I then told her that was nothing.... I could take a random picture of Times Square, and be able to give a general date of when the photo was taken.
I searched "Times Square" on Google Image, scrolled down until all of the pictures loaded, then scrolled halfway up, and picked the first photo that appealed to me.
[You can view the original here. I don't want to violate the artist's rights.]
That's it up above. Here's the link to the actual post I found. (She swiped it from DeviantArt.) It's a panoramic digital photo, as you can see artifacts below Buzz Lightyear and on the Amazon sign. There is a watermark near McDonald's, but I can't read it.)
So, let's get cracking, shall we?
First, here's the Google Street map, approximately from the same vantage point. (Note, it's from May 2009, and the Maxwell, Mama Mia!, Phantom, and Wicked ads are there!)
The easiest thing is to look for movie posters. Long ago, movies ran forever, and there were numerous theater marquees on Broadway. Not anymore, but there are billboards, and we can see "Inception" being advertised with a July 16 opening date, right above The Palace theatre. Wikipedia states it was released in 2010. So, knowing the life span of movie advertising, we've narrowed the picture down to the year 2010.
Could it be 2009? Not likely. Look at the clothing. That's Summer 2009 at the earliest, and Hollywood doesn't advertise any movie that early, especially one which was hush-hush. Oh, and look... underneath the Coke sign... "2011 Hyundai Sonata". Most likely Summer 2010, but let's look closer.
Next, we look at the Broadway shows advertised.
Mama Mia!, Addams Family, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, West Side Story, Jersey Boys... those shows ran too long, although The Addams Family has a cartoon image, so it could be a pre-advertisement. But let's use that as a bookmark... Wikipedia shows it ran from March 8, 2010 (previews) until December 31, 2011.
A better clue is the Marriott Marquis marquee (sorry, couldn't resist!). "Come Fly Away: A New Musical" is advertised. Wikipedia says it ran from March 1, 2010 and ran through September 5, 2010. It was replaced by "Donny & Marie - A Broadway Christmas", which would not be advertised until possibly October. Again, given the clothing seen, I'm thinking September 2010 at the latest.
Note that the Disney Store has not opened yet. The grand opening was November 9, 2010.
What about Forever 21? Uncertain. It's to the right of the Disney Store, not seen on the photo. It opened June 25, 2010. But those look like old-fashioned billboards, not the LED displays which are there now. Also, the "Bertelsmann" signage has since been replaced with the building address, "1540 Broadway". Google Maps' archive shows it had not been changed in August 2012.
Hmm... A Little Night Music... November 24, 2009... BUT!
The production temporarily closed on June 20, 2010 when the contracts of Zeta-Jones and Lansbury ended and resumed on July 13, with new stars Bernadette Peters as Desiree Armfeldt and Elaine Stritch as Madame Armfeldt.It closed on January 9, 2011.
Beneath that ad, we see the "La" from "La Cage aux Folles". April 6, 2010 until May 1, 2011.
What's the "Huge" ad? An ABC Family TV show. It premiered on June 28, 2010, the last episode was August 30, and it was cancelled on October 4, 2010. So I'm thinking May-July 2010.
Given the watermark and a Google Image search, I found the original photo:
Times Square HDR Panorama by vvmasterdrfan
His meta data? It looks like he posted it in October 2010.
From his site:
Its truly amazing taking a picture of Time Square because the photo is like a Time Capsule because all the posters change so often.I've posted this link to his DA page. I wonder if the original photo has metadata?