Radio City Music Hall

1260 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10020

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Vito
Vito on September 4, 2004 at 8:11 am

Even though “South Pacific” did not have the Fox fanfare, as a young projectionist to get a print of that movie in four track with the intermission and all the entrance and exit music was a thrill.
mjc, do you remember your first mag print?

mrchangeover
mrchangeover on September 4, 2004 at 6:25 am

Porter wrote: “ How could you choose just one?”

Porter: You are right of course. There were so many great movie intros that came after the fanfare.
For me though it was all about a time and a place.I just loved that short part of my young life when I was in the projection business. For some reason that combination of the fanfare and the intro to the music stayed with me over many others. Thats probably also why I like “South Pacific” despite the movie’s many faults including those ridiculous colour filters. I just loved showing that movie and seeing the audience leave with smiles on their faces.
MartinC

Vito
Vito on September 4, 2004 at 4:44 am

Bill mentioned the fanfare seamed a bit low, my complaint is the treatment given to the new Fox logo, introduced a few years ago, which includes rhe fanfare with the extension not quite sounding the way Newman wrote it. Almost sounds like some kids in the garage banging it out instead of a full orchestra. I also disaprove about the way the last few bars have been slowed down. These people are messing with a national treasure here and need to learn a little respect for the way the fanfare was written. One last gripe, the Fox logo shown without the fanfare, but some other music, as in “Farewell to Arms”.(There I feel better now)
Porter mentioned great fox music, let’s not forget the wonderful overture to “How to Marry a Millionare”, played by the Fox orchestra
As I understand it, Millionaire was actually the first CinemaScope production fox made, but Zanack, in his wisdom, decided to hold off realease until after “The Robe” as to present CinemaSacope on a grandeur scale. I always thought the overture ahead of “How to Marry a Millionaire” was intended to show off and impress audiences with stereophonic sound. As to the question about who ran the lights and curtains at RCMH, it was all stagehands, projectionist had no control over any of that. In New York City, if you had a stage were you now or once presented live shows, you had stagehands even if you are showing movies.

porterfaulkner
porterfaulkner on September 3, 2004 at 5:25 pm

Favourite music to follow Newmans great Fox fanfare and CinemaScope extension? The Fox music department and its head Alfred Newman embarked on hiring the greatest selection of film composers for CinemaScope product which was designed to bring the “world to your doorstep”

There was great music for the many moods of Fox CinemaScope. Manhattan chic/“How to Marry a Millionaire”, Western drama/“Broken Lance”, Grandeur/“Anastasia”, Raunch,“Revolt of Mamie Stover”, Drama/“Rains of Ranchipur” Exotica/“Boy on a Dolphin”, Adventure/ “Soldier of Fortune”, Musical/“The King and I” and just plain fun/ “The Girl Can’t Help It”

How could you choose just one? But best seen mostly at the Roxy with magnetic sound.

Forget Dolby and all its sanitised technical sharpness. Give me the enormous depth and power of magnetic 4 or 6 track anytime, I can live with the hiss.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 3, 2004 at 2:35 pm

Vito and Martin: Thanks for talking about the Fox CinemaScope fanfare. I’m grateful to George Lucas or whoever it was on “Star Wars” who was responsible for bringing it back. Speaking of Lucas, maybe it’s my imagination but has anyone else noticed that on the last two Star Wars films (Episodes 1 & 2), Alfred Newman’s Fox music sounds way too low, much lower than the Star Wars fanfare that follows it? Maybe this is Lucas’s way of keeping 20th Cebtury Fox in their place – they just distribute the movies but he creates them … I don’t know.

My favorite movie music to follow the Fox fanfare? There are two of them, both from the ‘50’s. “The King and I”, with that glorious Alfred Newman arrangement of the March of the Siamese Children, and “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, a terrifying blast of percussion and pipe organ courtesy of the Master, Bernard Herrmann.

mrchangeover
mrchangeover on September 3, 2004 at 12:31 pm

“ I for one missed the extended scope Fox fanfare which disapeared with the switch to Panavision”

Vito: Ah yes….what a wonderful fanfare that was. In the theatre I worked we used to crank the sound up a couple of notches when we opened up after the intermission and the curtain rose…..just to make sure the audience paid attention! My favourite movie music follow right after the 20th Century-Fox fanfare was “North To Alaska” with Johnny Horton singing the theme. What a great way to open a show.

Another question …did the projectionists at RCMH operate the curtains, house lights and stage lights for the movie part of the show or was it all done by the stagehands union?

