History Of The Neil Simon Theatre On Broadway

History Of The Neil Simon Theatre On Broadway

Feature Photo: Ajay Suresh from New York, NY, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Neil Simon Theatre’s original name was the Alvin Theatre. Interested individuals might guess that the venue’s original name was a reference to its owners, its operators, or someone else along those lines. If so, they would be right because the venue’s original name did come from its first pair of operators. The funny thing is that neither one was called Alvin. Instead, they cobbled it together using parts of their first names. With that said, the Neil Simon Theatre has borne its current name since the early 1980s, though it has been a Nederlander-owned venue since the mid-1970s. It has been a Broadway Theater with approximately 1,445 seats throughout that entire time.

Built in the Late 1920s

One can make a decent case that the Neil Simon Theatre wasn’t built at the best of times. Construction on the venue started and finished in 1927. For context, New York City’s modern Theater District started coming into existence towards the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century. By the late 1920s, it was already well-established, as shown by how the majority of the Broadway Theaters still in use already existed by then. Those were prosperous times for the Theater District, but those were also extremely competitive times for the Theater District. Furthermore, the Great Depression was just around the metaphorical corner.

Alexander Pincus was the man who had the Neil Simon Theatre built. It wasn’t a new thing for him. Pincus had already been responsible for the building of more than one venue in New York City. This time around, he had the venue built for the producers Alex Aarons and Vinton Freedley, who had formed a successful partnership in 1924. These two were the venue’s original operators, who cobbled “Al” and “Vin” together to create the venue’s original name the Alvin Theatre.

Designed By Herbert Krapp

The Neil Simon Theatre was designed by the architect Herbert Krapp. It wasn’t the last theater he ever designed. After all, Krapp went on to design the Ethyl Barrymore Theatre for the Shubert Brothers in 1928. Still, it was towards the end of his theater-building career, which came to an abrupt stop in the late 1920s and never resumed afterward.

Exterior-wise, the venue is Neo-Georgian. For those curious, Georgian refers to the period from 1714 to 1830, which encompasses the reigns of four British monarchs by that name. It isn’t a single architectural style, as shown by how it included both Palladian and Neoclassical styles. Neo-Georgian refers to the Georgian revival in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It was a popular choice for residential buildings. Due to that, the Neil Simon Theatre and its Neo-Georgian compatriots were built to have a more welcoming though still extravagant feel when compared with their Beaux-Arts counterparts. Examples of the venue’s Neo-Georgian elements include but aren’t limited to the brick facade, the multi-paned windows, and the relatively restrained use of Classical-inspired ornamentation. As for the interior, Krapp had a preference for the Adam style, which was a subset of the Neoclassical style. This venue was no exception to that rule.

From the Late 1920s to the Mid-1940s

Aarons and Freedley enjoyed a short period of success. However, their partnership broke up in the early 1930s. The exact cause is unclear, but there is speculation that it crumbled beneath the weight of financial pressure from the Great Depression. Subsequently, Pincus took over the running of the Alvin Theatre. This lasted until 1945, during which time there doesn’t seem to have been any risk of him losing control of the venue. Something that was far from being guaranteed for Broadway Theaters during the Great Depression.

Under CBS Ownership

Pincus sold the Alvin Theatre to CBS in 1945. The broadcast network wanted it for use as a broadcast studio because its lease for the then-named Hammerstein’s Theatre was coming to a close. That was an issue because the latter’s owner Howard Cullman wanted to return it to legitimate use. Amusingly, CBS’s concern never came to fruition. It managed to renew its lease on Hammerstein’s Theatre, while Cullman agreed to lease the Alvin Theatre for legitimate use. This arrangement seems to have worked well for both parties because they renewed it more than once.

From the Late 1950s to the Mid-1970s

In 1959, the Alvin Theatre went to Max and Stanley Stahl. It continued to serve as a Broadway Theater under their ownership. Eventually, they sold the Alvin Theatre to Rock-Time in 1967. In turn, the company would hold on to the Alvin Theatre until the mid-1970s.

