Radio City Music Hall

1260 6th Avenue,
New York, NY 10020

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bruceanthony on July 11, 2004 at 8:30 pm

Here are a few films that played Radio City from the New York Times movie adds.

Mar 1933 King Kong
Apr 1937 A Star is Born
Jan 1938 Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs
Mar 1939 Stagecoach
Oct 1939 Mr Smith Goes To Washington
Mar 1940 Rebecca
Aug 1950 Sunset Boulevard
Oct 1951 An American in Paris
Apr 1953 Shane
Oct 1954 White Christmas
Sep 1964 Mary Poppins


umbaba on June 24, 2004 at 9:26 pm

Shade….from your lips to God’s ear…I remember Arthur Penn being there, I was so pumped. Peter Benchley was at Jaws…There’s no showmanship anymore….they should read this site.

VincentParisi on June 24, 2004 at 7:32 pm

I always wondered why the screen from that era into the early fifties was so tiny. How did 6,000 people collectively concentrate on such a tiny screen film after film without constantly being distracted or losing interest?

Ziggy on June 24, 2004 at 7:27 pm

I’m not a New Yorker, so I’ve only been to this theatre 3 times, but I remember those three trips well! I thought the theatre was gorgeous back then, and it probably still is, but it seems like the magic is gone. It was great to go there and catch a great movie AND a great stage show, to watch the lights slowly change color in the auditorium during the presentation, to feel the rumble of the organ even as you’re standing out in the lobby, the crush of thousands of people all enjoying themselves. I remember how even the “ordinary” stage shows (the non-holiday ones) were spectacular.

Now it just seems as if it’s just another 75 dollar a head theatre which presents a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t do this great place justice. Wasn’t the whole point behind movie palaces to provide a huge amount of entertainment at the lowest possible price, and to be surrounded by incredible luxury that anyone could afford to enjoy?

I’m glad the place is still standing and serving, it’s just not the same place anymore.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on June 24, 2004 at 7:09 pm

I’ve heard that the reason there are 5 projectors is because “in the day” 2 prints were run simultaneously, one projecting onto the screen and one running with the dowser closed. I was told was that should a projector fail, film break, anything go wrong, they would instantly switch to the other running projector. Supposedly this was cheaper than refunding 6000 tickets.

Also regarding screen size, I have a 1926 Paramount magazine ad, (part of their “Friendship Means More at the Movies” ad campaign) that shows a theater full of happy people watching a tiny screen in a vast curtained movie palace proscenium. My old time projectionist buddy tells me that the pre WWII lamps simply weren’t bright enough to really light up a big screen. If the image got too big, the image was too dim: a problem in all the big halls, but obviously compounded by the outsize RCMH screen.

VincentParisi on June 1, 2004 at 3:14 pm

It seems that those who now run the Music Hall have no interest in films whatsoever. Remember years ago that first run film presentation was not so much about making a pile of money from the get go but giving it the best possible send off. It had everything to do with showmanship and class. Real money was usually not made until second and third run. Disney pulled Snow White from the Hall after five weeks(when it surely could have run a few more) simply because he wanted the neighborhood money after getting the Music Hall’s prestige. He would continue using the Music Hall for special films until his death.

Shade on May 31, 2004 at 8:35 am

Bonnie and Clyde was made even cooler with an appearance by the film’s director Arthur Penn. These two consecutive series were incredible. It seemed like a new light had shown on Manhattan theatergoing. Jaws was PACKED! I believe Blade Runner may even have been sold out. The Exorcist was an experience like none other, and with William Friedkin and Ellen Burstyn both there… priceless.

I’ve been hoping someone would pick that idea back up again, but now reading over the posts I wonder just how much it must cost to make Radio City run for a night. As many noticed, so many of these screenings were packed. Seeing a movie with 5,000 other people is just incredible.

Does anyone know who organized these film series? To this outsider they sure seemed easy to run. If you can charge $40 for a show ticket and do okay with all the hydraulics and smoke machines of a concert, you should be able to have a film projected for $12 a ticket times 5,000 tickets. Older films are just not that expensive to rent. Even if they’re collecting 35% of the door, sharing $60K for projecting a film print just doesn’t seem like bad business.

umbaba on May 25, 2004 at 12:15 pm

I saw Bonnie and Clyde that year. The next year I saw Psycho, Jaws and The Sting. I remember the reaction and the screams of people when watching Psycho and Jaws. It was like the first time seeing it, and people laughed and applauded. It was great. The prints were archived prints, good but nothing special, it was good enough though. Mono soundtracks, sounding echoing in the auditorium. I remember talking to an usher that night and he was saying they were planning for the next series with a screening of Superman. That was in 1997. So, that’s a done deal. But seeing these films in the Music Hall were a special experience. It’s too bad they don’t do this anymore. But I guess there’s too many rap concerts to plan.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 25, 2004 at 2:33 am

Yankee Mike: I don’t know if it was 12 years ago but sometime in the 1990’s, there was a Warner Bros. Classic Film Festival, followed a year later by a Universal Classic Film Festival. I attended the showings of Bonnie and Clyde, The Exorcist, My Fair Lady, Psycho, Jaws, Animal House and The Blues Brothers. Bonnie and Clyde was a Wednesday night show and attracted a fairly good crowd, but all the other shows looked like sellouts to me.

YMike on May 24, 2004 at 6:55 pm

I believe abot twelve years ago they had a classic film series at Radio City. Does anyone remember if it was well attended?

