MID121-02.jpg (49864 bytes) New York Architecture Images- Midtown

Ed Sullivan Theater 


Herbert J. Krapp


1697-1699 Broadway 




Historicist Skyscraper  Neo-Gothic


steel frame with brick cladding





  Rendering copyright Simon Fieldhouse. Click here for a Simon Fieldhouse gallery.

The Ed Sullivan Theater, which is located at 1697-1699 Broadway between West 53rd and West 54th Streets, in Manhattan[1], is a venerable radio and television studio in New York City. The 1200-seat theatre — of which 400 seats are currently used for TV audiences — has been used as a venue for live and taped CBS broadcasts since 1936.

It is best known as the longtime home of The Ed Sullivan Show, though since 1993, it has been the home for the Late Show with David Letterman. It is on the list of National Register of Historic Places.

First 66 years
The facility was designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp[1]. It was built by Arthur Hammerstein between 1925 and 1927[1], and was named Hammerstein's Theater after his father, Oscar Hammerstein I. It later went by the name Manhattan Theater, Billy Rose's Music Hall, and the Manhattan once again. In the 1930s, it became a popular nightclub; after CBS obtained a long-term lease on the property, the network began broadcasting from there in 1936. It had various names during the network's tenancy, including Radio Theater #3 and the CBS Radio Playhouse. It was converted for television in 1950, when it became CBS-TV Studio 50.

The theater was renamed for Sullivan at the beginning of the 1967-68 season, though it is still TV Studio 50 in CBS's numerical list of New York television facilities, according to both the network and the actors' monthly Ross Reports. Sullivan, who started hosting his variety show from the Maxine Elliott Theatre (CBS Studio 51) on 39th Street in 1948, moved to Studio 50 a few years later.

In the 1960s, Studio 50 was one of CBS's busiest stages -- not only for Sullivan's program but also for The Honeymooners and Merv Griffin Show[2] as well several quiz shows. What's My Line?, To Tell the Truth and Password called the studio home after CBS began broadcasting regularly in color. (They had usually been taped around the corner at CBS-TV Studio 52, which is now the disco-theatre Studio 54). Line and Truth remained at Studio 50 even after they moved from CBS to first-run syndication in the late 1960s and early 70s. The programs eventually moved to NBC's Radio City Studios at Rockefeller Center.

Probably because both were CBS stages in the 1950s and 60s, Studio 50 once had access to Studio 52 (the current Studio 54 Building) through an access door which was cinder-blocked during the Ed Sullivan Theater's Letterman renovation.

The Ed Sullivan Theater was also the first home for The $10,000 Pyramid, with its huge end-game board at the rear of the set, in 1973. Other short-lived game shows produced at the Ed included Musical Chairs with singer Adam Wade (1975), Shoot For The Stars with Geoff Edwards (1977) (which was an NBC show), and Pass the Buck with Bill Cullen (1978).

The CBS lease on the building expired in 1981[3] and it was used as a Reeves Entertainment teletape facility, it hosted the sitcom Kate & Allie.

The Late Show

The Ed Sullivan Theater in 2007.When David Letterman switched networks from NBC to CBS, CBS bought the theatre in February 1993 for $4 million from Winthrop Financial Associates of Boston[4]. The theatre was reconfigured into a more intimate 400-seat studio, with lighting and sound adjustments. The architectural firm that did the work, Polshek Partnership, notes on its website that "to preserve the architectural integrity of the landmark, all interventions are reversible."

In 2005, it took nearly four months to retrofit the theater with the cabling and equipment necessary to broadcast high definition television.

Near the beginning of the first Letterman show in the fall of 1993, a quick reference was made to Sullivan's legacy, by splicing together several short clips of Sullivan introducing various acts, including, presumably, the singing group called The Lettermen. This resulted in a fake clip of Sullivan that sounded like "And now, here on our stage... David... Letterman!" Letterman also joked that his crew opened an old closet in the theatre which contained a 45-year old woman screaming "Ringo!"

^ a b c White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot; AIA Guide to New York City, 4th Edition; New York Chapter, American Institute of Architects; Crown Publishers/Random House. 2000. ISBN 0-8129-31069-8; ISBN 0-8129-3107-6. p.266.
^ A Building With a History, From Bootleggers to Beatles - New York Times - February 22, 1993
^ A Building With a History, From Bootleggers to Beatles - New York Times - February 22, 1993
^ CBS Buys a Theater To Keep Letterman On New York's Stage - New York Times - February 22, 1993