It’s Fade to Black for Midtown’s Iconic Ziegfeld Movie Theater

posted by ThrHistoricalSociety on January 21, 2016 at 9:06 am

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It’s fade to black for Midtown’s iconic movie palace the Ziegfeld movie theater — but the iconic venue at 141 W. 54th St. will be reborn as a spectacular high-end event space, The (NY) Post has learned.

The new Ziegfeld Ballroom will be a mecca for society galas and corporate events, to open in fall 2017 after a two-year renovation of the space.

The ballroom is to be run by most of the partners who operate Gotham Hall, the event venue inside a landmarked former bank at Broadway and West 36th Street.

Plans call for a 10,000-square-foot column-free ballroom, as well as mezzanine meeting rooms and advanced electronic facilities.

The Ziegfeld, opened in 1969, is Manhattan’s last remaining large single-screen showplace used exclusively for movies with 1,300 seats (there is only one remaining single-screen movie venue in the borough, the 571-seat Paris). Although the Ziegfeld is revered by cinema buffs, it has in recent years lost over $1 million annually.

World renowned for the quality of its sound and projection — and for an ornate design that evoked the long-gone ’20s movie palaces that once lined Broadway and Seventh Avenue — the Ziegfeld was for decades one of the country’s best-known movie venues.

Read more about the Ziegfeld’s closing in the new York Post article: http://nypost.com/2016/01/20/this-is-the-ziegfeld-theaters-next-act/

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ABOUT THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Founded by Ben Hall in 1969, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres.

Learn more about historic theatres in the THS American Theatre Architecture Archives and on our website at historictheatres.org

Images by Ken Roe courtesy of Cinema Treasures

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Comments (26)

cmbussmann
cmbussmann on January 21, 2016 at 9:43 am

Devastating news…

terrywade
terrywade on January 21, 2016 at 9:57 am

At least the building will not be torn down and used for some other types of events while not movies. I guess all the seats will go.

fred1
fred1 on January 21, 2016 at 11:10 am

R.I.P. Ziegfeld theater

70mmlover
70mmlover on January 21, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Extremely disappointing. During the 1980s, I spent many happy hours watching films at the wonderful Ziegfeld. Brainstorm, Pennies from Heaven, Roger Rabbit, Yentl, Grease 2, The Wall, many more. What a shame.

vindanpar
vindanpar on January 21, 2016 at 8:26 pm

The last of the New York road show houses. Though I believe it only showed one film with reserved seats: the opening film Marooned. Unless the interior is retained why would they salvage the building? The exterior looks like it was poured from a cement mixer. And I have to admit when you were familiar with the Criterion, Rivoli and Warner Cinerama you always rued this was the one saved and not any of the others.

movieguy
movieguy on January 22, 2016 at 3:25 am

Extremely terrible news. It was owned by Cablevision under James Dolan. The man almost bankrupted the Knicks. I was talking to John the manager and I mentioned him I noticed they often hold movies too long. The Laffey at theater in Suffern New York was able to drop Mission impossible for example after two weeks same thing for the new James Bond movie. But the Ziegfeld ended up holding each for five weeks . The movie company certainly didn’t require such a long commitment. If they changed out the movies every 2 to 3 weeks they would’ve had better attendance I think. A really beautiful theater big screen great projection Ability to show 35mm as well as 4K digital. They ran a lot of classic films back about 10 years ago 2004 so. But they stopped doing that as of 2007 for the most part. A terrible loss to be lovers and New York.

cmbussmann
cmbussmann on January 22, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Final screenings are next Thursday. Go say goodbye, if you can.

ChasSmith
ChasSmith on January 22, 2016 at 10:20 pm

Sickening. Heartbreaking.

MPol
MPol on January 23, 2016 at 3:00 pm

What?!? Oh, my god!

This is terrible news. Even though I’m not a New Yorker, I remember seeing my all time favorite film, West Side Story, back in the fall of 2006, with my cousin. I drove from Boston to NYC that morning to see it, and to see my cousin, as well. We had such a great time seeing the film West Side Story at the Ziegfeld Cinema. It looked beautiful on that long, narrow screen.

I have some fond memories, and it’s hard for me to picture this theatre going out of business.

movieguy
movieguy on January 23, 2016 at 3:25 pm

I definitely plan to go next Thursday as that will be the absolute final day of operation. Absolutely terrible terrible thing for movie lovers and a great historic theater and New York in general

moax429
moax429 on January 24, 2016 at 6:29 am

I remember first hearing about this theater when, in March 1986, I was watching “Good Morning America” and they were doing a story about Mary Tyler Moore’s film “Just Between Friends,” which had its world premiere at the Ziegfeld.

