What's in a Name anyway?
The Selwyn Theatre on West 42nd Street was built in 1918 and was named after its producer-owners, Edgar and Arch Selwyn. Its architecture was a beautiful Italian Renaissance and the interior had murals on the walls and antique marble was used for the base of the balcony. It seated 1,100 patrons including the single balcony and eight boxes.
The first production there was Information, Please which opened on October 2, 1918 and ran for 46 performances. Throughout the years the Selwyn has been a legit house, a movie theatre, or a combination of both. It's lowest point was in the 1970's when the entire street was nothing but porn palaces.
Thanks to American Airlines funding of 8.5 million dollars to help offset the Roundabout Theatre company's 21 million dollar debt, the theatre will open, fully restored as a Broadway house. In return for their support the theatre will be re-named the American Airlines Theatre. Strange name for a theatre I thought at first, but I can understand and live with it.
I suppose the old guard raised an eyebrow on the new name. After all, Broadway houses have a history of being named after producers, critics and actors, but an airline? Well, if Ford can have their name blazing on 42nd Street, why not an airline? It's all part of the corporatizing of Broadway which we've seen in the last few years.
Gone are the days of individual producers like Alexander Cohen and David Merrick. The economics of Broadway requires millions of dollars just to put on a small musical, much more than an individual should or can risk, unless of course, your last name is Prince. Enter corporate America with its deep pockets for producing and you have a new Broadway. Names like Ford, Disney, and now American Airlines (although they won't be producing) will be ablaze on the Great White Way. With Roundabout's fine reputation, I see this as a good thing, but being from the old guard, I'll simply refer to their theatre as the American.
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