An answer is needed
posted by Movieplace on July 26, 2010 at 7:42 am
I am a New York City tour guide and a couple of days ago I had a passenger on my bus who disputed something that I always believed to be true. I am in the firm belief that over the years I read that Otis Elevators of Yonkers, New York invented and manufactured the side lift mechanism of the orchestra pit lift for Radio City Music Hall. The passenger claims it was Westinghouse. Please fellow Cinema Treasurers, what say you?
I don’t have a definitive answer to your question, but will be anxious to read the answer by some fellow CT member. I know the answer has to be out there somewhere. One of my favorite theatres is RCMH. I was in the lobby once, but didn’t take the tour which I regret to this day!
From the book “Radio City Music Hall” and the website ASME.com
Radio City Music Hall Hydraulically Actuated Stage (1932)
“The precision "choreographed” staging of Radio City Music Hall offers size and versatility, unlike any other. Built in 1932 by Peter Clark, its innovative elevator system is a forerunner of other stage designs (including the Metropolitan Opera House) as well as aircraft carrier systems built in World War II". Further information is at: View link
It is possible that the pit elevator and the pneumatic lifts for the stage lifts were made by different companies. Those stage lifts were undoubtedly custom jobs. But as many theaters have and have had pit elevators, it would not surprise me if the pit elevator was manufactured by Otis or Westinghouse.
Thank you all for your answers! I too am aware that it is not just NYC historical legend that the design of the side lift mechanism was used (and still is used) on aircraft carriers. I just always believed it was our very own local Otis Elevator Company of Yonkers New York. The Roxy (which had a larger pit) was lifted on a worm gear so why did RCMH choose to use pneumatic pistons for it’s stage lifts and something different for it’s orchestra pit.
Patsy, you should try to go back and take that tour. It is incredible. I did the tour during the last years of the movie and stage show combination. After being under the stage (which was unreal – the pistons holing up the stage were enormous) we went up to the stage during the movie. I remember a thick black curtain that separated the speakers behind the screen from the rest of the stage. There was no flash photography allowed due as it could have upset the camel walking around the stage awaiting the next performance of the christmas show.
The lifts were built by Peter Clark, not Otis. Complete history of lifts and more at this link: