History Of The Ed Sullivan Theater

History Of The Ed Sullivan Theater

Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2017

The History of the Ed Sullivan Theater In New York is quite remarkable, having been around for decades now. It has seen many famous acts come through the doors, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eminem, Jay Z, and Elvis Presley. In fact, it was on The Ed Sullivan Show that The Beatles had made their very first television debut in the country. So many famous musicians who have had remarkable careers claim that it was seeing The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan show that sparked the fire that turned them into musicians.

Forty-five years after The Beatles had their original debut on American television Paul McCartney came back and performed an outdoor show at The Ed Sullivan Theater. He held a rooftop concert on the marquee and there have been others that have done the same too, such as Jay-Z, Phish, Eminem, and Dave Matthews Band.

No one will ever forget the Jim Morrison and The Doors story that resonated from their performance on the Ed Sullivan show. After the band had finished their pre show rehearsals, one of the producers from the show went to see Jim Morrison and The Doors in their dressing room. The Ed Sullivan show producer was concerned that one of the lines in the song “Light My Fire,” was too controversial for live television. They were worried that the shows sponsors would be upset that The Doors were promoting drug use. Jim Morrison was told to switch the line “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher” to a much safer lyric “Girl, we couldn’t get much better.” Some people have argued that the producers set up the controversy for publicity. However, that’s not how they thought back then, and the show itself was the most popular show in television. They already had their audience.

As history has shown, when it was time for Jim Morrison  to sing the line, he stared straight into the camera and sang the original line that the show producers had asked him not to sing. The controversy and attempt to censor Jim Morrison was reflestci of a battle going on in society. Ed Sullivan and his show along with the theater represented an extension of vaudeville and old 1950s values. Jim Morrison was not the only singer they tried to censor. The show had issues with The Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and even Elvis Presley. Both artist refused to give into the show’s demands to censor their work.

Same theater, different show.

The theater has gone on to host different shows such as The Late Show with David Letterman, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Merv Griffin Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show. The Late Show with David Letterman went on for over 20 years. Throughout its history in New York, the space has been used as a radio studio, as well as for various television productions, for musicals, and it has even been previously used as a nightclub before the space had been purchased by CBS.

Originally opened back in 1927, created by Arthur Hammerstein, it used to be named the Hammerstein Theater. It first opened to the public in November of that year. People could visit the theater and see various musical acts and other performances. Many world famous performers have paid a visit to the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York. It wasn’t until the mid 30s when CBS obtained a long-term lease on the space that the theater would eventually see an upgrade to the space, as broadcast television became increasingly popular, in 1950 it finally morphed into a studio known as CBS-TV Studio 50. However, prior to that it had been known as the CBS Radio Playhouse #1 for a short time.

It wasn’t until 1953 that Ed Sullivan came to the studio however, known then as CBS-TV Studio 50, and he would eventually go on to become a historical figure thanks to the popularity of The Ed Sullivan Show. That show saw over 20 years of success and the theater honored that triumph back in 1967 by giving the studio the name that it has today, The Ed Sullivan Theater. The Ed Sullivan Theater as we know it today has had several names over the years since opening to the public back in 1927, including Manhattan Theater, Hammerstein’s Theater, CBS Radio Playhouse, CBS-TV Studio 50, Billy Rose’s Music Hall, Radio Theater #3, and The Ed Sullivan Theater.

The lease that CBS had obtained for the building expired back in 1981, but CBS would later purchase the building in 1993 for more than $4 million. CBS has also spent millions of dollars on renovating the space. CBS has invested heavily in the best restoration efforts of the space, which has helped to create brand new production spaces, along with a new marquee, and a redesign of other spaces etc. The space once CBS purchased it was meant to soon accommodate David Letterman and his show, with the theater designed to hold at least 400 audience members.

The Ed Sullivan Theater is a cherished New York landmark and has been a foundation for many historical entertainment moments in history. Millions of viewers have watched the various programs that have been created at this theater over the years. The Ed Sullivan Show has broken television records for its popularity and effectively transformed music history with its influence and success.

Though The Ed Sullivan Show might have come to an end many years ago, back in 1971, the success and influence of the The Ed Sullivan Theater has gone on, and it’s still a favorite landmark with many. The influence that it has had is undeniable. It’s gone on to host numerous entertainment projects and it still does today. Some of the most popular entertainers in the world have performed here and it is truly a paramount feature in American culture. Since Ed Sullivan first filmed his show at The Ed Sullivan Theater it has been more than 50 years. Though things might have changed several times, with the renovations and different acts etc, it has still retained the same influence, helping to create entertainment content that has gone on to inspire millions of people.


Ed Sullivan Theater History

Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2017

For a great article on censorship and the role the Ed Sullivan Theater played during those times check out the ClassicRockHistory.Com article below.

Elvis Presley, Censorship, And The Power Of The People

The Ed Sullivan Theater is located very close to Times Square in the borough of Manhattan, New York City.

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