The Merriam Theater, formerly the Sam S. Shubert Theatre, is Philadelphia’s most continuous location for touring Broadway show theatre. It is located within the Avenue of the Arts cultural district of Center City, Philadelphia. The Theatre was built by the Shubert Organization in 1918. In 1972 the theater came under the ownership of the Academy of Music, and is currently owned by the University of the Arts. It is also associated with the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
Lee and J.J. Shubert, theatrical producers and a founding members of the Theatrical Syndicate set out to build a theater memorializing their brother, Sam, who had died several years earlier in a railroad accident. Two theaters were built, one in Philadelphia and one in New York. The Shubert Theatre in Philadelphia was built in 1918 on the site of the demolished Horticultural Hall that included the reuse of the Hall's marble staircase in the theaters' interior design. The building stands seven stories high with theater on the first level and 6 floors used for offices and classrooms. Herbert J. Krapp is the original architect. Additions and renovations were made in 1958.
Then, beginning in 1986 the stage and sound was modernized, and following in 1991, the theatre was renamed and dedicated to John W. Merriam, a local entrepreneur, who was active for many years on the Board of Directors of the University of the Arts.
The Theater opened in 1918 with a road production of a musical from London and New York called Chu Chin Chow. In the early years, George Gershwin musicals and Al Jolson reviews graced the Shubert stage. John Barrymore played Hamlet in the 1920s and burlesque was featured in the 1930s. Other performers included: Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, Sammy Davis Jr., Angela Lansbury, and Laurence Olivier. Through the decades a number of highly acclaimed Broadway, off-Broadway and one night performances have been performed at the theater.