Radio City Music Hall

1260 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10020

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chconnol on November 29, 2004 at 4:06 pm

Well, I was there on Friday for the show and I hate to say Vincent’s right, but he is. They’re treating the place like it’s Madison Square Garden now. It’s still grand looking but it’s unique aspects that I remember (like the beautiful lounge) is not like it was. It’s got some of the art deco furnishings and such but whole areas are kept behind these partitions to store the overpriced krap souvenirs.

BUT….I think you have to understand the realities of a place like this now. In order for it to survive in some form, they have to do whatever they can to keep it going even if it means cheapening it’s heritage. Entertainment is not what it was 40 or 50 years ago. People don’t go to the movies like they used to even 20 years ago. Yeah, it’s a little nauseating when you think about “Dora the Explorer” playing the Music Hall and such. But it pays the rent and keeps the place alive. That is what we have to be thankful for.

VincentParisi on November 29, 2004 at 3:22 pm

I saw about a half hour of the self congradulatory special last night. It was all I could take. The head of the Rockettes goes on and on about what wonderful troup they are. And so they are. But you can only see them once out of the year and only in the lousy Christmas show. Maybe she needs to think about when else they can be presented in New York. Once a year at the holidays just isn’t professional performing and an insult as well to a great NY institution. Also they need to find a stage producer who knows the capabilities of the stage. Having speakers throughout the auditorium is such a symptom of the stupidity that the current managers get away with.

chconnol on November 29, 2004 at 2:45 pm

Just another thing: my daughter was VERY impressed with the Music Hall. She could not believe that at one time they regularly showed movies there. And she made one point that was good for an eight year old. She asked why they have those awful looking hanging speakers and light holders above and to the side of the stage. Once she said that, I had to totally agree. There’s one huge set of speakers that comes down from the arch directly above the stage. I know they had to do that for sound and the concerts but it looks awful and kills the effect of the sunrise (sunset?). Either way, my daughter loved the place and especially the two organists. That was a neat touch. I didn’t know they still used the organs.

chconnol on November 29, 2004 at 2:32 pm

The RCMH’s underground boxoffice was only open when seats were available. As soon as the theatre reached capacity, it would be shut down, and you had to go up to the street and wait on line to get to the regular boxoffices. Underground, there was a mirrored corridor with a ticket taker at the end of it. You then entered into the theatre’s downstairs lounge, adjacent to the checkroom.
posted by Warren on Nov 22, 2004 at 4:19pm

I took my 8 year old daughter to see the Christmas show on Friday. We got to the theater a little early and went downstairs to the lounge. It seems a lot different than I remember it. Not as big but they did have these temporary partitions blocking off large sections of the lounge area. Behind them, they were storing the overpriced souvenirs they were hocking down there.

Anyway….regarding Warren’s comment about the passageway that led from the lower concourse to the lounge, it’s still there and I found it. It’s on the far side (southern) part of the lounge. It’s concealed by these temporary partitions and behind it are those souvenirs. I managed to work my way around them to get a decent look. It’s all still intact right down to the mirrors that Warren mentioned. The only thing is that at the far end, it does look sealed off except for a single door. So obviously the corridor is still intact just not used at all. Very interesting.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 29, 2004 at 1:50 am

This is late notice but I just learned that there is a special one-hour program about Radio City Music Hall on WOR-TV (UPN network) tonight at 9:00pm.

veyoung52 on November 25, 2004 at 4:05 pm

Answer to RobertR’s post this past September concerning films that played normally at the MH but were roadshown elsewhere. Add MGM’s 1960 “Cimarron” to the list. Played, to indifferent results, at the Hollywood Paramount (now El Capitan again) and Philadelphia’s Stanton, a Warner house not previously known for roadshows.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 24, 2004 at 3:37 pm

Ben Hall worked for Time Magazine, not for The New York Times, though he did write some free-lance articles for that newspaper. Crowther seemed a logical choice to do the intro of “The Best Remaining Seats” because he was the most powerful and influential film critic in the USA at the time.

VincentParisi on November 24, 2004 at 2:43 pm

The book is especially bittersweet as when it was written so many theaters were still standing in good condition including one of the 3 greatest the SF Fox. The epilogue of the book if I remember correctly is titled “An End to the Slaughter.” Well there was no end it just continued leaving us very few and some of those in perhaps non salvageable condition.

JimRankin on November 24, 2004 at 5:45 am

Speaking of Bosley Crowther, it is interesting to note that he was selected to write the Introduction to the late Ben Hall’s landmark book THE BEST REMAINING SEATS, THE STORY OF THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE MOVIE PALACE. Maybe it was just because both Hall and Crowther worked for the TIMES, but then maybe Ben actually respected Bosley’s opinion of the significance of such and his book. Perhaps this lends pespective.

