1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S, W at Times Sq.-42nd St.; B, D, F, V at 42nd St.-Bryant Park
Past an 85-foot, high-def marquee and down a neon-lit escalator is the subterranean Best Buy Theater. Designed by architect David Rockwell to resemble a futuristic movie theater, a $21 million retrofit required the purchase of storage space from fellow 1515 Broadway occupant MTV to expand what was once the Loews Astor Plaza, the city's largest single-screen cinema. Today, the capacity ranges from 1,500 to 2,100, split between a standing-room area and stadium-style seating behind it. General admission is status quo for the mostly mainstream music and stand-up acts, meaning visitors can choose whether they would rather sit or stand, with mesh wire-walled mezzanines for VIPs flanking the floor. Above the ceiling, four-and-a-half feet of insulation plus a layer of hanging Insul-Quilt (the material used in recording studios) produces echoless sound, but just as importantly blocks out noise from the Broadway productions at the Minskoff Theater one floor up. Thanks to its small size, hardwood floors, and royal red-and-purple curtains, the stage area itself is surprisingly intimate and sophisticated. But the lounge outside, at the base of the escalators, is far more tripped-out and techy, with three underlit bars, outlets to charge cell phones and download free songs and games, and a large-screen plasma TV that simulcasts the onstage action.