Location: New York, New York
Address: 219 W. 49th St.
Capacity: approx 740
The American Airlines Theatre may look like one of the most modern venues in Times Square from its contemporary facade, but it is actually one of the oldest Broadway theatres in all of New York City. Built by brothers Arch and Edgar Selwyn, noted Broadway producers who originally named it the Selwyn Theatre in the late 1910s, the space was designed to be an intimate area with an initial capacity of just under 1,100 seats (after recent renovations it currently seats only 740). In the 1990s, the venue was bought by the Roundabout Theatre Company, which took great pains to restore and modernize the structure and reopened it as the American Airlines Theatre in 2000.
October 3, 1918 was opening night for the Selwyn Theatre when it hosted the play Information Please, written by actress and playwright Jane Cowl. The production turned out to be a flop, but a number of successful acts soon followed. In fact, the theatre had a great run with comedies and operettas in the 1920s and '30s, but the good times were soon followed by darker years as the Great Depression took its toll. The Selwyn would then go on to combine live theatre and movie viewing from the 1950s until the 1990s. Over the years, the space has also seen its fair share of dramatic productions and revivals that have made it a hot spot for theatre buffs.
The venue experienced a streak of success with a revival of the 1939 Kaufman and Hart comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner, which starred Broadway heavyweight Nathan Lane and opened in 2000. Another landmark production was The 39 Steps, based on the Alfred Hitchcock film. It became one of the longest-running nonmusical plays of the 2000s and began a tour throughout the country. The storied stage continued to burst with talent when the theatre hosted the Tony winning revival of The Pajama Game, starring Harry Connick Jr. and Kelli O'Hara, in 2006.
The American Airlines Theatre is still known as the Selwyn to its dedicated fans and has a rich history that rivals most of its competitors. It is a great example of a theatre from the golden age of performing arts that has been reborn in a new century.