11. Astor Theater

Interior of Astor Theater in 1906. Image via Library of Congress, Unknown Photographer.

The Astor, a Neo-Classical and Second Empire styled theater within the Hotel Astor, was designed by George Keister and built on Broadway at Forty-fifth Street. The Hotel Astor had a green copper mansard roof, a Louis XV-style Rococo ballroom, and a rooftop garden for entertainment, drinking, and dining. While the Astor Theater only remained a performance theater from 1906 to 1925, it made its mark on Broadway with over 21,000 shows including Why Mary?, which won the first Pulitzer Prize for drama. The first production in the Astor was A Midsummer Night’s Dreamwhich starred Annie Russell.

Hotel Astor. Photo via Library of Congress.

Like many Broadway theaters, it suffered the fate of becoming a movie theater in 1925. The Astor served as a “roadshow” theater for MGM Studios, meaning it would take part in a small number of first-time screenings in big cities before the general release. Two notable films that made their debut at the Astor are Gone With the Wind and Grand Hotel.

The Astor closed in 1972 because the old building had maintenance issues. It was slated to be destroyed and turned into an office tower along with several other theaters on the block, but the community intent on preserving the integrity of the theater fought against its destruction for twelve years. They were unsuccessful and the Astor, the Helen Hayes Theater, the Morosco Theater, and the Bijou theater were torn down to build the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The hotel itself lives on in an illustration on Dr. Brown’s Soda cans.