Helen Hayes Theatre, (initially known as the Little Theatre), is a Broadway theatre located at 240 West 44th Street in Midtown Manhattan. With 597 seats, it is the smallest theatre on Broadway.
The Little Theatre was designed by the architect Harry Creighton Ingalls of the firm Ingalls & Hoffman, and built by Winthrop Ames; its name was chosen due to both the theatre's small size (with a seating capacity of only 300), and its goal to create intimate productions.
The theatre opened on March 12, 1912, with John Galsworthy's play The Pigeon. Other plays opening that year include:The Terrible Meek by Charles Rann Kennedy
The Flower of the Palace of Han by Charles Rann Kennedy and Louis Laloy
A revival of The Affairs of Anatol by Arthur Schnitzler (as translated by Harley Granville-Barker)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Jessie Graham White
Rutherford and Son by K.G. Sowerby
In the 1920s, Herbert J. Krapp redesigned the theatre to increase its seating capacity to 590 and to improve its acoustics. In 1931, the building was sold to The New York Times and converted into a conference hall named New York Times Hall.
In 1979, Martin Markinson and Donald Tick bought the theatre from Westinghouse for $800,000.
The theatre was named for Helen Hayes in 1983 when the actress' existing namesake theatre on West 46th Street was demolished (along with the Morosco Theatre and the Bijou Theatre, to construct the New York Marriott Marquis. According to Playbill.com, "The tribute was deemed fitting by the theatrical community, since the first theatre bearing the name of Helen Hayes, on West Forty-sixth Street, had been torn down in 1982 to make way for the Marriott Marquis Hotel."
In July 2008, it was announced that Markinson and the Tick family planned to sell the theatre to the Second Stage Theatre company for an undisclosed price. Second Stage said it needs to raise $35 million to then possibly buy the theatre, which would likely be renamed. Second Stage's first season had been targeted for 2013. It was announced on April 18, 2015, that the sale of the theatre to Second Stage had been completed. The sale price was $24.7 million. Second Stage will have its first production at the theatre during the 2017-18 season, after renovations and upgrades.
Rock of Ages achieved the box-office record for the Helen Hayes Theatre. The production grossed $745,205 over nine performances, for the week ending December 31, 2012.
CBS used the theatre as a radio studio for a time, but it was converted to television by ABC in 1959 and renamed the Little Theatre. Dick Clark's Saturday night The Dick Clark Show originated there from February 1958 through September 1961. During this time, ABC also broadcast the daytime show Who Do You Trust? with Johnny Carson from the theatre. It was briefly renamed the Winthrop Ames Theatre in 1964. From 1965 through 1983, it was again the Little Theatre. During the early part of that period, Westinghouse Broadcasting taped the syndicated Merv Griffin Show there and later, The David Frost Show. The 1969–70 season of the game show Beat the Clock hosted by Jack Narz was also taped there.
Colin Quinn's one-man show Long Story Short was recorded there as an HBO special; it had opened at the theatre in November 2010.