King Kong takes Manhattan

posted by Patrick Crowley on December 15, 2005 at 7:25 am

If you haven’t seen the new King Kong film from Peter Jackson yet, you should definitely check it out. Aside from being a great movie, there are some wonderful recreations of 1930’s-era Times Square, full of bright, beautiful marquees from many, many theaters that are no longer with us.

So often, when looking at theaters from the past, we’re only able to catch but a glimpse of a facade, a marquee, or a gorgeous auditorium. A theater can only be experienced in bits and pieces. But, with Kong, we get to walk through a grand movie palace, a shabby off-Broadway vaudeville theater, and the big, bright lights of Times Square. For theater fans, it’s pure magic.

(And, by the way, we can now reveal that WETA, the visual effects firm who created Kong’s effects, asked Cinema Treasures for assistance in making the film’s virtual movie theaters look as realistic as possible. Frankly, we helped out in a very small way, but it’s wonderful to see WETA’s committment to getting it right.)

Comments (11)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 15, 2005 at 9:25 am

I posted this earlier on the Embassy 2,3,4 site and was considering posting a news item, but thanks Patrick for beating me to it!

I saw the new “King Kong” from Peter Jackson last night and it features some stunning digital recreations of New York City circa 1933. While artistic liberties are taken, Times Square is well represented in the film. The Mayfair Theater in particular, with it’s huge wrap-around corner billboard, is probably the most prominently recognizable Times Square landmark featured in the climactic New York sequence of the film. The theater where Kong is put on display in the film is a fictional “Alhambra Theater” that has more or less displaced the Palace on the block between 47th and 46th Street, although Jackson has it located on the other side of the old Newsreel Theater (Embassy 1) in his “reel” world. The action and camera movements in this sequence are very rapid-fire, so I’m sure I’ll be making good use of the “pause” and “rewind” buttons on my remote to make geeky study of all the digital detail work in the recreation (particularly as it relates to the theaters depicted) when the movie is released on DVD.

The atmospheric interior of the “Alhambra” belongs to the very real Civic Theatre in Auckland, New Zealand, which is evidently still very much in use for both cinematic presentation and live events. The theater is a stunning overseas effort by atmospheric guru John Eberson.

As for the movie itself, if anyone is interested… the first hour didn’t really work for me; I found it unevenly acted, under-directed, over-scored and poorly written. However, once the characters are set to sea and their ship encounters the mysterious fog that shrouds Kong’s native Skull Island, the film really takes off on a rip-roaring adventure. Great fun. Technically dazzling and rather touching throughout… and there are some clever (and not-so-clever) references to bits of dialog and business (and use of Max Steiner’s classic score) from the original Cooper/Shoedsack film sprinkled about with varying success. Bottom line, the old B&W version still reigns supreme, but this is a worthy re-envisioning and technical update.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 15, 2005 at 11:39 am

One small correction. The information on this site that John Eberson was architect for the Civic Theatre in New Zealand seems to be in error. The theatre’s description states the style is “Ebersonian” and the theatre’s official website notes C. Bohringer as architect.

Theaterat
Theaterat on December 15, 2005 at 3:24 pm

I know that I probably will take a lot of heat for this, but even though the new King Kong has everything money can buy, it just does not have the sense of wonder and awe the original has.The computer generated scenes look like a video game and even though Times square ca.1933 looks good in a picture postcard way, it simply does not ring true.The film is overlong and the first hour seems to go nowhere.Things DO pick up a bit on Skull Island, but we know the outcome and where the rest of the film is going.Also, the 1930s athmosphere is pretty much romanticized and gives us an idealistic-and all too glossy impression of an era that was bleak at best.This one might cut the mustard for the teenage crowd who probably would never watch the original because it is in black and white. It IS superior to the 1976 remake but making a mega budget film from what was essentially a B movie is the same trap the producers of the 1998 remake of Godzilla fell into.After seeing this, I went home and watched the 1933 classic, and for a good measure also watched the Kaiju classic King Kong VS Godzilla and found both of these to be superior to the new version I just saw.

Theaterat
Theaterat on December 15, 2005 at 3:28 pm

Almost Forgot! My rating -2 out of 4 Bananas!

vokoban
vokoban on December 15, 2005 at 3:46 pm

I’m not going to give a Kong review as I haven’t seen the new one. I’m going to see it at the Orinda, so if I don’t like it, I can look at the theater instead. I just wanted to remind fans of the original 1933 film, that the interior of the theater that is supposed to be in New York was shot at the amazing Shrine Auditorium here in Los Angeles. If you have the new restored dvd, it warrants some slow motion and frame by frame viewing!

Patsy
Patsy on February 4, 2006 at 8:05 am

Personally, if I were to see this movie I’d prefer to see the original!

jukingeo
jukingeo on February 19, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Well, I guess in finding this thread I answered my own question in regards to the Alhambra Theatre if it existed or not. The answer is yes and no. There WAS an Alhambra Theatre in Brooklyn, but not in Times Square. But it is nice to know that the interior theatre shots used in King Kong did come from an existing theatre.

The Civic sure is a beauty!

As for the film…I liked it. I have seen the original as well and I must say that Peter Jackson did a good job at stepping up to the plate and taking on this task. Unlike the 1976 version, which was not bad, but rather horrendous in comparison to the original. I think the biggest complaint about Jackson’s King Kong is that it is too long and most of the beginning is dragged out. I concur here as well. I also didn’t like the giant bug scene either as that was just a time eater. But there were many scenes that stood out and in comparison to the original were very much upheld. The Kong vs T-Rexes were awesome. The whole ‘offering’ ceremony scene with the burning oil cascading down the wall and into the chasm below was awesome. Of course the 1933 depiction of New York and Times Square really was the icing on the cake. I seen an old film taking of old theatre marquees around the same era (in fact it is posted under the Chicago Paradise Theatre thread) and Peter Jackson did hit it right on the head. It looked great! The theatre looked great! All in all, I got more and more into the movie as it went on. The classic ending where Kong climbs the Empire State Building is also fantastic right up to the touching final moments between Ann and Kong.

So no, I cannot say that Peter Jackson didn’t do a good job on the film. He did do an excellent job. I mean for one, I could make a gripe about the early 1930’s stop action photography of the original film is laughable at times, but the 1933 version’s story does get more to the point, but as with James Cameron’s Titanic…I am sure that Peter Jackson was not going to make a carbon copy of the original. But I will say that overall I do like both the 1933 version and Peter Jackson’s version equally alike. I must say I wasn’t disappointed. Peter Jackson did come through with King Kong as a great follow up to his previous stupendous work on The Lord Of The Rings. I don’t think there are any gripes there.

‘Nuff said,
Geo

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Patsy you are so right.The 1976 “KING KONG” was a joke.This one is made by a computer? no thanks.Where are the craftsmen that have been replaced by computers,

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on June 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I saw the latest King Kong I thought I would not like it but it was pretty good,Jack Black was great in it and I do not even like him that much.And another thing if you are going to remake a movie why make just like the first one,or two.The times keep on changing.

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