The Times Square Alliance is proud to continue to work to improve and promote Times Square, so that it retains the creativity, energy and edge that have made it an icon for entertainment, culture and urban life for over a century.
The Times Square Alliance celebrates the locations unique to the area that had an impact on theater culture. The Shubert Alley has probably one of the most interesting stories. Anyone who's seen a movie knows what an alley is usually like. Dirty, dark, dangerous with criminals waiting for you to wander in . . . right? Well, Shubert alley may have been a typical alley except for the fact that it abutted two Broadway theaters.
The alley was frequently used as a thoroughfare between 44th and 45th streets, a parking spot for famous theater producers, a waiting area for auditioning actors, a place for performers to hang out during breaks, and the site of a musical which aired on TV during the 50s. Even today it doesn't come near resembling what's considered a typical alley. It's positively pristine.
Shubert Alley is considered to be the geographical center of the Broadway Theater District. The building to its west is the Shubert Theater, named after Sam Shubert of the well-known theater production family. It opened in 1913 with its staging of "Hamlet" starring Sir John Forbes Robinson. The adjoining Booth Theater was built at the same time, although it has a very different style and appearance. "A Chorus Line" ran there from 1975 to 1990 making it the theater's longest-running show thus far. The Booth was named after actor Edwin Booth, brother of the infamous John Wilkes Booth, who shot and killed Abraham Lincoln.
Both buildings were designed by Henry B. Herts and are owned by The Shubert Organization whose headquarters are above Shubert Theater. The Booth opened in 1913 with the play "Great Adventure" by Arnold Bennett. The top grossing play at the theater thus far was the revival of "The Elephant Man" starring Bradley Cooper in 2014, which made over $1 million in one week. The Alley was leased by the Shuberts from the Astor estate in 1913. The lease ran for decades, and prior to its expiration, the Shuberts bought the property.
Shubert Alley is a block long and adjoins 44th and 45th Streets. Its original purpose was to allow the passage of fire trucks in the event of an emergency. In years past, the alley has been described as having a carnival atmosphere with street musicians, bootleggers taking orders, chorus girls, booking agents, and customers in line to purchase tickets. Today it's a busy pedestrian thoroughfare and a place where customers stand in line to await sought-after tickets to popular shows.
Cover photo credit: Alex via Flickr