I had, unfortunately, never seen any films at the Ziegfeld, either when I lived in Saddle River, New Jersey from 1983 to 1986 or on a few occasions in the 90’s when I came back to the area for a visit (in the fall of 1999, I remember the Ziegfeld was showing “Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace.” I don’t, however, remember what they were showing when I recently revisited the area in late September 2014). But, I do feel for anybody who has seen any film at this cinema and are shocked to hear that it will now be closing on January 29.

Another piece of New York City history is gone. To repeat what fred1 said above, “R.I.P. Ziegfeld theater.”

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on January 25, 2016 at 1:38 pm

in my entire life i haven’t been to this theater but my dad has went there when no other theater showed it in his area. It was great for exclusive engagements. How fitting that they showed a movie about marooned astronauts as their first movie months after man landed on the moon and before the Apollo 13 disaster, which this theater showed, and its last movie is about sci-fi too with Star Wars The Force Awakens. The next star wars movie will probably play at Chelsea, which has profited more than the Z due to its reserved seating and plush seats, something that the Ziegfield lacks. I hope that whoever takes over that building keeps the heritage of the name in the new building. And there will be only two single screen theaters left, the Paris, and the LeFrak IMAX.

pnelson
pnelson on January 25, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Strange that the downtown Big Apple has only a couple single screens left. Much smaller towns have more than that still. Seattle being one of them. The Egyptian only a mile or so from downtown on Capital Hill and The Big Picture downtown. They do well I hear.

DavidMorgan
DavidMorgan on January 26, 2016 at 9:38 am

As the curtain comes down, here are the Ziegfeld’s double curtains closing this week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ey_4KyBu2TA

rvrinsea
rvrinsea on January 29, 2016 at 3:22 am

pnelson,

even in Seattle operating a single screen is largely an act of love unless it is a cinema pub like the Big Picture or the Tin Cinema in Burien, Washington or McMinnamins in Bothell. Alcohol and digital projection keep costs in line.

The ultimate single screen theatre in America, if not the world, is the Cinerama in Seattle which is one of Paul Allen’s gifts to the city.

As or the Egyptian it is owned by Seattle Central College and operated by SIFF, the parent organization of the Seattle International Film Festival and two other theatres, including the Uptown Triplex on Queen Anne. As for the Egyptian were it not owned and operated by two non-profits, it would no longer exist.

stang119
stang119 on January 29, 2016 at 7:02 am

I was there opening day for Marooned. What a loss. Another institution priced out of New York!

Emil
Emil on January 29, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Such. An unfortunate twist and loss for the City-

Have fine memories of watching Moulin Rouge and among others a rockin, Rollin Roadshow of Gone With the Wind, complete with oversized chicken parm sandwiches. A spectacular House in one Theater-ness AND location, remember the fine main Space with a gentle barrel vault for a ceiling.

As of Thursaday, the employees and chandeliers were Intact, the same, and as I passed no info whatsoever as To the fate of the storied glorious Ziegfeld were given By the employee, she was still smiling however.

Emil
Emil on January 29, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Funny every time I was midtown was sure to pass it, go by The side plaza as of to pay respects- little did I suspect its Single screen days were numbered- a very, very sweet house With a warm past that gives you the most tender chilly willys just thinking about the ol' days n' times

DavidMorgan
DavidMorgan on January 29, 2016 at 6:11 pm

GALLERY: Curtain falls on NYC’s landmark Ziegfeld Theatre

http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/curtain-falls-on-nycs-landmark-ziegfeld-theatre/

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 30, 2016 at 6:18 pm

That totally sucks. But if it really has been losing $1 million annually I can understand to some extent. That’s a lot to eat just to keep a theater open.

It occurs to me that a non-profit or government organization could take over. But I guess there must not be any momentum for something like that.

AdamBomb1701
AdamBomb1701 on February 10, 2016 at 8:08 am

The seats are being ripped out of the iconic Ziegfeld theater, and are getting dumped in the trash. Here’s the article:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/manhattan/ziegfeld-theater-seats-thrown-closure-article-1.2526011

I saw many films there. “Earthquake” (in Sensurround), “Raise The Titanic”, the Neil Diamond “Jazz Singer” to name three. Such a shame the owners have no respect for the theaters' history.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on February 10, 2016 at 8:56 am

Past customers would’ve have purchased & cherished the end chairs with Z on them! It also looks like from that article that the neat sconces remain in the auditorium. It would be a shame if they too are trashed. Others took better photos of the chairs, but I’ve got photos of the sconces in my gallery here https://www.flickr.com/photos/howardbhaas/albums/72157634640390968

jjdunbar
jjdunbar on February 11, 2016 at 11:32 am

A great movie palace. Saw lots of great features in that house.

MPol
MPol on February 23, 2016 at 9:45 pm

Another one bites the dust! Sad, indeed!

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