Radio City Music Hall

1260 6th Avenue,
New York, NY 10020

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EMarkisch
EMarkisch on July 22, 2004 at 3:28 am

While we are in RCMH time machine mode, I would pick June 1955. On screen was LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME with Doris Day and James Cagney. Featured in the stage show was the Ravel’s BOLERO production number, which was so incredible to my 15 year old mind at the time that I sat through the movie and stage show a second time just to experience that number a second time. It started with a completely dark RCMH, the low drumbeats started and a pair of dancers was spotlighted center stage in the darkness. As the music kept building in volume, more and more dancers appeared and started to fill the stage. As the thundering finale was approaching, which by that time involved all of the Rockettes, the Corps de Ballet and God knows who else filled the stage. For the final crescendo of the music, huge drums on those mini-stages on the sides of the theater were played. It was quite a spectacle to behold.

They attempted a revival of this number in the late 70’s, I believe, as part of one of their summer shows after the screen and stage show combo had been abandoned. However, it was totally unmemorable and a mere shadow of its former self. It lacked the energy and large number of cast members required on stage to recreate that 1955 rendering of RCMH magic.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on July 22, 2004 at 3:24 am

SimonL-
I second William Dunklin’s kudos for your description— Here a couple of supplements: Before CinemaScope brought alterations to the narrow picture sheet space that eliminated a solid draft curtain (with “Knights of the RT” in January, rather than “RoseMarie” at Easter), the contour curtain used to rise before the main film in a fully lit house revealing the yellow traveller behind it. When the studio logo flashed on the traveller siumultaneously with the last organ notes, the lights dimmed and the traveller parted. That way, spectators saw the contour rise in full lighted glory, and enjoyed it in a fractional pause before the film began. The larger CinrmaScope screen eliminated a backstage draft curtain that kept the whole tableau in place, and so that was the end of the pre-film treat. Another supplement: The introduction of big screen in 1953 (with “Shane”) eliminated the spectaculkar MagnaScope effect mentioned elsewhere above, whereby certain spectacle scenes in movies were shown on an enlarged screen, when the masks widened from the standard 27'x35' size to a (at that time) manouth 36'x48' size. I remember the effect for the stampede scene in “ing Solomon’s Miones” (1950), the storm scene in “Plymouth Adventure” (Thanksgioving, 1952), the Busby Berkeley acquatic scene in “Million Dollar Mermaid” (Christmas, 1952), and, oh yes, the train wreck scene in “Greatest Show on Earth” (January 1951). When “Shane” opened in May ‘53 at a time when B'way movies were going WideScreen, the Music Hall advertised shhowing the film o"On the Panoramic Screen.“ I was hugely disappointed, because they simply showed it on the Magnascope Screen, without installing a cuurved wide screen as the Capitol, Loew’s State, and others had done. I saw "Band Wagon,” “Roman Holiday,” and LKiss Me Kate" (defiantly not in #D) that way. By the time of the Christmas show (“Easy to Wed)), the CinemaScope screen was in place, though that Esther Williams splash was made for and shown in c theby-then conventional 1x1.6 ratio on it 32'x52’ or so). In those early ‘Scope years, the Music Hall narrowed the screen to the (now) tiny 27'x35’ for the news , cartoon, and coming attraction announcement (with, yes, the traveller aopening and closing between each segment).

SethLewis
SethLewis on July 22, 2004 at 3:21 am

Two more quickies – It’s a shame that our need for instant gratification doesn’t allow for a slower rollout of big pictures and I’m thinking largely of Disney’s animation resurgence in the last ten years so that there couldn’t still be exclusives at venues such as RCMH…I am curious in how the Premiere Showcase trend emerged in the 60s and 70s…from studio sponsored showcases we found ourselves in Manhattan with amorphous brands such as Flagship, Red Carpet, Blue Ribbon…if anyone can explain

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 22, 2004 at 1:20 am

Vito, If you went back in time to Christmas ‘54 I’m afraid you would have blown it. You would have seen Deep in my Heart with Jose Ferrar.
I hope that you would not have been too bummed and you got a second chance to go back to Thanksgiving '54. Then you would have see it.
The Nov/Dec Christmas show only started in '70 when the Thanksgiving show that year was such a bomb(Wilders cut to shreds “Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”) they had to pull it and open the Christmas show early. They never had a Thanksgiving movie again.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 22, 2004 at 12:54 am

If I had access to the time machine, there are lots of trips I’d be making to the Music Hall: King Kong (1933), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), The Yearling (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), I Remember Mama (1948), The Nun’s Story and North by Northwest (both 1959) and, from Ron’s list, The Music Man (1962), To Kill a Mockingbird (1963) and Wait Until Dark (1967 – there must’ve been lots of screams echoing throughout the Hall at the end of that one).