MartinC

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on September 3, 2004 at 11:00 am

Perspecta was installed by MGM in every Loew’s theater, as well as the Paramount, Criterion, Capitol and possibly Strand theaters on Times Square. It was used by MGM, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros, Allied Artists and United Artists. It lasted from late 1954 to 1957/58.

I’ve heard quite a few tracks through a restored Fairchild integrator. While it is panned mono, the mix (and careful use of separate gain levels for each channel) gives a very convincing illusion of stereo. We ran “Forbidden Planet” at the Loew’s Jersey on a 50 foot screen, and the Perspecta track sounded pretty good!

Vito
Vito on September 3, 2004 at 10:39 am

Thanks Warren, I long standing question of mine has been answered.
A lot of movie peole complained about CinemaScope and refused to use it. Making things worse in those days was the refusal on the part of the studios to pay Fox royalties to use the process, which spawned many ananorphic nightmares like SuperScope. MGM stayed with CinemScope until late 50s but others came up their own version like WarnerScope etc. Thank heavens we were able to project all of these anamorphic processes with the same lens, the only odd ball was SuperScope which required a different aperature plate than the others. Panavision is of course a superior anamorphic process. Perspecta never was accepted very much although the Paramount on Staten Island did have it.
By the way it sure is a great pleasure chatting with you guys!

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on September 3, 2004 at 8:31 am

I believe “Jailhouse Rock” was the first feature to be photographed witb the new anamorphic Panavision lenses.

MGM offered many of their stereo prints in both mono optical Perspecta, and 4-track mag/optical prints. This policy lasted until sometime in late 1957 when Perspecta was abandoned by the studio.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 3, 2004 at 7:46 am

Fox dumped CinemaScope because the name no longer drew crowds and the process itself proved inferior to Panavision. When MGM made “Green Mansions,” they intended to film it in CinemaScope, but Audrey Hepburn was horrified by the close-ups that she did for test shots and insisted that they use another process. MGM ended up with a then small company called Panavision, which used a new lens invented by Robert E. Gottschalk.

Vito
Vito on September 3, 2004 at 5:07 am

I am not sure I agree with the statement about RCMH and mag sound. I thought it was used rather extensily during the mid to late 50s.RCMH also used magnetic sound when 70mm was installed. The Simplex 35/70 projectors have 35mm as well as 70mm magnetic readers.
The last four track I saw at RCMH was in 1972 with “The Red Tent”.
“A Star Is Born” in 1976 was just about the last film to have four track, it included Dolby noise reduction which of course became Dolby optical stereo. Then “Star Wars” started the Dolby stereo revolution we enjoy today. Only Fox was completely commited to magnetic sound, all fox releases starting with “The Robe” in 1953 were available in either optical or magnetic versions. later on with the advent of mag/optical prints, all fox releases were distributed mag/optical untill 1963 when Fox abanded CinemaScope for Panavision. The last CinemaScope fox release, I believe was “Capriece” starting Doris Day. After that it was goodbye to mag sound at Fox and all Panavision prints were optical.Fox was going through some tough financial times then and the added cost of magnetic prints was one of the first to go. This brings up a question to which I never really recieved a satisfactory answer.
Why did Fox dump CinemaScope? I for one missed the extended scope Fox fanfare which disapeared with the switch to Panavision, which was never heard again untill “Star Wars” when Lucas changed “A Cinemascope production” to “A George Lucas Production”, returning Mr. Newmans great fanfare to it’s former glory.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on September 2, 2004 at 5:25 pm

I believe the only Garbo film to play RCMH was “Ninotchka.” Interestingly “Silk Stockings,” the musical remake also played there, as has been noted above.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on September 2, 2004 at 5:21 pm

Yes, Simon, you are correct. Garbo’s Camille did play at the Capitol.
However, Porter is referring to a clip of “Camille” that was blown up and used in the “Annie” movie musical. It was used quite erroneously. As I recall, Daddy Warbucks buys out a performance at Radio City and takes Orphan Annie et. al. to see Garbo in “Camille”.
As far as I know, “Camille” never played RCMH.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on September 2, 2004 at 4:19 pm

If I’m not mistaken, didn’t “Camille” play the Capitol?

