Radio City Music Hall

1260 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10020

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Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 21, 2004 at 1:09 pm

“Premiere Showcase” in NYC was the brainchild of Eugene Picker, who was fired from the presidency of Loew’s Theatres when the Tisch brothers bought the company. Picker, who’d joined Loew’s as a young man and had spent about 40 years with the company, swore to get even by breaking the dominance of Loew’s in the NYC area. He did it with the help of his brother, Arnold Picker, who was one of the top execs of United Artists Corporation. The first “Premiere Showcase” movies were all UA releases, starting with “Road to Hong Kong.” When this concept proved successful, all the other distributors followed suit. Some companies, especially MGM and Paramount, which had long associations with Loew’s, remained, but eventually jumped ship as well. In the end, Loew’s could no longer function as a circuit, and had to book its theatres individually into the various “showcases” that were formed.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 21, 2004 at 12:56 pm

Darling Lili was the last time the Florence Rogge Bolero was done at the Hall. I kept hoping to see it at some point during the early ‘70s as I had missed it that summer of '70. They never did it again and then decided in the bizarre thinking that has continued to plague the Hall ever since to stage Bolero in a summer show called Encore but with completely new sets, costumes and choreography by Geoffrey Holder. I didn’t bother to go because I knew it would be a travesty and I ask for the millionth time can somebody tell me why they don’t do Leonidoff’s wonderful Nativity anymore which would open the stage show and then lead into the secular part allowing for a grand Christmas finale? Which of course they wouldn’t do now because the clowns who run the place(yes you are)have no sense of showmanship.
Maybe they’ll use the place this autumn for football games?

Ron3853
Ron3853 on July 21, 2004 at 12:35 pm

Re: Seth’s question on Premiere Showcases

I’m from Pittsburgh, but it was the same in every big city in the mid-60s…the studios had more product than first-run theaters in which to show them (particularly when good product led to long runs in the downtown movie palaces), so they put together networks of second-run neighborhood houses to serve as first-run houses for a week or two for films that were more cheaply-made or of an exploitational type…good examples would be the Elvis Presley or Jerry Lewis vehicles which came out two or more times a year. Using names like “Showcase” “Red Carpet” and “Blue Ribbon,” they made it seem like it was something special that you didn’t have to go all the way downtown on the trolley to see a new release.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on July 21, 2004 at 12:28 pm

While we are in RCMH time machine mode, I would pick June 1955. On screen was LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME with Doris Day and James Cagney. Featured in the stage show was the Ravel’s BOLERO production number, which was so incredible to my 15 year old mind at the time that I sat through the movie and stage show a second time just to experience that number a second time. It started with a completely dark RCMH, the low drumbeats started and a pair of dancers was spotlighted center stage in the darkness. As the music kept building in volume, more and more dancers appeared and started to fill the stage. As the thundering finale was approaching, which by that time involved all of the Rockettes, the Corps de Ballet and God knows who else filled the stage. For the final crescendo of the music, huge drums on those mini-stages on the sides of the theater were played. It was quite a spectacle to behold.

They attempted a revival of this number in the late 70’s, I believe, as part of one of their summer shows after the screen and stage show combo had been abandoned. However, it was totally unmemorable and a mere shadow of its former self. It lacked the energy and large number of cast members required on stage to recreate that 1955 rendering of RCMH magic.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on July 21, 2004 at 12:24 pm

SimonL-
I second William Dunklin’s kudos for your description— Here a couple of supplements: Before CinemaScope brought alterations to the narrow picture sheet space that eliminated a solid draft curtain (with “Knights of the RT” in January, rather than “RoseMarie” at Easter), the contour curtain used to rise before the main film in a fully lit house revealing the yellow traveller behind it. When the studio logo flashed on the traveller siumultaneously with the last organ notes, the lights dimmed and the traveller parted. That way, spectators saw the contour rise in full lighted glory, and enjoyed it in a fractional pause before the film began. The larger CinrmaScope screen eliminated a backstage draft curtain that kept the whole tableau in place, and so that was the end of the pre-film treat. Another supplement: The introduction of big screen in 1953 (with “Shane”) eliminated the spectaculkar MagnaScope effect mentioned elsewhere above, whereby certain spectacle scenes in movies were shown on an enlarged screen, when the masks widened from the standard 27'x35' size to a (at that time) manouth 36'x48' size. I remember the effect for the stampede scene in “ing Solomon’s Miones” (1950), the storm scene in “Plymouth Adventure” (Thanksgioving, 1952), the Busby Berkeley acquatic scene in “Million Dollar Mermaid” (Christmas, 1952), and, oh yes, the train wreck scene in “Greatest Show on Earth” (January 1951). When “Shane” opened in May ‘53 at a time when B'way movies were going WideScreen, the Music Hall advertised shhowing the film o"On the Panoramic Screen.“ I was hugely disappointed, because they simply showed it on the Magnascope Screen, without installing a cuurved wide screen as the Capitol, Loew’s State, and others had done. I saw "Band Wagon,” “Roman Holiday,” and LKiss Me Kate" (defiantly not in #D) that way. By the time of the Christmas show (“Easy to Wed)), the CinemaScope screen was in place, though that Esther Williams splash was made for and shown in c theby-then conventional 1x1.6 ratio on it 32'x52’ or so). In those early ‘Scope years, the Music Hall narrowed the screen to the (now) tiny 27'x35’ for the news , cartoon, and coming attraction announcement (with, yes, the traveller aopening and closing between each segment).

