Citing his company's deep roots in the New York area and claiming a strong and abiding commitment to the arts, American Airlines eastern regional vice president Tom Gleason said the nation's leading air carrier was "delighted to be able to present the Roundabout [Theatre Company] with a meaningful endowment" at a ceremony to announce the renaming of the former Selwyn Theatre on West 42nd Street.
For the next ten years, or for as long as their agreement with the nation's leading nonprofit is in place, American Airlines will lend its name to the former Selwyn -- now the American Airlines Theatre -- which Roundabout will call home.
In earlier interviews, theatre sources had focused their attention on the massive reconstruction and the fundraising effort that made the $21 million project possible. Aiming to open their new theatre debt free, fundraiser Julia C. Levy and artistic director Todd Haimes had suggested that the "renaming opportunity" was a significant part of the fundraising effort. As it turns out, Haimes told reporters gathered at the American Airlines Theatre on March 1 that the airline's funding -- $8.5 million -- would be applied to "operating expenses over the next 10 years."
Having now raised between $16.5 and $17.5 million (reports vary within that range) for the reconstruction project, another $3.5 to $4.5 million remains to be raised.
Poking fun at himself as a would-be actor with "a face made for radio," American's Gleason said the airline had "a keen interest in supporting and developing the arts." The details of the agreement between American Airlines and the theatre are not expected to be made public and may not be altogether finalized at this time, Playbill On-Line has learned. A paper statement from Roundabout indicates that American Airlines will contribute "$8.5 million in cash and in kind" over a period of ten years. When queried about "in kind" contributions, and whether this might mean advertising or other tie ins or trade offs, a theatre spokesperson said, "we have to assume these are travel related -- airline tickets and so forth."
The paper statement also indicated that "American’s corporate name will appear on the theatre’s 42nd Street marquee as well as other materials associated with the theatre, including all tickets and advertising. "
American Airlines reports it is a national sponsor of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the United Negro College Fund. In business in New York City since 1937, it has helped such groups as the Martha Graham Dance Company, the New York Historical Society, the New York Friars Club and Lincoln Center Theater. Between American Airlines and American Eagle, the airline boasts 9,351 employees in New York with an annual payroll of $350 million. American's total spending in the region is $578 million. There are 255 American/American Eagle flights routed through the four New York City area airports every day.
American also supports or has supported the following organizations as their "official" airline: Aaron Davis Hall Performing Arts, Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of New Jersey, Danza Espana-New York, Gateway Playhouse, Goodspeed Opera House, Hampton International Annual Film Festival, Theatre Hall of Fame (28th Year), McCarter Theatre, Opera Festival of New Jersey, New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, New Jersey Theatre Group, Paper Mill Playhouse, Patchogue Performing Arts Center, Paul Winters Solstice-New York Concert Series, PNC Bank Arts Center, Saturday Night Fever's Broadway production, the Shubert Organization, SOFA New York-Expressions of Culture, Westbury Music Fair, Westchester Broadway Theatre and the Westport Country Playhouse.
Constructed in 1918, the Selwyn was designed by George Keister in an Italian Renaissance style. Initially a legit theatre, the Selwyn became a movie house, then a B-movie house and was eventually abandoned after falling into disrepair. The 42nd Street Development Project later acquired the theatre and leased it to Roundabout on Nov. 11, 1998.
The sponsorship deal between the theatre and the airline was put together by Entertainment Management Group (EMG) which specializes in entertainment marketing, artist career management and live event production. EMG clients include the League of American Theatres and Producers, which brought in another air carrier, Continental Airlines as the "first official corporate sponsor of Broadway" in 1997.
For further information on the Roundabout Theatre call (212) 719 9393.
-- By Murdoch McBride