Vito
Vito on July 22, 2004 at 12:30 am

Ahhhh a time machine, lets see, take me to Christmas 1954 to see “White Christmas” in VistaVision at RCMH

Ron3853
Ron3853 on July 21, 2004 at 10:46 pm

In my opinion, the greedy studios in conjunction with the nation’s largest theater chains have totally ruined the once pleasurable pastime of moviegoing. They can have their 24-screen multiplex with stadium seating and cup-holders in the seats! It was much better in the old days when downtown theaters showed first-run films exclusively and neighborhood theaters with balconies got them on second-run as part of a double feature. You could see virtually everything but art films at the local “Bijou” or “Orpheum” in your own neighborhood and even walk to the theater. A wonderful bygone era. Somebody invent a time machine so I can go back to the days of Ike and Mamie!

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 21, 2004 at 10:39 pm

I thought Charlie Brown was pretty awful as well(They should have had the O'Toole Goodbye Mr Chips for the Christmas Show)but it was probably one of the most successful films to ever play the Hall. The stage show for it however was the best I ever saw there.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on July 21, 2004 at 10:34 pm

A slight digression from the Music Hall: The common practice of saturation booking policy by the studios explains the demise of all the single screen cinemas with 1,200 seats or more. The Ziegfeld Theater no longer gets the “exclusive” except perhaps for one week prior to general release. And the 1,500 seat Loew’s on 45th St is closing to become a retail store.

SethLewis
SethLewis on July 21, 2004 at 1:46 pm

Vincent is so right about the films he talks about…all of them day dated East and West Side and suburbs except the That’s Entertainments which were exclusive to the Ziegfeld in Manhattan…Sadly in its last few film engagements around 1976 the Music Hall was even daydating with the suburbs on something called Paper Tiger with David Niven and Toshiro Mifune

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 21, 2004 at 8:48 am

Those pictures listed above seem like that same kind that played to empty houses coast-to-coast, helping kill many old theaters in the process. I think Hollywood forgot how to make movies for a while.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on July 21, 2004 at 8:38 am

Interesting that Bill would mention those two films above. Although critically acclaimed, neither one did extraordinary business: 4 & 5 weeks respectively under a guarantee. Granted that those films attracted a mature audience, they were hard to sell to the typical Music Hall audience. Curiously, the Hall attracted a more mature audience during its first two decades notably “Randam Harvest” (ll weeks) and “Sunset Boulevard” in 1950 (7 weeks). I guess the dumbing down began right after “Days…” and “…Mockingbird.” That tells us something…maybe about the drinking water.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 21, 2004 at 5:01 am

Interesting that Days of Wine and Roses and To Kill a Mockingbird played back to back. If New Yorkers wanted to see some of the best screen performances from the year 1962 (besides Lawrence of Arabia), they had to go to the Music Hall in early 1963.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 21, 2004 at 4:43 am

Ron-Thanks for the great work but now I’m reminded of all the great films that I would have loved to see at the Hall but couldn’t because I was too young. As you can see the list in the 70’s gets pretty pathetic(with a rare gem every now and then.) And of course most of them I did get to see while regreting the fact that the Music Hall was stuck with such mediocrity to show on its screen(like watching paint dry as they say.)
Well either the Hall couldn’t get anything else because of studio execs or the people choosing the films had pretty horrendous taste. I remember when Wanda Hale was lamenting the fact that a mindless gore fest like See No Evil was playing there. They might have well shown Night of the Living Dead which is a better film.
Films the Hall should have shown from this era;
The Boy Friend
The Way We Were
Prisoner of Second Avenue
Murder on the Orient Express
The Poseiden Adventure
That’s Entertainment 1 and 2
Funny Lady
Lost Horizon(yes, a seriously bad movie but it would have packed the place)

I’m sure there are others I have left out. But PG product was plentiful during this era and every time I saw the ad for the next Music Hall film my heart would sink.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 19, 2004 at 9:52 am

Thanks so much Ron – what a great list and what great memories it triggered. Now I know for sure that the first film I saw at the Music Hall was Bon Voyage, when I always thought it was That Touch of Mink. I was 7 years old for both films. I also got to relive all the films I WANTED to see at the Music Hall but was too young to go see by myself.

