The Ed Sullivan Theater New York, located at 1697–1699 Broadway between West 53rd and West 54th, in the Theater District in Manhattan, is a venerable radio and television studio in New York City. The theater has been used as a venue for live and taped CBS broadcasts since 1936.
It is historically known as the home of The Ed Sullivan Show and the site of The Beatles’ US debut performance. It has also housed David Letterman’s tenure of CBS’ Late Show from 1993 to 2015. The theatre currently houses The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the second incarnation of the Late Show franchise. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the interior has been designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The 13-story, brown brick and terra cotta office building with a ground-floor theater was designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp. It was built by Arthur Hammerstein between 1925 and 1927, and was named Hammerstein’s Theatre after his father, Oscar Hammerstein I. The original neo-Gothic interior contained pointed-arch stained-glass windows with scenes from the elder Hammerstein’s operas. Its first production was the three-hour musical Golden Dawn, the second male lead of which was Cary Grant, then still using his birth name, Archie Leach. Arthur Hammerstein went bankrupt in 1931, and lost ownership of the building.
It later went by the name Manhattan Theatre, Billy Rose’s Music Hall, and the Manhattan once again. In the 1930s, it became a nightclub.After CBS obtained a long-term lease on the property, the radio network began broadcasting from there in 1936, moving in broadcast facilities it had leased at NBC Studios in Radio City. Architect William Lescaze renovated the interior, keeping nearly all of the Krapp design but covering many walls with smooth white panels, his work earning praise from the magazine Architectural Forum.The debut broadcast was the Major Bowes Amateur Hour. The theater 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. In the early and mid-Fifties, the theater played host to many of the live telecasts of The Jackie Gleason Show.