(1898) was the first musical comedy entirely produced and performed by in a Broadway theatre (largely inspired by the routines of the ), followed by the -tinged (1898), and the highly successful (1902). Hundreds of musical comedies were staged on Broadway in the 1890s and early 1900s made up of songs written in New York's involving composers such as , , and ( (1904), (1906), and (1906)). Still, New York runs continued to be relatively short, with a few exceptions, compared with London runs, until . A few very successful British musicals continued to achieve great success in New York, including in 1900–01.
The motion picture mounted a challenge to the stage. At first, films were silent and presented only limited competition. By the end of the 1920s, films like were presented with synchronized sound, and critics wondered if the cinema would replace live theatre altogether. While live vaudeville could not compete with these inexpensive films that featured vaudeville stars and major comedians of the day, other theatre survived. The musicals of the , borrowing from vaudeville, and other light entertainments, tended to ignore plot in favor of emphasizing star actors and actresses, big dance routines, and popular songs. produced annual spectacular song-and-dance revues on Broadway featuring extravagant sets and elaborate costumes, but there was little to tie the various numbers together. Typical of the 1920s were lighthearted productions such as ; ; ; ; ; ; and . Their books may have been forgettable, but they produced enduring standards from , , , , and , among others, and , and continued in the vein of Victor Herbert. Clearly, the live theatre survived the invention of cinema.
Theatre in New York moved from downtown gradually to beginning around 1850, seeking less expensive real estate. In 1870, the heart of Broadway was in , and by the end of the century, many theatres were near . Theatres did not arrive in the area until the early 1900s, and the Broadway theatres did not consolidate there until a large number of theatres were built around the square in the 1920s and 1930s. Broadway's first "long-run" musical was a 50-performance hit called in 1857. New York runs continued to lag far behind those in London, but 's "musical burletta" (1860) shattered previous New York records with a run of 253 performances. It was at a performance by Keene's troupe of in Washington, D.C. that Abraham Lincoln was shot.
Broadway theatre, commonly known as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional with 500 or more seats located in the and along , in , . Along with London's , Broadway theatres are widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the .