SethLewis
SethLewis on July 19, 2004 at 2:26 am

Well done Rob…I know I was there for Mary,Mary…Mary Poppins…True Grit…What’s Up Doc…Viva Max…The Odd Couple and The Out of Towners though it feels like more than that

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on July 19, 2004 at 12:56 am

I wonder if Ron3853, or anyone, has found a website that has compiled the weekly grosses that Variety has only on microfilm.

Vito
Vito on July 19, 2004 at 12:50 am

Nice job Ron!
Thank you for sharing

Ron3853
Ron3853 on July 18, 2004 at 11:26 pm

Part of the history of a great theater is the films which played there. This is especially true of the Radio City Music Hall, the largest theater in New York City, and truly the “Showplace of the Nation.” I have enjoyed reading the comments posted wherein people remember visits to the Hall and the films that were showing there. Listed below are the films which played at Radio City Music Hall from late 1959 to 1975. Research is from microfilms of Variety and The New York Times. The date listed is the Wednesday of the week that the film opened. In those days, most new films opened on that day, not on Fridays as they do now. I believe in most cases, the RCMH opened its films and new stageshows on Thursdays, although there may be instances where this was not the case.
11/11/59 The Miracle
12/02/59 Operation Petticoat
01/20/60 Never So Few
02/10/60 Once More, With Feeling
03/02/60 Home From the Hill
03/30/60 Please Don’t Eat the Daisies
05/18/60 Pollyanna
06/22/60 Bells are Ringing
08/10/60 Song Without End
09/21/60 The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
10/12/60 Midnight Lace
11/09/60 The World of Suzie Wong
12/07/60 The Sundowners
01/18/61 Where the Boys Are
02/15/61 Cimarron
03/15/61 The Absent-Minded Professor
05/03/61 Parrish
05/31/61 The Pleasure of His Company
07/05/61 Fanny
09/06/61 Come September
10/04/61 Breakfast at Tiffany's
11/08/61 Flower Drum Song
12/13/61 Babes in Toyland
01/10/62 A Majority of One
02/07/62 Lover Come Back
03/14/62 Rome Adventure
04/04/62 Moon Pilot
05/16/62 Bon Voyage
06/13/62 That Touch of Mink
08/22/62 The Music Man
09/26/62 Gigot
10/31/62 Gypsy
12/05/62 Billy Rose’s “Jumbo"
01/09/63 The Days of Wine and Roses
02/06/63 To Kill a Mockingbird
03/13/63 A Girl Named Tamiko
04/02/63 Bye Bye Birdie
05/15/63 Spencer’s Mountain
06/05/63 Come Blow Your Horn
07/31/63 The Thrill of it All
09/18/63 The VIPs
10/23/63 Mary, Mary
11/13/63 The Wheeler Dealers
12/04/63 Charade
01/22/64 The Prize
02/19/64 Captain Newman, MD
03/18/64 The World of Henry Orient
04/22/64 The Pink Panther
05/20/64 The Chalk Garden
07/15/64 The Unsinkable Molly Brown
09/23/64 Mary Poppins
11/11/64 Send Me No Flowers
12/09/64 Father Goose
01/27/65 36 Hours
03/03/65 Dear Heart
03/31/65 Operation Crossbow
05/12/65 The Yellow Rolls-Royce
07/14/65 The Sandpiper
09/15/65 The Great Race
11/03/65 Never Too Late
12/01/65 That Darn Cat
01/19/66 Judith
02/16/66 Inside Daisy Clover
03/16/66 The Singing Nun
05/04/66 Arabesque
06/08/66 The Glass-Bottom Boat
07/13/66 How to Steal a Million
09/21/66 Kaleidoscope
10/12/66 Any Wednesday
11/09/66 Penelope
11/30/66 Follow Me, Boys!
01/18/67 Hotel
02/15/67 The 25th Hour
03/08/67 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
04/26/67 Two for the Road
05/24/67 Barefoot in the Park
08/16/67 Up the down Staircase
09/27/67 The Bobo
10/25/67 Wait Until Dark
11/29/67 The Happiest Millionaire
01/17/68 How to Save a Marriage & Ruin Your Life
02/07/68 Sweet November
02/28/68 The Secret War of Harry Frigg
03/20/68 The One & Only, Genuine, Original Family Band
05/01/68 The Odd Couple
08/07/68 Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?
09/18/68 Hot Millions
10/16/68 Bullitt
12/04/68 The Impossible Years
01/15/69 The Brotherhood
02/12/69 Mayerling
03/12/69 The Love Bug
04/23/69 If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium
05/21/69 Winning
07/02/69 True Grit
08/27/69 The Gypsy Moths
09/24/69 The Christmas Tree
10/22/69 Hail, Hero!
11/12/69 The Brain
12/03/69 A Boy Named Charlie Brown
01/21/70 Viva, Max!
02/11/70 …tick…tick…tick…
03/04/70 Airport
05/27/70 The Out-of-Towners
07/22/70 Darling Lili
09/23/70 Sunflower
10/28/70 The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
11/18/70 Scrooge
01/20/71 Promise at Dawn
02/17/71 Wuthering Heights
03/10/71 A New Leaf
05/12/71 Plaza Suite
06/30/71 Murphy’s War
07/28/71 The Red Tent
09/01/71 See No Evil
09/29/71 Kotch
10/27/71 The Railway Children
11/10/71 Bedknobs and Broomsticks
01/12/72 The Cowboys
02/02/72 Mary, Queen of Scots
03/08/72 What’s Up, Doc?
05/03/72 Play it Again, Sam
05/31/72 The War Between Men and Women
07/05/72 Butterflies are Free
08/16/72 The Last of the Red Hot Lovers
09/20/72 Cancel My Reservation
10/18/72 When the Legends Die
11/08/72 1776
01/31/73 The World’s Greatest Athlete
02/21/73 Charlotte’s Web
03/14/73 Tom Sawyer
05/16/73 Mary Poppins
06/27/73 40 Carats
08/08/73 Night Watch
09/26/73 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler
10/17/73 The Optimists
11/07/73 Robin Hood
01/31/74 Superdad
03/06/74 Mame
05/16/74 The Black Windmill
06/05/74 Herbie Rides Again
07/10/74 The Tamarind Seed

