The American Theater Hall of Fame in New York City was founded in 1972. Earl Blackwell was the first head of the organization's Executive Committee. In an announcement in 1972, he said that the new Theater Hall of Fame would be located in the Uris Theatre (then under construction, now the Gershwin). James M. Nederlander and Gerard Oestreicher, who leased the theater, donated the space for the Hall of Fame; Arnold Weissberger was another founder. Blackwell noted that the names of the first honorees would "be embossed in bronze-gold lettering on the theater's entrance walls flanking its grand staircase and escalator." The first group of inductees was announced in October 1972.
Eligible inductees come from disciplines including actors, playwrights, songwriters, designers, directors, and producers who have had a career in American theater for at least twenty-five years and at least five major production credits on Broadway. This has since been modified. Selections are made each year by voting members of the Theater Hall of Fame and the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA). Induction takes place at a ceremony at the Gershwin Theatre in New York City, where the plaques containing the names of the inductees are hung.
Since 1998, full accounts of the annual induction ceremonies, with quotes from both inductees and their presenters, have appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. An index to these articles is on the ATCA website. An annual Theater Hall of Fame Fellowship Luncheon has been held annually since 2004 to salute a member "who continues to work on Broadway and also presents grants to emerging theatre artists."
An annual Theater Hall of Fame Founders Award, established in 1993 in honor of the 3 founders, recognizes an individual's outstanding contribution to the theatre.