Radio City Music Hall

1260 6th Avenue,
New York, NY 10020

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mrchangeover on September 3, 2004 at 12:31 pm

“ I for one missed the extended scope Fox fanfare which disapeared with the switch to Panavision”

Vito: Ah yes….what a wonderful fanfare that was. In the theatre I worked we used to crank the sound up a couple of notches when we opened up after the intermission and the curtain rose…..just to make sure the audience paid attention! My favourite movie music follow right after the 20th Century-Fox fanfare was “North To Alaska” with Johnny Horton singing the theme. What a great way to open a show.

Another question …did the projectionists at RCMH operate the curtains, house lights and stage lights for the movie part of the show or was it all done by the stagehands union?


BobFurmanek on September 3, 2004 at 11:00 am

Perspecta was installed by MGM in every Loew’s theater, as well as the Paramount, Criterion, Capitol and possibly Strand theaters on Times Square. It was used by MGM, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros, Allied Artists and United Artists. It lasted from late 1954 to 1957/58.

I’ve heard quite a few tracks through a restored Fairchild integrator. While it is panned mono, the mix (and careful use of separate gain levels for each channel) gives a very convincing illusion of stereo. We ran “Forbidden Planet” at the Loew’s Jersey on a 50 foot screen, and the Perspecta track sounded pretty good!

Vito on September 3, 2004 at 10:39 am

Thanks Warren, I long standing question of mine has been answered.
A lot of movie peole complained about CinemaScope and refused to use it. Making things worse in those days was the refusal on the part of the studios to pay Fox royalties to use the process, which spawned many ananorphic nightmares like SuperScope. MGM stayed with CinemScope until late 50s but others came up their own version like WarnerScope etc. Thank heavens we were able to project all of these anamorphic processes with the same lens, the only odd ball was SuperScope which required a different aperature plate than the others. Panavision is of course a superior anamorphic process. Perspecta never was accepted very much although the Paramount on Staten Island did have it.
By the way it sure is a great pleasure chatting with you guys!

BobFurmanek on September 3, 2004 at 8:31 am

I believe “Jailhouse Rock” was the first feature to be photographed witb the new anamorphic Panavision lenses.

MGM offered many of their stereo prints in both mono optical Perspecta, and 4-track mag/optical prints. This policy lasted until sometime in late 1957 when Perspecta was abandoned by the studio.

Vito on September 3, 2004 at 5:07 am

I am not sure I agree with the statement about RCMH and mag sound. I thought it was used rather extensily during the mid to late 50s.RCMH also used magnetic sound when 70mm was installed. The Simplex 35/70 projectors have 35mm as well as 70mm magnetic readers.
The last four track I saw at RCMH was in 1972 with “The Red Tent”.
“A Star Is Born” in 1976 was just about the last film to have four track, it included Dolby noise reduction which of course became Dolby optical stereo. Then “Star Wars” started the Dolby stereo revolution we enjoy today. Only Fox was completely commited to magnetic sound, all fox releases starting with “The Robe” in 1953 were available in either optical or magnetic versions. later on with the advent of mag/optical prints, all fox releases were distributed mag/optical untill 1963 when Fox abanded CinemaScope for Panavision. The last CinemaScope fox release, I believe was “Capriece” starting Doris Day. After that it was goodbye to mag sound at Fox and all Panavision prints were optical.Fox was going through some tough financial times then and the added cost of magnetic prints was one of the first to go. This brings up a question to which I never really recieved a satisfactory answer.
Why did Fox dump CinemaScope? I for one missed the extended scope Fox fanfare which disapeared with the switch to Panavision, which was never heard again untill “Star Wars” when Lucas changed “A Cinemascope production” to “A George Lucas Production”, returning Mr. Newmans great fanfare to it’s former glory.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on September 2, 2004 at 5:25 pm

I believe the only Garbo film to play RCMH was “Ninotchka.” Interestingly “Silk Stockings,” the musical remake also played there, as has been noted above.

