TheaterMania Logo
Special Reports

Big Box Retail Chain to Be Housed in Broadway Landmark, Actors' Equity Will Profit

In ever-shifting Times Square, the commercial tenants of a former showbiz shoe warehouse will pay land rent to the labor union. logo

A statue of Ethel Barrymore on the facade of the I. Miller building in Times Square.
Tristan Fuge
Remember the Broadway landmark that, much to our stated dismay, will soon sell multi-colored jeggings? Well, apparently, Actors' Equity Association, the labor union that represents more than 49,000 actors and stage managers in the United States, will actually benefit from the retail transformation.

The two-story building in question, at 1552-1554 Broadway and 46th Street in Times Square, opened in the 1920s as an upscale I. Miller store, a national chain that specialized in "shoes-for-showbiz," from Broadway to ballet to opera to the big screen. In 2014, the property will open as a 30,000 square foot Express clothing store.

I. Miller's big-box renovation was wrought by Jeff Sutton and SL Green Reality, who purchased the landmark in 2011, in addition to the adjacent Actors' Equity's Building, combining the properties in one real estate deal. The buildings' retail facelift, and the higher prices paid for it by the new commercial tenants, are likely to increase revenues for Actors' Equity, which receives land rent from the owner based on the building's profits, Michael Sommers reported in Equity News.

In other words, actors, when you pick up a pencil skirt for an audition, some of that money will kinda-sorta go back into your health insurance.

As the Equity Building is renovated, the marble statues that graced I. Miller's façade -- depicting the 1920s grande dames of drama, film, and opera -- have been removed to await refurbishment. A statue of Ethel Barrymore as Hamlet's Ophelia represents theater, Mary Pickford in 1921's Little Lord Fauntleroy represents classic Hollywood, Marilyn Miller in the film Sunny represents musical comedy, and Rosa Ponselle in the 1927 revival of Bellini's Norma at the Metropolitan Opera House represents opera. While the statues will return to their perches, I. Miller's limestone facade will be covered by electronic billboards, obscuring the unpunctuated slogan carved below its cornice: "THE SHOW FOLKS SHOE SHOP DEDICATED TO BEAUTY IN FOOTWEAR." Inside, no one will fit you for custom-made tap shoes, but you can probably find a stray ballet flat for around 35 bucks.