star movie “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. An Art Moderne style sign was designed for the front of the theatre by noted architect John Eberson. The Ariel Gardens Rooftop Theatre was renamed Frolic Theatre and was closed on November 16, 1943 with Jim Bowles in the play “Goodbye Again”. It was converted into a rehearsal space and later a television studio, which was closed in spring of 1982, and still awaits restoration.

The New Amsterdam Theatre was closed as a movie theatre in 1985. It was purchased by the Nederlander Organization, who hoped to restore the building back to live use, but neither the 42nd Street area it was set in, nor the the time was right, and the entire building gradually began a downward spiral of dilapidation.

Purchased and restored by the Walt Disney Company in 1995-97, the New Amsterdam Theatre was the centerpiece of the Times Square renewal of the 1990’s. Though the interior had become a wreck, no expense was spared in restoring all of the Art Nouveau details. The Art Moderne sign on the facade was retained as a very interesting attribute to the theatre. Because the New Amsterdam Theatre reopened as a flagship showplace for Disney’s live shows, so much redevelopment occurred in Times Square that after a lull of decades, the area once again became crowded with pedestrians and an entertainment and commercial hub for the city.

Beautifully restored, the New Amsterdam Theatre is now Disney’s premiere showcase for its stage shows. It reopened on May 18, 1997 with a concert “King David”. In a nod to its cinema heritage, the New Amsterdam Theatre screened Disney’s animated feature “Hercules” in June 1997.

After being presented for years, the stage version of the “The Lion King” was succeeded on November 16, 2006 by the stage version of “Mary Poppins” which originated at the Prince Edward Theatre in London, England.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 229 comments)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 14, 2011 at 4:51 am

The McDonald’s marquee was built entirely new for the franchise over the main entrance to the Candler Building within the last 15 years. There was never a movie entrance at that exact spot. The Harris Theater had it’s entrance and marquee just to the right of where the McD’s entrance is today.

bigjoe59 on May 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm

was the Harris/Candler Theater torn down because it was in
such condition that it was unrepairable or because no one wanted
to spend the time and money to properly renovate it as they did with the New Amsterdam?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Bigjoe59… The Harris was in fine condition. It was the longest surviving of the original theaters on the block, showing movies several years into the ‘90’s. I guess it was deemed insignificant compared to the six other houses that were “protected” by the New 42nd Street organization. We see where that has gotten the Liberty and Times Square Theatres.

Dave Tavres
Dave Tavres on April 3, 2012 at 12:59 am

Was just watching “The Incredible Hulk”, and during the closing credits they show what appears to be the marquee of the Amsterdam Theater. (photo:

From “The Incredible Hulk” – S01E07 – 0.49.27 (Netflix:

There is a “Liberty” sign on the right, a “Modell’s” (sporting goods?) on the left, and a “Roxy Burlesk” sign on the right.

Google Street view:

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 3, 2012 at 6:27 am

Dave, the marquee on the front right is actually the Anco. Note that the Roxy and the Modells' both moved on 42nd street over the years.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 3, 2012 at 6:40 am

That is definitely a view looking east down W. 42nd Street from around Eighth Avenue. In that first pic, the marquee of the Anco Theatre is in the foreground on the right, with Bruce Li on the marquee – as Al points out. The marquee for the Empire can also be seen, just beyond the glimpse of the Roxy Burlesk and behind that the side board of the old billboard signage that used to be mounted on the facade above the Liberty marquee.

On the left (north) side of the block, Modells is indeed a sporting goods store that still dots the landscape in NYC (currently they occupy a site across the street from this old location). And the marquees of the Selwyn, Times Square and Lyric Theatres can be made out going off into the distance. The Apollo marquee is probably in the mix as well, but the image is a bit too murky to make out the detail.

I can’t really distinguish much of the New Amsterdam marquee or vertical, which would be on the right side of the street in this image, and off in the distance at the other end of the block.

DavidZornig on September 17, 2015 at 2:11 am

1953 photo of the New Amsterdam marquee added, courtesy of Al Ponte’s Time Machine – New York Facebook page.

DavidZornig on October 21, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Circa 1910’s photo added courtesy of the Duke University Collection.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 18, 2016 at 6:38 pm

In 1971 Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine starred in “Bunny O'Hare” and here is an excerpt from the New York Times' review:

“Also on the bill with "Bunny O'Hare,” currently at neighborhood theaters, is “The Velvet Vampire,” which is almost as funny as “Bunny O'Hare,” though I doubt that it means to be. It has to do with a beautiful, 125-year-old woman, the mistress of a remote ranch in the southwest who stocks her own blood bank with tourists dumb enough to spend the night.

“It is to be recommended only if you can see it at the New Amsterdam on 42d Street, where audiences loudly, freely and obscenely associate with the action on the screen.”

42ndStreetMemories on July 18, 2016 at 7:15 pm

I saw the 1964 re-release of PSYCHO at the New Amsterdam and part of the fun/horror was the audience.

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