Theater District, Manhattan

"Theater District" redirects here. For other uses, see Theater District (disambiguation).
Theater District
Neighborhood of Manhattan

Coordinates: 40°45′28″N 73°59′9″W / 40.75778°N 73.98583°W / 40.75778; -73.98583Coordinates: 40°45′28″N 73°59′9″W / 40.75778°N 73.98583°W / 40.75778; -73.98583
Country United States
State New York
City New York City
Borough Manhattan
Zip code 10018, 10019, 10036[1]
Area code 212, 646, 917

New York City's Theater District (sometimes spelled Theatre District, and officially zoned as the "Theater Subdistrict"[2]) is an area in Midtown Manhattan where most Broadway theaters are located, as well as many other theaters, movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, and other places of entertainment. It extends from West 40th Street to West 54th Street, and from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue, and includes Times Square. The Great White Way is the name given to the section of Broadway which runs through the Theater District.

It also contains recording studios, record label offices, theatrical agencies, television studios, restaurants, Duffy Square, Shubert Alley, the Brill Building, a Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium, and Madame Tussauds of New York.[3][4][5]


Origins and early history

The Theater District first began attracting theaters and restaurants to the neighborhood after the Metropolitan Opera House moved to West 39th Street and Broadway in 1883.[6]

Over the years since then, the district has been referred to by New Yorkers as "the Rialto", as "The Main Stem", and as "Broadway", and at the turn of the 20th century, was simply called "The Street".[7][8]

By the 1970s, the 42nd Street area in the district had become quite run-down and seedywith the opening of a number of X-rated movie houses, peep shows, and so-called grind houses operating thereand was even considered a rather dangerous place to venture into by most New Yorkers. The entire area was later greatly revitalized by the City in the 1990s, however, with the closing of most of those businesses, and with an array of new businesses being attracted in.[4]

Joe Papp's "Save the Theatres" campaign

In the Spring of 1982, Joseph Papp, the Broadway theatrical producer and director who had established The Public Theater, led a campaign called "Save the Theatres" in Manhattan.[9] The primary initial goal of the "Save the Theatres" effort, which was sponsored by Papp's not-for-profit group and supported by the Actors Equity union, was to save several theater buildings in the Theatre District neighborhood from their impending demolition by monied Manhattan development interests.[10][11][12][13] Papp provided financial resources, campaign buttons, posters, and newspaper ads for the effort; recruited a publicist and actors to promote the cause; and provided various stage and street venues for public events in support of the campaign for saving the historic theatres.[11]

At Papp's behest, in July 1982, U.S. Congressman Donald J. Mitchell of New York, and 13 co-sponsors,[lower-alpha 1] introduced a bill in the 97th Congress (1981–82), entitled "H.R.6885, A bill to designate the Broadway/Times Square Theatre District in the City of New York as a national historic site".[15] The proposed legislation, which failed to be enacted, would have required the Federal Government to aid financially and otherwise in preserving the district and its historic theatre houses as an official National Historic Site.[15]

The Save the Theatres campaign then turned their efforts toward supporting the establishment of the Theater District as a registered New York City historic district.[16][17] In December 1983, Save the Theatres prepared "The Broadway Theater District, a Preservation Development and Management Plan", and demanded that each theater in the district receive landmark designation.[17] Mayor Koch ultimately responded by creating a Theater Advisory Council, that included Papp as a member,[11] and which eventually led to the area being officially zoned as the "Theater Subdistrict"[2]

Theater Subdistrict zoning

In January 2001, the New York Appellate Division, First Department in Fisher v. Giuliani 280 A.D.2d 13 (2001) 720 N.Y.S.2d 50, partially upheld the 1998 expansion of the Theater Subdistrict zoning regulations, which added receiving sites along Eighth Avenue where development rights from the landmarked Broadway Theaters could be sold. Community and civic organizations opposed the expansion of the district as it would impinge the nearby Clinton/Hell's Kitchen residential neighborhood. The court objection, filed in 1999, did not challenge the pre-existing Theater Subdistrict itself or the original development rights zoning legislation.[18]

