Founded by Irwin S. Chanin, owner of a major New York construction company, the organization began building theaters in the s. Chanin did not have much money growing up and he was intent on democratizing the theatergoing experience so that all patrons—those paying higher prices for the best seats and those sitting in the less expensive seats—would all enter through the same door. Theater architect Herbert J. He also pioneered stadium seating, which gave the audience better site lines and acoustics. The orchestra was raked steeply upwards at the rear, rising over the entrance lobby with one large balcony above.
Originally named the Forrest Theatre after Edwin Forrest, the first American-born Broadway star, it was the first to combine a theater with a hotel. At the time it was built, in , there were already playhouses and motion picture houses competing for patrons.
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The largest and newest theater on Broadway, the Lyric was built in on the site of the former Apollo and original Lyric theatres and combined architectural elements from both to create a pastiche of old and new.
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