Vito on May 24, 2004 at 6:45 pm

Thanks William, Yes the end off 4-track mag came along with Dolby optical noise reduction prints and then Dolby stereo, although most studios had stop making mag prints available in the early 60s. Even Fox which released all of their films prior to 1960 in 4-track
mag-optical, switched to straight optical mono prints.I can recall the joy of getting a rare post 1960 mag print like “Hello Dolly”, “Star”, “2001” amoung a few others,and then presenting the film in stereo. We would put it on the marguee, presented in 4 track sterophonic sound. As for the Music Hall’s image size I believe you are quite right, it was rather small but the alternative Magnascope added much to much grain and robbed more light, even with carbon arc ,then the Hall could afford to lose.

William on May 24, 2004 at 4:02 pm

Vito – Two of the last features release with prints in a 4-Track Mag stereo format were “Scarface” and “Yentl” in 1983. Any other titles would have been special ordered or what was still left at the film exchanges.

Before 1952 with the premiere of “This is Cinerama” (2.65:1 ratio) and in 1953 with the debut of “The Robe” in CinemaScope (2.55:1 ratio). All films were projected at 1.37:1 (Standard Academy ratio). The original screen might have had alittle more height too it. But because the Music Hall is a very large theatre and has a very wide proscenium, that might be what audiences saw during the early days at the Music Hall. Most of the times people remember the screens as small as a postage stamp. In the book about the San Francisco Fox Theatre, there is a picture of how small the screen looked when projecting a 1.37:1 ratio picture, before CinemaScope. When using Magnascope / Magnacom type lenses the picture will have more grain because you are blowing up the picture and those type lenses eat alot of light too.

VincentParisi on May 24, 2004 at 2:26 pm

I’ve said somewhere on this site that when I saw Singin in the Rain here in ‘75 the image was surprisingly small and there is an old Hitchcock where there is a chase through the Music Hall during the film presentation and the image is that small. So I guess from when the Music Hall opened to the 50’s people were watching a pretty small screen. So what was that like for the audiences in the second and third mezzanines during this era when the Hall frequently filled up? Their powers of concentration must have been enormous.
Unfortunately when the screen is opened for the Magnascope lenses the image becomes fairly grainy.

joemasher on May 23, 2004 at 10:29 pm

The booth is still the same today. In fact, today, Sunday 5/23/04, RCMH is hosting the World Premiere of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azcaban”.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 23, 2004 at 8:46 pm

The aspect ratio was correct during Casablanca, but the image was small in relation to the proscenium. When the Music Hall showed films on a regular basis, did they really use so little of the available space?

As to the sound, I did see several movies there during the movie/stage show era, and don’t recall any sound problems.

I think that when theaters aren’t regularly showing films, but do show the occasional movie, when they do play a movie the equipment and the projectionists aren’t always up to speed. If a projectionist comes in and find that the bulb isn’t bright enough, or the speakers aren’t working right, there is very little he or she can do about it.

Vito on May 23, 2004 at 8:32 pm

The image was true to the original 1.33 ratio which made the picture look small but it was shown the way it was meant to be seen and how it was presented originally. As for the sound I think perhaps you have gotten used to modern day Dolby sound and have forgotten or are too young to remember what is what like back then, Warren, William, Vincent…
any comments?

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 23, 2004 at 6:18 pm

I saw Casablanca here during a film festival a few years ago, and the image seemed small to me, considering the space available, and the sound was terrible. It was all echoes and tinny, and if I didn’t already know the movie so well, I wouldn’t have known what all the Casablanca fuss was about.

Vito on May 23, 2004 at 12:57 pm

Has anyone ben in the Music Halls projection booth lately? I visited the booth several years ago when there were five projectors,
three Simplex 35/70 with Dolby Digital capability as well as magnetic penthouses, and two Simplex XL 35mm with optical capability only. There were no platters, thankfully, although I was told that “Lion King” was presented in 70mm, but not with standard 70mm six track magnetic sound, a seperate 35mm Dolby Digital sound print was interlocked using platters. What is in the booth today?

Vito on May 23, 2004 at 12:47 pm

I was very interested in Williams notes about the Hall’s 70mm presentations. I knew the 35mm prints were made a little lighter because I worked at Deluxe labs in New York during that time. I believe before Dolby came along many 35mm prints were struck with magnetic stereo tracks and although after 1960 such prints were hard to come by, Radio City still played a lot of films in 35mm 4 track magnetic. Anyone know more about this?

VincentParisi on May 20, 2004 at 4:30 pm

But this is the height of the tourist season in July!
Considering how the Music Hall is used now I guess Andrew Stein’s idea of turning it into the NY stock exchange back in the 70’s wasn’t much different.

VincentParisi on May 20, 2004 at 4:30 pm

But this is the height of the tourist season in July!
Considering how the Music Hall is used now I guess Andrew Stein’s idea of turning it into the NY stock exchange back in the 70’s wasn’t much different.

VincentParisi on May 20, 2004 at 3:46 pm

How do people who make these decisions get their jobs?
I assume they’re recruited from the FBI and the CIA. Nothing else seems to explain such waste and staggering incompetency.

William on May 20, 2004 at 3:39 pm

The scope screen is 69' x 31' and full ratio 70MM screen is 69' x 34'. I was typing to fast on that post. All three films “Darling Lili”, “Scrooge” and “Tom Sawyer” were all 70MM blow-ups. “Airport” looked fantastic on the big screen.

RobertR on May 20, 2004 at 3:26 pm

This is another example of NY theatres not being respected. This is one of the most degrading things to ever happen at The Music Hall. ANyways how can basketball be played on a stage>?

VincentParisi on May 20, 2004 at 3:02 pm

William what is the size of the of the cinemascope screen? From what I remember from seeing 7 Brides there in the late 70’s it is larger than the 70mm screen. Also was Darling Lillie a blow up like Scrooge or real 70mm? Blow-ups never looked good at the Music Hall. Both Scrooge and Tom Sawyer were somewhat grainy and washed out but Airport in Todd AO with those old fashioned glossy Ross Hunter production values looked sensational.