porterfaulkner
porterfaulkner on September 2, 2004 at 4:06 pm

Vito is, of course correct, in stating that they were mostly mono or Perspecta sound prints used in the mid to late fifties at the Music Hall. The Hall was not equipped to show magnetic 4 track prints because of the rejection of audiece-participation speakers in the auditorium and the product base being mainly MGM films. This was a major expense for exhibitors and was also damaging to the decor in many theatres. MGM and Paramount embraced Perspecta which gives a stereo directional effect from a mono soundtrack but in the stage range only. It did not require or benefit from speakers in the auditorium. 20th Century-Fox championed the much more expensive 4 track magnetic prints initially as part of their promotion of CinemaScope.The spectacular multi-directional sound from these prints was expensive for the studio and for the exhibitor but also meant that the print was only usable in one type of theatre and from usually only one studio. Meanwhile, because of the cost of these prints, they developed mag/optical prints. These carried 2 tracks of stereo and and a mono optical track but didnt start to be taken up until the late 50’s. From then on 4 track was only used infrequently,mostly for event pictures or special prints for gala engagements. This continued up until the late seventies when Dolby became widespread.

Just because the wide release of a film was in a certain sound process or aspect ratio doesnt mean that other prints do not exist. The studios ran off prints in all sorts of strange variations in different cities. ‘Scope films were released flat or rereleases of classics or even just new prints were run off in different processes. Having worked in a film exchange I remember having a print of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “Call Me Madam” in 4 track, whilst having “Carousel” in a flat 1:1.66 and mono. One of the last special magnetic 4 track prints I saw was for a premiere of “Hair”, which came direct from UA in Los Angeles and was returned to their library after the engagement.

Part of the reason the 70mm prints of “GWTW” looked so bad is they were printed up from Technicolor IB masters and converted to Metrocolor then blown up. The only way to get enough picture to fill the 70mm ratio was to zoom in on the 1.33 image sufficiently to get enough picture to fill the sides of the screen(a bit like the Pan&Scan process when they need to fill height when printing up from a widescreen image).Resulting an a blotchy,grainy and washed out look to a treasure most people remember as being akin to “Wizard of Oz” A ghastly mistake which MGM never repeated and the 70mm prints of “GWTW” were discarded. This didn’t however stop them from trying it with other classics on the odd occasion as there was a 70mm print struck of “Camille” and used to fill the screen at RCMH when filming John Huston’s “Annie”!!!

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on September 2, 2004 at 2:27 pm

I remember thinking the same thing but it was the only print I saw so I figured the movie was shot that way. Especially bad was the 70mm blow up of Tom Sawyer during Easter of ‘73 which looked washed out and dull on the huge screen. I kept thinking how did color get so bad when just a few years before in the late '60s it had still been so vibrant. Even 1776 didn’t look too good. I guess of the movies that I saw at the Hall the best looking outside of revivals was Airport. But that was Ross Hunter and the last of the old Hollywood big budget productions. The Todd AO didn’t hurt either.
So how much would it cost to rent out the Hall get some great prints of some terrific movies and use the Hall for something other than a glorified warehouse for current cultural debris?
King Kong, Swing Time, and North by Northwest are my first choices.

RobertR
RobertR on September 2, 2004 at 1:49 pm

I remember the 70mm print looking washed out and dull compared to the 35mm version. Making it widescreen and projected on that enormous screen just seemed to fade the otherwise brilliant colors.

Vito
Vito on September 2, 2004 at 12:28 pm

Vincent, I never saw any magnetic prints of “North By Northwest”
I played the film a couple of times and the prints were always
optical (mono).By 1959 the mag stereo prints had begun to get scarce.
Only the 35mm versions of 70mm roadshow pictures were coming thru in mag sound. In adition since “North By Nothwest” was filmed in VistaVision and shown as a reduction print, I don’t think it had stereo sound. Most VistaVision pictures were released mono with some Prespecta prints around. I also saw “Singin in the Rain” which was re-mixed in stereo and it didn’t sound to bad, The worst offender of the re-mixed tracks had to be the re-release of “Gone with the Wind”. What a disaster,especially the 70mm vesion. the surround track would simply go and and off, and since there was no real separation, just playing different parts of the dialogue and sound thru the surround speakers, well, it was awful The four track mag prints were of course just as bad. But it looked better in 35mm,
the 70mm prints looked all out of porportion. Lastly “Scrooge”,
I believe played RCMH in 70mm, hense the great sound.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on September 2, 2004 at 11:02 am

Silk Stockings contains some of Astaires and Charisse’s best dancing so to have seen that at the Music Hall in cinemascope and stereo-well it must have been great.
Does anybody know if North by Northwest played there in stereo?
Concerning sound, when I saw Singin in the Rain there in ‘75 they utilizzed some sort of fake stereo and while I usually hate that sort of thing it was beautifully done. Those wonderful MGM arrangements came through with such clarity and impact and the movie has never sounded as good since.
I also remember the sound for the musical numbers of Scrooge being very good especially in the finale scene where one had a sense of surround sound as the various musical factions converged(this is what I believe happened as I haven’t seen the film since '70.)