08/21/74 The Girl From Petrovka

From this point, my records only show first-run films that were reviewed in The New York Times. Certainly, the films below did not have such long runs, indicating that the Hall began to be used for other events or was dark.

11/06/74 The Little Prince
03/05/75 At Long Last Love
05/21/75 The Wind and the Lion
06/25/75 Bite the Bullet
07/30/75 Hennessy
11/04/75 The Sunshine Boys

As can be seen, during the period from 1959 to 1975, most of the films which played at Radio City Music Hall were indeed, family-friendly, which along with the accompanying stage shows were selected to draw in not only New York residents but the large tourist trade. There were only rare instances when RCMH featured a film with “adult” themes, such as “The Days of Wine & Roses,” “The World of Suzie Wong,” and “The Sandpiper.” Of course, many big films received their American and NYC premieres there. A number of films which played the Hall were those which were set in NYC. And special consideration was given to booking films from the Walt Disney studios, cute romantic comedies, and the film versions of successful plays and musicals from Broadway which in New York had built-in name recognition. Almost all of the films which were made from Neil Simon comedies got their NY premiere at the Hall. Finally, a big consideration was given to films which had the name box-office stars of the time such as Cary Grant, Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Sophia Loren, Julie Andrews, Goldie Hawn, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Debbie Reynolds, James Garner, Paul Newman, John Wayne.

