Radio City Music Hall

1260 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10020

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Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on November 21, 2004 at 5:43 pm

“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).

VincentParisi on November 21, 2004 at 9:58 am

Before Cavalcade for Easter there was DeMilles Sign of the Cross(which presented on stage a march of the gladiators and a chariot race!) which like Cavalcade was hard ticket on Broadway first. Obviously the Music Hall was more flexible back then(King Kong was shared with a theater a block away) which I wish it had become during the 60’s considering the dreck they started playing later in the decade and the musicals they could have played like Thoroughly Modern Millie, Half a Sixpence and Chitty Chitty Banb Bang. Though if not great product(I happen to think the first two are wonderful) would have been better and bigger draws on second run than stuff like The Bobo, Sweet November, Hail Hero and the Brotherhood, and The Christmas Tree on first.)Also Oliver for Christmas ‘69 would have been 10x’s better than A Boy Named Charlie Brown.
The first film revival was Mary Poppins in '73 and when I read that earlier in that year I thought well now the Music Hall is getting a watchable movie.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 20, 2004 at 2:03 pm

The “Cavalacade” booking was during the Easter holidays, so management might have thought it could get away with a second-run booking. It was for “Holy & Easter Week,” but I don’t know if that was one or two weeks. In those first years, movies rarely ran for more than one week at RCMH.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 20, 2004 at 10:43 am

Cavalcade is a great but mostly forgotten Best Picture winner, and there’s no shame in it moving over to RCMH! It still runs on the Fox Movie Channel (talk about moving over) so try to catch it if you can.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 20, 2004 at 8:43 am

According to Charles Francisco’s bok “The Radio City Music Hall-An Affectionate History of the World’s Greatest Theater” (1979) the next time that RCMH played a movie that wasn’t first-run there (after Cavalcade in 1933) was in early 1975 when it played “Gone With the Wind”

PGlenat on November 20, 2004 at 8:43 am

Warren, over Roxy’s dead body, I’m thinking.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 20, 2004 at 8:20 am

I came across a curious booking for RCMH in 1933, the first year of its operation. When Fox’s “Cavalcade” opened at RCMH, it was a second-run engagement, since the movie had just finished a long run at the Gaiety Theatre on a two-a-day, hard ticket scehdule. I wonder if this ever happened again at RCMH?

Vito on November 20, 2004 at 4:57 am

The Christmas show is again featuring the 3-D ride. I wondered if anyone knows what method of projection is being used. I know
IMAX 3-D is projected with two (left eye, right eye) 70mm prints.
It is oustanding.

chconnol on November 12, 2004 at 8:51 am

What exactly “saved” Radio City from being demolished? I remember the hoopla back in 1977 (or 78?) when it looked like it was going the way of so many other theaters. It was in the papers EVERY SINGLE DAY. And I remember thinking, “no way…they can’t get rid of that.” And they didn’t. But I was too young to pay attention to the specifics as to how they managed to save it. Can someone fill me in?

Also, does anyone know how it’s doing these days, financially speaking? I work really close to this place and it’s almost always booked with something (HEY! Yanni’s coming on January 21st!!!!! Should be a sellout!!) so I assume it does OK at least.

Finally, (and this is such a stupid question) but…from looking at the theater from the outside (I work “above"it, so to speak) I just can’t seem to grasp "where” it is. From above, it just doesn’t seem that big but I know it is. Does the theater itself go into the ground or something? Because it just doesnt' seem that high from the outside. Please don’t think me stupid but it’s stumped me for years. It’s probably a question for an engineer.

William on November 4, 2004 at 7:02 am

The 70MM version of “The Jolson Story” did not premiere till August 22, 1975 and it opened at the nearby Ziegfeld Theatre. This was the first time this picture was released in the 70MM format. It was like what MGM did to “Gone With the Wind” in the mid 60’s, by cropping the picture.

Vito on November 4, 2004 at 3:47 am

The Rockettes could use a new act as well. Of course, I know this like beating a dead horse but a movie would be nice.

VincentParisi on November 3, 2004 at 12:14 pm

The Music Hall seems to giving out so many free and steeply discounted tickets for the Christmas show that the people who run the place should seriously think about revamping the thing.(Like throwing out the junk with the midgets, the worst Nutcracker on the planet and the Las Vegas inspired Nativity.)

RobertR on October 24, 2004 at 9:20 am

The live show proved so popular in October 79, that it was brought back for an encore run in February of 1980 for 6 more weeks. That is when I saw it. The tickets were $8- $15.

RobertR on October 20, 2004 at 8:30 am

Thats so funny because two nights ago I came across the program from this show. This was one of the first live shows after the movie format was dropped. I can give you the dates when I get home.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 20, 2004 at 8:24 am

Does anyone recall a Walt Disney Company stage version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” that opened at RCMH in October, 1979? It must have run so briefly that it escaped my notice.

HenryAldridge on October 6, 2004 at 6:36 am

Many thanks for the information about Dick Leibert.

MarkA on September 30, 2004 at 5:45 pm


According to a Westminster recording I have, Leibert at Home, “Dick Leibert studied the organ at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory of Music. He was from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and attended the Moravian Prep School there. He began to play the organ professionally at the age of 14 when he got a job as a theater organist for Loew’s in Washington, DC. Later, he toured for the Loew’s curcuit and played for two years at the Brooklyn Paramount. Against stiff competition, he won the auditions for the permanent post at Radio City Music Hall.”