Vito
Vito on September 2, 2004 at 10:18 am

Well said vincent, I felt same way about the Roxy and Paramount, I went not only for the movie but sometimes just to melt away in the grandeur of it all, and in the 40s and 50s with very little air conditioning anywhere else, it was a great place to beat the heat.
As for RCNH and stereo sound, from 1954 till about 1960 most of the product from MGM and all of the product from FOX was available in four track magnetic sound.I believe all those MGM pictures, as well as some from Columbia, played the hall were in four track. The seperation did get lost at RCMH but there was no dening the quality of the sound. However, one had to sit in one of the mezzanines to notice the surrounds, which in the days before Dolby, were located in the ceiling. I believe RCMH management resisted placing surround speaker boxes all over the hall when 70mmm was installed, but when Dolby Digital came along surround speakers with gold covered speaker fabric popped up all the place, this of course, as ugly as they are, intensified the surround experience. Oh and yes Bill, I too remember “Today to get the people to attend the picture show” the great sterophonic sound song and dance number from “Silk Stockings”

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on September 2, 2004 at 10:16 am

As so many of you are interested in the various widescreen processes, the projection ratios, the flat and curved screen, and what wide screen films premiered where, how, why and when, may I suggest you go to Widescreenmuseum.com. or widescreenmuseumlobby.com. It’s a great site and one that you will undoubtedly go and stay until someone sends a posse out to look for you.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on September 2, 2004 at 9:24 am

I do remember those films playing at the Hall however at that point I had seen so many bad movies there that I couldn’t stomach any more. It was just one dog(or kangaroo) after another. There was an Easter movie called Mr. Billion that they had to pull after a couple of weeks and stick in a Disney film about mining ponies which I think I saw a part of. I also took no pleasure in the minimalist stage shows which took place on a bare stage containing only a few people. They themselves looked pretty embarassed.
The only nice thing was that for the price of a movie ticket you could actually enter the place and spend some time there.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on September 2, 2004 at 8:35 am

I too remember seeing “Magic of Lassie” at RCMH with Lassie on stage.
However, it was more memorable for one of the last big screen appearances of the late, great Alice Faye as the waitress in the diner.
I also remember “Matilda” What a super dud that was. They really scrapped the bottom of the barrel on that one.

RobertR
RobertR on September 2, 2004 at 8:13 am

Vincent
I am also reminded of another total dog I saw at RCMH, do you remember “Matilda-the Boxing Kangaroo” with Eliot Gould? I could not believe the music hall playing an AIP picture. At the same time was the Film Vincent Minnelli did for Liza and Ingrid Bergman called “A Matter of Time”. AIP may have also released that. In spite of it all seeing even bad films there was still special. One of my happiest memories was seeing “Magic of Lassie” which I mentioned in an earlier post. Although I was already a teen it was still a kick seeing Lassie on stage in the stage show.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on September 2, 2004 at 7:38 am

I remember some stereo effect with RCMH’s first CinemaScope fims, viz. “Knights of the Round Table,” and with others as well, notably the “Glorious Technicolor, Breathtaking CinemaScope, and StereoPhonic Sound” number in “Silk Stockings.” But the device never seemed to me as, um, pronounced as it did at other theaters, chiefly and memorably at the Roxy. Perhaps the auditorium’s vastness at RCMH diffused the sound? In all honesty, too, I remember a distracting echoic effect at RCMH, particularly when the house was less than full, as at the 10:30 am showings that my parents took me to as a kid. I hate to complain about the facilities at RCMH, because their grandeur certainly more than compensated for their recognizable failings. But sometimes other theaters worked as better venues for certain presentations. For “White Christmas,” I recall a wider frame (at 1.85 rather than the usual 1.66 that RCMH used for conventional projection) but still its flat screen, with the same for later VistaVision that I saw there, principally “High Society” and the fabulous “North-by-Northwest.” (I remember viewing the last one as a teen, from the third balcony where my friends and I could smoke cigarettes and anticipate going for a beer afterwards—NYC in those days!) As for VistaVision at the Capitol, I recall no special bally-hoo about it, and certainly no vast curvilinear screen as at the Paramount and Criterion.