New York Architecture Images- Midtown

Astor Plaza


Ely J. Kahn and Der Scutt


1515 Broadway, bet. W44 & W45. 




International Style II  


white stone facing and eccentric crownlike spikes


Office BuildingTheater


Major tenant: Viacom



In 2002 the property was sold by an affiliate of Equitable to SLGreen Realty Corp.

It was built in 1968-1969 at Times Square, replacing Hotel Astor (Clinton & Russell, 1904), which was closed in 1967. The development initiated the Special Theater District Zoning Amendment, introduced to lessen the detrimental effect of office tower construction to the traditionally entertainment-orientated Times Square area. In effect from Sixth to Seventh Ave. and 40th to 57th St., it offered bonuses for inclusion of theaters to the new office buildings in order to keep the area vital also in nighttime.

In case of the 1 Astor Plaza, the 20 per cent increase in space resulted in a 130,100 m2 building. Set on a base housing the theater and retail spaces, the tower of the 54-storey building is positioned to the back of the plot and has a facade of black glass. The top of the building at 222.5 m has white stone facing and eccentric crownlike spikes at the roof corners, making it easily recognisable on the skyline. The corner pylons double as mechanical equipment shafts. Originally also known as the W.T. Grant Building, in the early years there was the text logo "Grants" perched on the face of the top crown. The office tower main entrance is from the Broadway side corners, with escalators leading to the second-floor lobby and elevators. There is a north-south through-building arcade, which also acts as the entrance to the building's musical theater.

The large Minskoff Theater, named after the building's developers, was designed by Scutt and has a 1,621 seat capacity. The theater lobby, accessible by escalators from the arcade, occupies the upper portion of the glass walled space facing Broadway, along with two cantilevered balconies. There is also a below-grade, 1,500-seat cinema underneath the retail spaces. The building proved to be structurally demanding as the Minskoff Theater's stage and technical tower was housed underneath the Broadway side of the office building, necessitating the use of massive trusses to redirect the loads around the theater stage.

The Loews Astor Plaza

On August 2nd, 2004, the Loews Astor Plaza in Manhattan closed its doors forever. The theater opened on June 26, 1974 with the film For Pete's Sake starring Barbara Streisand, but was most notable to Dexter and his friends as the home of all three Original Trilogy Star Wars films in 1977, 1980, and 1983. The 1440 seat theater, located in Times Square, was one of the few remaining large single-screen theaters amidst the wave of multiplexes that now populate the city.

The Astor Plaza was known as "the place" to see event films, drawing large opening night crowds of film lovers. In addition to the Star Wars films, the theater hosted opening day screenings of Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark and the following Indiana Jones films, 2001, and several James Bond films. Equipped with state-of-the-art sound and projection systems, the Astor was also one of the few theaters retaining the tradition of having a velvet curtain that opened and closed to expose the screen for the feature attraction.

These photos were taken when Dexter attended the world premiere of Return of the Jedi in 1983. His fondest memory, however, occurred one week later, when the film opened to the public. This was the very first time that Dexter had ever taken to the sidewalk to wait overnight for theater tickets (no advance sales back then... you got yourself together in the morning, bought your ticket, and walked inside...). His spot was a bit beyond the throughway for the Minskoff Theater, visible on the left. The thrill of seeing the premiere with 1439 other fans that day far outranked the premiere, and thus began a long career of movie "overnights" through which Dex made many of his current friends.

On August 2nd, after the morning screening of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, the theater officially closed its doors, tore down the screen, and ripped out the front stage speaker systems. Following a nine-month renovation, the space will reopen as a live rock concert hall. Dexter is at least pleased that the Astor will still be entertaining people in its new incarnation, rather than storing the automobiles of patrons while they attend other venues.

The Loews Astor Plaza was the largest one-screen auditorium in New York. With its closing, the Ziegfeld now takes that honor, and is in fact the last theater in Manhattan that can be described as a movie palace. Thankfully, the Ziegfeld, which has been host to the recent Star Wars prequels, also combines the size, technology, and ambiance that one expects for a premiere event... including the velvet screen.