(If I have made omissions or there are corrections, please post and let visitors to this fine website know. I realize from reading above that these films are listed in a book about the Hall, but not all of us have access to it, and so they are now on this site. My research and interest in films began in 1958 when I was only 5, so perhaps someone who has access to data about the films which played there in earlier decades will be kind enough to put it here. I am trying to get my research information on the Cinema Treasures website for all of the major theaters in the large cities around the country so it will be easy for future theater scholars to find it. Thank you.)

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on July 18, 2004 at 10:35 am

I believe the theater that “Camden” is referring to is the Guild. It was a classy little art house operation (about 500 seats)that specialized in British films. It was very comfortable and posh during its heyday and had a lovely lounge one level below the theater in which coffee and small cakes were served to patrons waiting for the film to end. Like the Music Hall it used its trailer curtain effectively opening and closing between the news and the feature. One of its greatest and longest running hits was the documentary “A Queen is Crowned” that ran for six months and had long lines. Also “Gate of Hell,” was another smash hit from Japan (played about six months or more)and is considered was the breakthrough film from Japan. Its breathtaking use of Technicolor and portait quality cinematography are landmarks in film making. The Boulting Brothers comedys from the U.K. were great favorites. The Guild enjoyed its greatest success during the 1940s and 1950s. Sometimes there was a long line waiting to get into the Guild while the Music Hall had immediate seating. Patrons arriving from 5th Avenue would get confused when they saw the line and had to be told to continue walking toward 6th Avenue to the Music Hall entrance.

Ron3853
Ron3853 on July 18, 2004 at 9:04 am

Are you thinking of the Guild?

Camden
Camden on July 18, 2004 at 8:12 am

What was the name of that movie theatre that was in Radio City’s building but around the corner, and smaller? I saw its last film, an Albert Brooks movie several years ago, and it’s now a retail store. It’s astonishing that a movie theatre at that superb location couldn’t flourish. The chairs were threadbare and the concession stand only sold one relatively small and non-buttered container of popcorn, oddly, but when you stepped outside, you were right in the middle of the Rockefeller Center complex. Sensational location.

Camden

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 16, 2004 at 5:32 am

Simon much to my chagrin I must agree with you and yes rock(not pop) and rap have eradicated classical culture from society(pace those of you who love rock and rap. Even those of you who love them have to admit that we’ve paid a terribly high price culturally and socially their success. Now don’t get all bent out of shape and be defensive and angry. It’s just the natures of those beasts.)

The Music Hall for all intensive purposes is a white elephant. Just think that it was used for the Kerry camapign and it is about to house basketball games! And by that I mean you don’t need the Music Hall’s resources for much of anything that goes on there now.
There was a large middle class audience that enjoyed a classical ballet and classical overture along with the Rockettes and acrobats and didn’t find it laughable or tedious.
But our society and culture have coarsened and been polarized 10 times over from when The Odd Couple played there in ‘68. The hit movies of that year were in addition to that film 2001, Lion in Winter and Funny Girl. Today they are Passion of the Christ, Farenheit 9/11, and Spiderman. Read it and weep.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 16, 2004 at 5:17 am

Can we really fault the 1960’s – ‘70’s Music Hall management for insisting on “G” rated films even at the expense of profit? Certainly the result was the decline and near failure of the “Showplace of the Nation,” but they were actually trying to uphold a standard. In the face of a cultural and business shift RCMH seems to have tried to keep to the high road. It’s more than I can say for the managers who chopped their halls into mulit-plexes, went to porno or tore the halls down.

All of the super-palace class theaters (think Chicago’s Uptown, Paradise, Marbro, New York’s Capitol, Roxy, Center and many more) were financial balacing acts. We all held our breath when the Music Hall’s future hung in that balance. RCMH, for all its lack of vision in production at least remains intact, doors open and protected from demolition. If the Christmas shows pander to a specific audience AND pay the bills to keep the greatest theater ever built open, I for one won’t complain too much. As long as the hall stands, there’s hope that someday, some brilliant showman will come along who can draw the thousands necessary to make the money to pay the orchestra, the organists, the ballet, the Rockettes, the ushers, the engineers, the stage hands, the projectionists, the costumers, the choreographers, the publicists and everyone else it takes to create magnificent, wonderful, outlandish spectacle at “popular” prices.

I remain optimistic.