EMarkisch on September 2, 2004 at 5:21 pm

Yes, Simon, you are correct. Garbo’s Camille did play at the Capitol.
However, Porter is referring to a clip of “Camille” that was blown up and used in the “Annie” movie musical. It was used quite erroneously. As I recall, Daddy Warbucks buys out a performance at Radio City and takes Orphan Annie et. al. to see Garbo in “Camille”.
As far as I know, “Camille” never played RCMH.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on September 2, 2004 at 4:19 pm

If I’m not mistaken, didn’t “Camille” play the Capitol?

porterfaulkner on September 2, 2004 at 4:06 pm

Vito is, of course correct, in stating that they were mostly mono or Perspecta sound prints used in the mid to late fifties at the Music Hall. The Hall was not equipped to show magnetic 4 track prints because of the rejection of audiece-participation speakers in the auditorium and the product base being mainly MGM films. This was a major expense for exhibitors and was also damaging to the decor in many theatres. MGM and Paramount embraced Perspecta which gives a stereo directional effect from a mono soundtrack but in the stage range only. It did not require or benefit from speakers in the auditorium. 20th Century-Fox championed the much more expensive 4 track magnetic prints initially as part of their promotion of CinemaScope.The spectacular multi-directional sound from these prints was expensive for the studio and for the exhibitor but also meant that the print was only usable in one type of theatre and from usually only one studio. Meanwhile, because of the cost of these prints, they developed mag/optical prints. These carried 2 tracks of stereo and and a mono optical track but didnt start to be taken up until the late 50’s. From then on 4 track was only used infrequently,mostly for event pictures or special prints for gala engagements. This continued up until the late seventies when Dolby became widespread.

Just because the wide release of a film was in a certain sound process or aspect ratio doesnt mean that other prints do not exist. The studios ran off prints in all sorts of strange variations in different cities. ‘Scope films were released flat or rereleases of classics or even just new prints were run off in different processes. Having worked in a film exchange I remember having a print of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “Call Me Madam” in 4 track, whilst having “Carousel” in a flat 1:1.66 and mono. One of the last special magnetic 4 track prints I saw was for a premiere of “Hair”, which came direct from UA in Los Angeles and was returned to their library after the engagement.

Part of the reason the 70mm prints of “GWTW” looked so bad is they were printed up from Technicolor IB masters and converted to Metrocolor then blown up. The only way to get enough picture to fill the 70mm ratio was to zoom in on the 1.33 image sufficiently to get enough picture to fill the sides of the screen(a bit like the Pan&Scan process when they need to fill height when printing up from a widescreen image).Resulting an a blotchy,grainy and washed out look to a treasure most people remember as being akin to “Wizard of Oz” A ghastly mistake which MGM never repeated and the 70mm prints of “GWTW” were discarded. This didn’t however stop them from trying it with other classics on the odd occasion as there was a 70mm print struck of “Camille” and used to fill the screen at RCMH when filming John Huston’s “Annie”!!!

VincentParisi on September 2, 2004 at 2:27 pm

I remember thinking the same thing but it was the only print I saw so I figured the movie was shot that way. Especially bad was the 70mm blow up of Tom Sawyer during Easter of ‘73 which looked washed out and dull on the huge screen. I kept thinking how did color get so bad when just a few years before in the late '60s it had still been so vibrant. Even 1776 didn’t look too good. I guess of the movies that I saw at the Hall the best looking outside of revivals was Airport. But that was Ross Hunter and the last of the old Hollywood big budget productions. The Todd AO didn’t hurt either.
So how much would it cost to rent out the Hall get some great prints of some terrific movies and use the Hall for something other than a glorified warehouse for current cultural debris?
King Kong, Swing Time, and North by Northwest are my first choices.