New York City also created the "Theater Subdistrict Council", LDC (“TSC”), a not-for-profit corporation, pursuant to the 1998 zoning regulation.[19] The TSC administers the Theater Subdistrict Fund and allocates grants.[19]

The New York City Zoning Resolution for special purpose districts, as amended on April 30, 2012, contains special regulations for the Theater Subdistrict, including the transfer of development rights, incentives for the rehabilitation of existing theaters, the creation of a theater council to promote theaters, and zoning and signage for theaters, and contains a list of theaters that qualify for special provisions in the regulations.[20]


The City of New York defines the subdistrict for zoning purposes to extend from 40th Street to 57th Street and from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue, with an additional area west of Eighth Avenue from 42nd Street to 45th Street.[21] The Times Square Alliance, a Business Improvement District organization dedicated to improving the Theater District, defines the district as an irregularly shaped area within the bounding box of 40th Street, 6th Ave, 53rd Street, and 9th Ave.[22]

Other nearby theater areas

The area known as Theatre Row is an area on 42nd Street from Ninth Avenue to Eleventh Avenue, which includes many Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theaters.

See also


  1. Co-sponsors of the Mitchell bill included: Rep. Michael D. Barnes (MD), Rep. Barber B. Conable, Jr. (NY), Rep. Thomas A. Daschle (SD), Rep. Arlen Erdahl (MN), Rep. David W. Evans (IN), Rep. Hamilton Fish, Jr. (NY), Rep. Thomas M. Foglietta (PA), Rep. Peter A. Peyser (NY), Rep. Peter W. Rodino, Jr. (NJ), Rep. Louis Stokes (OH), Rep. Ted Weiss (NY), Rep. George C. Wortley (NY), and Rep. Ron Wyden (OR).[14]



  1. "New York Zip Code Boundary Map (NY)". Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  2. 1 2 "New York City Department of City Planning". Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  3. Editors of Time Out (2011). Time Out New York. Time Out Guides. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  4. 1 2 Eleanor Berman (2013). Top 10 New York City. Penguin. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  5. Sascha Zuger (2011). Moon New York State. Avalon Travel. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  6. AnneLise Sorensen, Eleanor Berman (2012). DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: New York City. Penguin. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  7. Irving L. Allen (1995). City In Slang: New York Life and Popular Speech. Oxford University Press. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  8. William R. Taylor (April 22, 1996). Inventing Times Square: Commerce and Culture at the Crossroads of the World. JHU Press. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  9. The name of the organization was "Save the Theatres, Inc., as noted in court papers. See Shubert Organization, Inc. v. Landmarks Preservation Commission of the City of New York and Save the Theatres, Inc., Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, First Department, May 16, 1991, accessed March 10, 2013
  10. "Proposal to Save Morosco and Helen Hayes Theaters", LHP Architects, accessed March 10, 2013
  11. 1 2 3 Helen Epstein. Joe Papp: An American Life. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  12. "City Panel Near Vote On Save-The-Theaters Proposals". New York City: April 15, 1984. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  13. Corwin, Betty "Theatre on film and tape archive", International Association of Libraries and Museums of the Performing Arts, accessed May 10, 2013
  14. Bill Summary & Status – 97th Congress (1981–1982) – H.R.6885 - Co-Sponsors Retrieved December 10, 2015
  15. 1 2 "Bill Summary & Status – 97th Congress (1981–1982) – H.R.6885". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  16. Lynne B. Sagalyn (2003). Times Square Roulette: Remaking the City Icon. MIT Press. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  17. 1 2 Peter Bosselmann (August 28, 1985). Representation of Places – Imprimé: Reality and Realism in City Design. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  19. 1 2 "Theater Subdistrict Council – New York City Department of City Planning". Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  20. "The City of New York Zoning Resolution; Article VIII; Chapter 1;" (PDF). Mayor Bloomberg; New York City Planning Commission; Department of City Planning. May 25, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  21. "Special Purpose Districts: Manhattan: Special Midtown Districts" on the official NYC website. Accessed: February 21, 2013
  22. Times Square: Times Square/Theater District Dining

Further reading

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