VincentParisi on November 23, 2004 at 10:37 pm

I read it years ago on microfilm. If your library has the Times on microfilm I believe you’ll find it in the Sunday edition after Millionaire opened. Maybe these old articles are available now on line? Also try to find Canby’s article on the Hall presentation of Singing in the Rain in ‘75. One of the best cinema experiences of my life as it was the first time I saw the film. I was seeing it exactly as people saw it in '52 and after seeing some truly bad early '70’s musicals at the Hall(it was as if they were made that bad on purpose. It couldn’t have been by accident) it was like being shot out of a canon.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 23, 2004 at 10:15 pm

Vincent, I know I’m a little lazy but do you have a link to that Crowthers' Art and Leisure piece?

chconnol on November 23, 2004 at 9:52 pm

Bosley Crowther’s reviews are some of the worst of all time. Check out his review of “Bonnie and Clyde” (you can read it online at NY The guy sounds like a wind bag. But he did like “Citizen Kane” though which I found interesting…

VincentParisi on November 23, 2004 at 9:48 pm

Today Crowthers reviews are pretty uninteresting but he did write a Sunday essay in the Arts and Leisure section of the NYT’s after the opening of The Happiest Millionaire as the Christmas attraction in December of ‘67. He found the film so bad and the product at the Hall so poor that he wondered what was going on with the selection committee. Well things were only going to get considerably worse.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 23, 2004 at 9:36 pm

Although “Johnny Guitar” eventually became regarded as a “cult classic,‘ I seriously doubt that it would have been accepted by RCMH’s screening committee, or that Republic would have even submitted it for consideration. It had its NYC opening at Brandt’s Mayfair, where Bosley Crowther, then the most influential film critic in the USA due to his affiliation with The New York Times, gave it a scathing review that ended with "Let’s put it down as a fiasco. Miss Crawford went thataway.”

RobertR on November 23, 2004 at 4:18 pm

I saw Gone With the Wind here the time they blew it up to 70mm.

sethbook on November 23, 2004 at 4:11 pm

I’ve seen exactly two movies at Radio City. The first was “Robin and Marion” in the 1970s. My father’s cousin took me. It also featured a Rockettes show. The second movie was in 1989; the 50th Anniversary of Gone with the Wind. Since the movie was filmed in a smaller aspect ratio, the screen at Radio City was perfect for it. There’s not a bad seat in the house. THe last time I was there was 1991, for a Joe Jackson concert.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 22, 2004 at 6:49 pm

Nice article to enjoy in today’s New York Daily News at this link:

VincentParisi on November 22, 2004 at 4:57 pm

I doubt that the Music Hall would have played Guitar but Quiet Man would have been a great choice. John Ford had a couple of good movies at the Hall in the 30’s. They should have continued to show his films like they did with LeRoy, Wyler, Donen and Hitchcock. Does Mr. Roberts count as LeRoy or Ford?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 22, 2004 at 4:24 pm

My mother loved books and movies about “The Old South,” so she took me to see “Reap The Wild Wind” at RCMH. Unfortunately, when we arrived, there was a huge waiting line that stretched around the block and beyond, so we went to the Roxy instead and saw “To The Shores of Tripoli” and stage show…“The Wake of the Red Witch” never played RCMH. In fact, I don’t recall any Republic movie being shown there, though they might have considered “The Quiet Man.”

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on November 22, 2004 at 4:06 pm

Yes, Wayne battled an octopus in both “Wake…” and “Reap…” The only difference was the former was in black and white and the latter in Technicolor.

BoxOfficeBill on November 22, 2004 at 4:06 pm

Vincent— right, it was “Reap,” not “Wake.”

VincentParisi on November 22, 2004 at 3:40 pm

Wasn’t the octopus in Reap the Wild Wind?
I think the boom years ended at the Music Hall in ‘55 which I’ve read was the last year it was in the black. It seems as well at that point that the quality of product became inconsistent though not as bad as it became in the latter 60’s after the success of Barefoot in the Park in '67.
Also the Hall started holding films a lot longer than they should have to avoid the costs of new stage shows. I’ll never forget how often the house was empty for Robin and Marion even before Easter.
I still can’t figure why anyone there saw this as a holiday film.
What a depressing, grainy, washed out, mediocre film( I won’t even go into the stage show.) Well that was the thinking that was going on in the exec offices of Rockefeller Center at the time.

BoxOfficeBill on November 22, 2004 at 4:37 am

Right—Previously “Cavalcade” ran at the Gaiety (aka Victoria, aka Embassy 5—I never got used to that last name), where it had opened on 5 January 1933—so the film’s original run wasn’t more than three months. Less for “The Sign of the Cross,” which had opened on 30 November 1932 at the Rivoli and then on 2 February at RCMH. Its predecessor there was “State Fair” (Will Rogers!), which had opened on 26 January, and its successor was “Topaze,” which opened on 9 February. Charles Francisco mentions an on-stage chariot race, but does not link it to any specific film. If so, management was clearly experimenting with format. DeMille next took over its screen on 26 March ‘42 with “Wake of the Red Witch” at the start of the boom years, finishing with a till-then record of five weeks, and next with “The Greatest Show on Earth,” opening on 10 January '52 and running until “Singin’ in the Rain” dislodged it eleven weeks later for the Easter show at the middle of the boom years. Both “Wake” and “Greatest Show” used the MagnaScope screen for the climactic octopus and train-wreck sequences. (Simon: thanks for the tip about—the posse has finally retrieved me.)

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on November 22, 2004 at 1:43 am

“Cavalcade” (Opened April 6, 1933 and closed April 19) was the first film to be held over for a second week at the Music Hall. It grossed $110,000 in its second week (Easter week) topping the first week gross of $105,000. It was the highest grossing film up to that point. The previous top week was “Topaz” (Feb 9-15) with the help of Amos and Andy in the stage show. “Cavalcade” held the record until “Little Women” opened on November 12 and grossed $118,000 (with a slight hike in the top admission price from .99 to $1.05. and played an unprecedented 3 weeks. No film came close to the record until “Top Hat” opened on August 29, 1935 and grossed $134,000. It also played 3 weeks. No other film came close for many years. In general, attendance at the Music Hall was very spotty (many weeks in the red) until the start of World War II. The boom years lasted about 18 years from 1942 to 1960).