Radio City Music Hall

1260 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10020

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sethbook on November 23, 2004 at 8:11 am

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 10:49 am

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

VincentParisi on November 22, 2004 at 8:57 am

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 8:24 am

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 8:06 am

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 8:06 am

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

VincentParisi on November 22, 2004 at 7:40 am

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 21, 2004 at 8:37 pm

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 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.