RobertR on September 2, 2004 at 1:49 pm

I remember the 70mm print looking washed out and dull compared to the 35mm version. Making it widescreen and projected on that enormous screen just seemed to fade the otherwise brilliant colors.

Vito on September 2, 2004 at 12:28 pm

Vincent, I never saw any magnetic prints of “North By Northwest”
I played the film a couple of times and the prints were always
optical (mono).By 1959 the mag stereo prints had begun to get scarce.
Only the 35mm versions of 70mm roadshow pictures were coming thru in mag sound. In adition since “North By Nothwest” was filmed in VistaVision and shown as a reduction print, I don’t think it had stereo sound. Most VistaVision pictures were released mono with some Prespecta prints around. I also saw “Singin in the Rain” which was re-mixed in stereo and it didn’t sound to bad, The worst offender of the re-mixed tracks had to be the re-release of “Gone with the Wind”. What a disaster,especially the 70mm vesion. the surround track would simply go and and off, and since there was no real separation, just playing different parts of the dialogue and sound thru the surround speakers, well, it was awful The four track mag prints were of course just as bad. But it looked better in 35mm,
the 70mm prints looked all out of porportion. Lastly “Scrooge”,
I believe played RCMH in 70mm, hense the great sound.

VincentParisi on September 2, 2004 at 11:02 am

Silk Stockings contains some of Astaires and Charisse’s best dancing so to have seen that at the Music Hall in cinemascope and stereo-well it must have been great.
Does anybody know if North by Northwest played there in stereo?
Concerning sound, when I saw Singin in the Rain there in ‘75 they utilizzed some sort of fake stereo and while I usually hate that sort of thing it was beautifully done. Those wonderful MGM arrangements came through with such clarity and impact and the movie has never sounded as good since.
I also remember the sound for the musical numbers of Scrooge being very good especially in the finale scene where one had a sense of surround sound as the various musical factions converged(this is what I believe happened as I haven’t seen the film since '70.)

Vito on September 2, 2004 at 10:18 am

Well said vincent, I felt same way about the Roxy and Paramount, I went not only for the movie but sometimes just to melt away in the grandeur of it all, and in the 40s and 50s with very little air conditioning anywhere else, it was a great place to beat the heat.
As for RCNH and stereo sound, from 1954 till about 1960 most of the product from MGM and all of the product from FOX was available in four track magnetic sound.I believe all those MGM pictures, as well as some from Columbia, played the hall were in four track. The seperation did get lost at RCMH but there was no dening the quality of the sound. However, one had to sit in one of the mezzanines to notice the surrounds, which in the days before Dolby, were located in the ceiling. I believe RCMH management resisted placing surround speaker boxes all over the hall when 70mmm was installed, but when Dolby Digital came along surround speakers with gold covered speaker fabric popped up all the place, this of course, as ugly as they are, intensified the surround experience. Oh and yes Bill, I too remember “Today to get the people to attend the picture show” the great sterophonic sound song and dance number from “Silk Stockings”

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on September 2, 2004 at 10:16 am

As so many of you are interested in the various widescreen processes, the projection ratios, the flat and curved screen, and what wide screen films premiered where, how, why and when, may I suggest you go to or It’s a great site and one that you will undoubtedly go and stay until someone sends a posse out to look for you.

VincentParisi on September 2, 2004 at 9:24 am

I do remember those films playing at the Hall however at that point I had seen so many bad movies there that I couldn’t stomach any more. It was just one dog(or kangaroo) after another. There was an Easter movie called Mr. Billion that they had to pull after a couple of weeks and stick in a Disney film about mining ponies which I think I saw a part of. I also took no pleasure in the minimalist stage shows which took place on a bare stage containing only a few people. They themselves looked pretty embarassed.
The only nice thing was that for the price of a movie ticket you could actually enter the place and spend some time there.

