The theatre opened as the Selwyn Theatre with Information Please on October 2, 1918.
The American Airlines Theatre was originally the Selwyn Theatre, built by brothers Arch and Edgar Selwyn, celebrated producers of the 1910s. George Keister was the architect, and the intimate theatre (1,051 seats) with one balcony was designed in the Italian Renaissance style.
The October 2, 1918, opening-night program boasted that the Selwyn was the most modern theatre in New York. The opening production starred acclaimed actor and playwright Jane Cowl in Information Please, written by Cowl and Jane Murfin.
After functioning as a grindhouse since the Depression, the Selwyn Theatre was fully restored in 2000 by the Roundabout Theatre Company and renamed the American Airlines Theatre.
The American Airlines Theatre opened on July 27, 2000, with a revival of Kaufman and Hart’s 1939 comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner, starring Nathan Lane as Sheridan Whiteside, a thinly disguised, acerbic portrait of critic Alexander Woollcott. Both the comedy and the new theatre on 42nd Street were warmly welcomed back.