42nd Street Theatres

In the first two decades of the 20th century, West 42nd Street became the home to a number of theatres and was the center of the new Broadway theatre district. For a look back at these theatres in their prime, see Michael Whitlach's Virtual 42nd Street and Musicals101.com. The North side of the street was (from East to West):

The South side of the street was:

As Americans headed for the suburbs and live theatre declined in the the 1960s, the majestic theatres of West 42nd Street were not spared the fate that faced large theatres all across the country. These theatres turned to movies (often being subdivided into multiple theatres) and then became porn houses before settling as vacant, fetid caverns of debt and dispair. By the time I got to NYC in the early 1990s, this block became known as "The Deuce" - a fearsome post-apocalyptic adult Disneyland (tm) of shuttered theatres, sex shops and prostitutes. For a look back at this tawdry and fascinating era, see the Forgotten-NY page on the old 42nd Street.

42nd Street at the dawn of Disneyfication

As the economy improved in the late 1990s and life returned to America's urban centers, civic leaders and commercial interests began coveting this newly valuable real-estate and implementing a curious, distinctly '90s vision of New York as a family-friendly urban theme park. Theatres that couldn't be shoehorned into tourist-friendly structures were demolished. Three of the ten surviving theatres remained more or less intact as live theatrical venues with elements of four more incorporated into new structures. The two movie megaplexes are particularly problematic as it is difficult to understand why tourists (who make up most of the visitors to Times Square) would want to spend $11 (on top of $200+ a night for a hotel) to see the same Hollywood schlock they could see for 25% less within a comfortable drive of their suburban Iowa McMansion. But Times Square has never been about rationality. While no morally responsible citizen could advocate for a return to the decomposition of the '70s, I suspect that the 2006 incarnation of 42nd Street is unsustainable in its current form.

As of 2016 the North side of the street is:

The South side:

Victory Theatre
Lyric Theatre
Times Square Theatre
American Airlines Theatre / Duke Theatre
B.B. King's Blues Club
Liberty Theatre
42nd Street E-Walk Theatre
New Amsterdam Theatre
Empire Theatre

Next: Concert Halls