Under Nederlander Ownership

The Nederlander Organization made the Alvin Theatre its fourth Broadway Theater in 1975. Later, the 1980s would prove to be a time of considerable change for the venue. First, it received a rename for the playwright Neil Simon in 1983. He was an extremely prolific individual who wrote 32 plays, which rises to 34 plays depending on whether one counts the rewrites or not. On top of that, he wrote a huge number of screenplays, which were often adaptations of his plays. Thanks to this, Simon’s output earned him several remarkable distinctions. One excellent example would be how he received more Oscar and Tony Award nominations than anyone else. Another example would be how he became the first living playwright to have a Broadway Theater named for him.

Second, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission acted to preserve New York City’s Theater District by handing out a large number of official landmark designations in 1987. Both the Neil Simon Theatre’s exterior and its interior received that status, which makes sense because neither had received a major change throughout the venue’s existence. The Nederlander Organization and two other Broadway Theater owner-operators went to court over the designations because they didn’t like the attendant restrictions on their actions. Since the Neil Simon Theatre’s exterior and interior are still official landmarks of New York City, interested individuals should have no problem guessing that the owner-operators’ lawsuit was unsuccessful.

Since then, the Neil Simon Theatre has continued hosting shows. For the most part, its track record in recent decades hasn’t been noticeably better or worse than in the past. However, there has been a notable exception in the form of Hairspray, which ran from August 2002 to January 2009. The musical won eight Tony Awards. Moreover, it set a record for the venue by lasting 2,642 performances. The Neil Simon Theatre closed in March 2020 because of anti-COVID-19 measures. After that, it was able to reopen its doors in December 2021.




Jackson, Kenneth T. The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011.

Haskell, David. The Encyclopedia of New York. New York: Avid Reader Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2020.

Bloom, Ken. Broadway: Its History, People, and Places: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2004.

History Of The Neil Simon Theatre On Broadway article published on ClassicNewYorkHistory.com ©2022

ClassicNewYorkHistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business, or organization is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used in the articles are either original photographs taken by ClassicNewYorkHistory.com journalists, public domain creative commons photos or photos licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with ClassicNewYorkHistory.com and ClassicRockHistory.com. All photo credits have been placed at end of the article.

We are not responsible for any locations visited based on our recommendations or information included in the articles as the website is for entertainment purposes only.  

DMCA.com Protection Status

NYC's IBM Building
History of NYC’s IBM Building (590 Madison Avenue)
New York's Vineyards and Wine Making History
New York’s Vineyards And Wine Making History
Naming Gotham Book Review
Naming Gotham: Who Does New York City Honor, and Why?
Amityville House
History Of The Amityville Horror House
The Transformation From City Life To Suburbia For A Teen In The 1970s
Laura Nyro
A Look At The Carrer Of Bronx Born Songwriter Laura Nyro
George Santos Saga
The Saga Of George Santos And His Disinformation Campaign
History Of The Shubert Brothers And Shubert Organization
History Of The Shubert Brothers And Shubert Organization
The Nightmare Of The Long Island To New York City LIE Commute
The Nightmare Of The Long Island To New York City LIE Commute
My Experience Taking A Greyhound From NYC To Plattsburgh
My Experience Taking A Greyhound From NYC To Plattsburgh
New York State Thruway Rest Stops
Visiting The Just Opened New York State Thruway Rest Stops
Citi Bike
Is Riding A Citi Bike In NYC Safer Than Riding A Personal Bicycle?
Dakota Building History
The Dakota Building: New York’s Most Exclusive Address
St. James General Store
The Wonder And History Of The St. James General Store
History Of New York's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
History Of New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
Rockefeller Center's Top Of The Rock
History And Attractions Of Rockefeller Center’s Top Of The Rock
History Of TSS Stores (Times Square Stores) In NY
History Of TSS Stores (Times Square Stores) In NY
History Of Loehmann's Department Stores
History Of Loehmann’s Department Stores
History Of Sears, Roebuck and Co.
History Of Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Bonwit Teller Department Stores
History Of New York’s Bonwit Teller Department Stores
Michael R. Virgintino Releases His Second Book On Freedomland U.S.A.
Jet's Curse
Jet’s Curse Storms Into Stadium Swallowing Aaron Rodgers
New York Mets Trade Max Scherzer to Texas Rangers
New York Mets Trade Max Scherzer to Texas Rangers
Covid-19 Vaccine In NYC
Describing The Experience Of Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine In NYC