The Drama Book Shop, an iconic institution of the New York Theatre District, was about to close its doors for good. Due to escalating rent costs at its 40th Street location, the owners had no choice but to close shop. Fortunately, the legendary independent bookstore will be granted a new life.
The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and a team comprised of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, James L. Nederlander, and Jeffrey Seller announced that they are saving The Drama Book Shop. The 40th Street location will still close, but The Drama Book Shop will find a new home. The store is expected to reopen in the fall of 2019 at a location in the theater district.
“The Drama Book Shop is beloved by New York City’s theatre community, and we simply could not stand by and watch a uniquely New York independent bookstore disappear,” said Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin. “We are delighted to be playing a part in assuring this vital cultural resource can remain in midtown, for New Yorkers and tourists from all over the world to enjoy, and we know it will be in extremely capable hands.”
“My first experiences directing in New York City were at the Arthur Seelen Theater in the basement of the Drama Book Shop,” said Thomas Kail. “Thanks to the generosity of owners Allen Hubby and Rozanne Seelen, I had a small theater company that was in residence there for five years. I was lucky enough to be there the day the shop opened on 40th Street on December 3, 2001, and I am delighted to be part of this group that will ensure the Drama Book Shop lives on.”
Upon learning of the book store’s imminent closure, Commissioner Menin reached out to The Drama Book Shop’s manager to see if there was some way that the city could intercede. She learned that the rent hike for the current location would bring rents from $18,000 to $30,000, an astronomical increase that made it impossible to keep the institution open. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail stepped up and wanted to be a part of the solution. Kail and Miranda then called Jeffrey Seller to make him a part of the effort to purchase the book shop, and James L. Nederlander, whose father, Jimmy Nederlander, Sr. introduced him to the Book Shop, joined the endeavor. The team looked at all of the requirements of a new space (desired square footage, rent numbers, and suitable neighborhoods) and came to the conclusion that they could find a space for The Drama Book Shop to remain running for years to come. A signed letter of agreement to purchase the shop from longtime owner Rozanne Seelen was secured.
MOME and the new owners will soon announce the new location and an opening date in 2019.
Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.