It has been said that Leibert waited last to be auditioned for the Music Hall job. For his own audition piece, he improvised a medley of everything played by those before him. A friend of mine was an Associate Organist at the Music Hall in the 1950’s and told me that Leibert did the “Gala Supper Shows.”

During his tenure at the Music Hall, he lived in Westport CT. When he retired in 1971, leaving the position of Chief Organist to the late Ray Bohr, Leibert moved to Florida and continued to make appearances. I am not sure but I think he passed on around 1976.

Some of the music Leibert composed was Rosa Maria, Jasmine, English Lavender, Waltz to a Princess and Papa Won’t You Dance for Me? Although I never met him, his style at the Music Hall Grande Organ was his own. He know the instrument intimately and his style could be characterized as being “dark.”

I have also been told that Leibert and Bohr would spend time playing another Rockefeller Center organ before it was removed … the Center Theater’s. This organ was a 4/34 WurliTzer, a scaled down-version of the Music Hall’s (with many of the same ranks of pipes with the same type art-deco console, finished in natural cherry). The Music Hall organ wasn’t the only organ Leibert opened. He was loaned to the Rainbow Room to open its 3/10 WurliTzer (a residence model organ). I recently read that in Dan Okrent’s book, Great Fortune which is about the building of Rockefeller Center. He mentions Leibert a couple of times. Leibert more than likely used the Plaza Sound Studio 3/14 WurliTzer which was in Radio City Music Hall. (The organ, a custom model with a scaled down version of the big console downstairs, is in storage.)

I hope that you can used this information. Also, I hope you consider writing about the Music Hall’s last Chief Organist under the “old” show format, Raymond F. Bohr, Jr. Ray was an extremely talented organist and kindness personified. Ray passed away in 1986.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on September 30, 2004 at 10:35 am

It’s worth mentioning that when “Gilda” played RCMH, they had no policy regarding children as long as they were accompanied by an adult. However, when “Gilda” went to the nabes, it was a different story. I remember my aunt being turned away by the manager who stood by the boxoffice at the Ritz Theater in Elizabeth, N.J. I remember him saying to her, “Sorry, this film is for adults only.” We did go to see “Forever Amber” at the Roxy, because she was afraid she would be turned away at Proctor’s in Newark, if she had me with her. (I had one of those wonderful aunts that mold your life) Nabes were much stricter about whom they sold tickets to.

HenryAldridge on September 30, 2004 at 10:06 am

I am doing a paper on Dick Leibert who was Senior Organist at Radio City for over 40 years. Recollections about hearing him play or any other information about the Radio City organists would be greatly appreciated.


VincentParisi on September 30, 2004 at 8:16 am

Robert was this the 70mm version? Did anybody see it? What was it like?

BobFurmanek on September 30, 2004 at 8:04 am

Part of the vaudeville stage show at the State with “The Jolson Story” was a new comedy team by the name of Martin and Lewis! Both men developed quite an appreciation for Jolson’s music from hearing it backstage in their dressing rooms between shows.

Joe Franklin has often mentioned his accompanying Jolson on the Loew’s Theaters tour for “Jolson Sings Again.” Does anyone know which theaters Jolie visited on that tour?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 30, 2004 at 7:57 am

The first Broadway show to use microphones was the 1940 edition of “Earl Carroll Vanities,” which opened in January of that year. Newspaper critics expressed outrage and the practice was not resumed until after WWII, when new technology was able to produce a more “natural” sound.

RobertR on September 30, 2004 at 7:46 am

I remember when Larry Parks died the Ziegfeld revived “The Jolson Story”.

VincentParisi on September 30, 2004 at 7:44 am

Amazing to think that Jolson opened at the Hall on 10 Oct and didn’t make it to the burbs until when? How long did people in the boroughs have to wait to see a hit film that wasn’t hard ticket?
Interesting that such a sexually suggestive film like Gilda(it’s still pretty hot) played the family oriented Hall and then the State with a puppet show! I remember years ago TV used to cut the film for reasons of good taste rather than time.

BoxOfficeBill on September 30, 2004 at 7:22 am

SimonL and Vincent are both right — “The Jolson Story” premiered at RCMH on 10 October ‘46 and ran until the Xmas show “'Till the Clouds Roll By” opened on 5 December — a long eight weeks. It then moved to the State, where it was accompanied by a Vaudeville show, as the State in the mid-to-late '40s was wont to take films after their openers elsewhere. (Earlier in '46, at the age of three, I saw—and still remember— “Glida” at the State after it had moved from RCMH: my parents took me because the Vaudeville presentation featured a puppet show that they thought I’d like— quite a pairing to lure young tots and their folks to that seductive film— I have hazy memories of the puppet show set against a green backdrop, but can never forget Rita in stunning black-and-white.) After the State, “The Jolson Story” moved to the Fox in Brooklyn, where I remember seeing it; then, on to the nabes. “Jolson Sings Again” opened at the State on 17 August '49, and never played at RCMH. By that time, Larry Parks’s reputation was tainted by Communist allegations, no? (It’s awful to remember all this trivia—the dates come from “The NY Times Directory of the Film.”