EMarkisch on September 2, 2004 at 8:35 am

I too remember seeing “Magic of Lassie” at RCMH with Lassie on stage.
However, it was more memorable for one of the last big screen appearances of the late, great Alice Faye as the waitress in the diner.
I also remember “Matilda” What a super dud that was. They really scrapped the bottom of the barrel on that one.

RobertR on September 2, 2004 at 8:13 am

I am also reminded of another total dog I saw at RCMH, do you remember “Matilda-the Boxing Kangaroo” with Eliot Gould? I could not believe the music hall playing an AIP picture. At the same time was the Film Vincent Minnelli did for Liza and Ingrid Bergman called “A Matter of Time”. AIP may have also released that. In spite of it all seeing even bad films there was still special. One of my happiest memories was seeing “Magic of Lassie” which I mentioned in an earlier post. Although I was already a teen it was still a kick seeing Lassie on stage in the stage show.

BoxOfficeBill on September 2, 2004 at 7:38 am

I remember some stereo effect with RCMH’s first CinemaScope fims, viz. “Knights of the Round Table,” and with others as well, notably the “Glorious Technicolor, Breathtaking CinemaScope, and StereoPhonic Sound” number in “Silk Stockings.” But the device never seemed to me as, um, pronounced as it did at other theaters, chiefly and memorably at the Roxy. Perhaps the auditorium’s vastness at RCMH diffused the sound? In all honesty, too, I remember a distracting echoic effect at RCMH, particularly when the house was less than full, as at the 10:30 am showings that my parents took me to as a kid. I hate to complain about the facilities at RCMH, because their grandeur certainly more than compensated for their recognizable failings. But sometimes other theaters worked as better venues for certain presentations. For “White Christmas,” I recall a wider frame (at 1.85 rather than the usual 1.66 that RCMH used for conventional projection) but still its flat screen, with the same for later VistaVision that I saw there, principally “High Society” and the fabulous “North-by-Northwest.” (I remember viewing the last one as a teen, from the third balcony where my friends and I could smoke cigarettes and anticipate going for a beer afterwards—NYC in those days!) As for VistaVision at the Capitol, I recall no special bally-hoo about it, and certainly no vast curvilinear screen as at the Paramount and Criterion.

VincentParisi on September 2, 2004 at 6:24 am

When I saw 7 Brides at the Music Hall in the late 70’s the cinemascope screen seemed wider than any panavision or 70MM film I had ever seen there(and no seams.) It was great except for the Ansco color. Could I have been mistaken?
Also weren’t the MGM musicals such as Brigadoon at this point in ‘54 presented in stereo at the Hall?

Vito on September 2, 2004 at 4:00 am

Do any of you very knowledgeable gentlemen know if the Capital projected Vertigo in VistaVision? I can recall RCMH and the Paramount having VistaVision projection, what about the Capital.

BoxOfficeBill on September 1, 2004 at 5:20 pm

I hate to post-script my contribution, but I do want to register my crabby memory that in the early ‘50s the screen at RCMH had an annoying distraction: you could see the lines where its panels had been sewn together. I know that the much-E-Bayed Souvenir Pictorial of that time proclaims a totally seamless screen. But the truth was otherwise. The CinemaScope screen consisted of seven panels (each 4’ wide) sewn together horizontally, unlike the panels at other theaters that were joined vertically with less noticeable sutures. For its regular wide-screen format, the masking rose to reveal an eighth horizontal panel, even as the side maskings closed in for a 1.66 ratio (RCMH seemed always to have had a narrower ratio than other theaters, even when the format was 1.33â€"an optical illusion perhaps?). In any case, the black lines crossing the screen were maddeningly annoying. Every kid in the theater noticed it and would draw attention to it. Parents would shh us and tell us not to spoil the show. But the sutures remained. At some point in 1956, around the run of “Friendly Persuasion” if I remember correctly, RCMH finally installed a truly seamless screen, or so it seemed. Or maybe because I was older and perhaps going blind from teenage activities, I didn’t see the familiar old lines so acutely. To me in the early ‘50s, the most impressive wide-screen was at the Capitol. Gently curved and with barely perceptible seams, it was proportioned at 1.85 and it covered nearly the entire proscenium. It awed me in August ’53 at “From Here to Eternity” (with stereophonic sound, too, which RCMH did not offer until much later). Later the Capitol reduced the size of its wide-screen somewhat (in truth, its larger size probably invited graininess), but still used its flawless facilities for such films as “War and Peace,” “The Pride and the Passion,” “Vertigo,” and others of that era.

BoxOfficeBill on September 1, 2004 at 3:58 pm

SimonL— Thanks for the notes about the program fillers in the ‘40s-'50s. They concur exactly with my memories. The Rivoli named its expanded screen “the Cycloramic screen.” I describe its use in this site’s listing for the Rivoli. Aside from the Destruction of the Temple in “Samson and Delilah” (December '49), I did not see it used again at that theater. In Summer '53, the Rivoli (like every other NYC house) installed its all-purpose CinemaScope screen, which it used until converting to Todd-AO in October '55. In my movie-going experience, RHMH used its Magnascope screen for the scenes described above, as well as for the sea storm sequence in “Plymouth Adventure” and the Busby Berkeley aquatic scene in “Million Dollar Mermaid,” in November and December '52 respectively. My parents told me that RCMH used it for the horserace scene in “National Velvet” as well. The Rivoli’s Cycloramic screen raised my seven-year-old consciousness to delerious heights, so whenever I saw it at RCMH, I snapped to attention. I expected that the theater would have used it for all its “big” pictures, and was chagrined when it didn’t. Except for the Esther Williams splasher, I recall it for no other MGM musical, including “The Great Caruso,” “Show Boat,” “An American in Paris,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” and a bunch of others that I saw there (the latter-day “That’s Entertainment” of course deployed the device for excepts from these films). I can still taste my disappointment when RCMH withheld it from scenes in such spectaculars as “Kim,” “Scaramouche,” and “Ivanhoe.” (You may gather correctly that I was a pint-sized nut about that projection device.) There would have been no concern about cropping, since the Magnascope screen was framed in the standard 1.33 ratio. With “Shane” in May ‘53, RCMH used it (now named “the Panoramic Screen” and still at 1.33 ratio) for the entire picture, in lieu of installing a new curved screen, and continued to do so until introducing its properly proportioned all-purpose screen the following December, in anticipation of CinemaScope. There’s a swell picture of the latter in the journal “Theatre Catalogue” (1954-55). I know of no other first-run B'way theaters that used Magnascope in the late '40s-'50s, or at least I saw none other used there or then. The Roxy, a candidate, did not, because it projected its films onto a black-bordered sheet hanging in front of voluminous, dimly-lit lavender curtains. For a picture of the remodeled (but still old-screen) Roxy in December '52, with its then shamefully draped proscenium, see the above mentioned “Theatre Catalogue” (1952-53).

VincentParisi on September 1, 2004 at 3:26 pm

I worked as a front lobby doorman at the Music Hall during The Blue Bird.The only patrons the Music Hall had in the evening by this time were high school spring trips to New York. After sightseeing during the day they would come to the Music Hall at night. During this film the patrons would exit the auditorium in droves and hang out in the lobby until the stage show started(I never was able to sit through the entire film myself.)The stage show itself was pretty bad and its amazing the Music Hall was still able to limp along for another year or two as the only people going there were the few desperate tourists still going to New York in the latter 70’s. A very sad time which as far as the Music Hall and Rockefeller Center were concerned only got worse(unless of course you like watching basketball games in theaters and like shopping at Banana Republic.)

RobertR on September 1, 2004 at 2:30 pm

Look at what we used to get when we went to the movies. A theatre to die for along with a movie, stage show and the organ. We were fortunate to have it until 1979, I dont think any other theatre had this policy after the 1950’s did they?