SethLewis
SethLewis on July 21, 2004 at 12:21 pm

Two more quickies – It’s a shame that our need for instant gratification doesn’t allow for a slower rollout of big pictures and I’m thinking largely of Disney’s animation resurgence in the last ten years so that there couldn’t still be exclusives at venues such as RCMH…I am curious in how the Premiere Showcase trend emerged in the 60s and 70s…from studio sponsored showcases we found ourselves in Manhattan with amorphous brands such as Flagship, Red Carpet, Blue Ribbon…if anyone can explain

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 21, 2004 at 10:20 am

Vito, If you went back in time to Christmas ‘54 I’m afraid you would have blown it. You would have seen Deep in my Heart with Jose Ferrar.
I hope that you would not have been too bummed and you got a second chance to go back to Thanksgiving '54. Then you would have see it.
The Nov/Dec Christmas show only started in '70 when the Thanksgiving show that year was such a bomb(Wilders cut to shreds “Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”) they had to pull it and open the Christmas show early. They never had a Thanksgiving movie again.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 21, 2004 at 9:54 am

If I had access to the time machine, there are lots of trips I’d be making to the Music Hall: King Kong (1933), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), The Yearling (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), I Remember Mama (1948), The Nun’s Story and North by Northwest (both 1959) and, from Ron’s list, The Music Man (1962), To Kill a Mockingbird (1963) and Wait Until Dark (1967 – there must’ve been lots of screams echoing throughout the Hall at the end of that one).

Vito
Vito on July 21, 2004 at 9:30 am

Ahhhh a time machine, lets see, take me to Christmas 1954 to see “White Christmas” in VistaVision at RCMH

Ron3853
Ron3853 on July 21, 2004 at 7:46 am

In my opinion, the greedy studios in conjunction with the nation’s largest theater chains have totally ruined the once pleasurable pastime of moviegoing. They can have their 24-screen multiplex with stadium seating and cup-holders in the seats! It was much better in the old days when downtown theaters showed first-run films exclusively and neighborhood theaters with balconies got them on second-run as part of a double feature. You could see virtually everything but art films at the local “Bijou” or “Orpheum” in your own neighborhood and even walk to the theater. A wonderful bygone era. Somebody invent a time machine so I can go back to the days of Ike and Mamie!

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 21, 2004 at 7:39 am

I thought Charlie Brown was pretty awful as well(They should have had the O'Toole Goodbye Mr Chips for the Christmas Show)but it was probably one of the most successful films to ever play the Hall. The stage show for it however was the best I ever saw there.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on July 21, 2004 at 7:34 am

A slight digression from the Music Hall: The common practice of saturation booking policy by the studios explains the demise of all the single screen cinemas with 1,200 seats or more. The Ziegfeld Theater no longer gets the “exclusive” except perhaps for one week prior to general release. And the 1,500 seat Loew’s on 45th St is closing to become a retail store.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 21, 2004 at 7:22 am

A major reason for the Music Hall’s decline was the introduction in 1962 of the “Premiere Showcase” concept. Although it was started by United Artists, it rapidly spread to all the distributors, who found they could make more money through saturation release. Fewer and fewer “major” movies became available to the Music Hall, which often had to settle for the leftovers. By 1969, this was the full film schedule, in order of opening: “The Brotherhood,” “Mayerling,” “The Love Bug,” “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium,” “Winning,” “True Grit,” “The Gypsy Moths,” “The Christmas Tree,” “Hail, Hero,” “The Brain,” and “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” The majority were losers, and some, including “The Christmas Tree” and “The Brain,” are among the worst movies ever made.

SethLewis
SethLewis on July 20, 2004 at 10:46 pm

Vincent is so right about the films he talks about…all of them day dated East and West Side and suburbs except the That’s Entertainments which were exclusive to the Ziegfeld in Manhattan…Sadly in its last few film engagements around 1976 the Music Hall was even daydating with the suburbs on something called Paper Tiger with David Niven and Toshiro Mifune

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 20, 2004 at 5:48 pm

Those pictures listed above seem like that same kind that played to empty houses coast-to-coast, helping kill many old theaters in the process. I think Hollywood forgot how to make movies for a while.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on July 20, 2004 at 5:38 pm

Interesting that Bill would mention those two films above. Although critically acclaimed, neither one did extraordinary business: 4 & 5 weeks respectively under a guarantee. Granted that those films attracted a mature audience, they were hard to sell to the typical Music Hall audience. Curiously, the Hall attracted a more mature audience during its first two decades notably “Randam Harvest” (ll weeks) and “Sunset Boulevard” in 1950 (7 weeks). I guess the dumbing down began right after “Days…” and “…Mockingbird.” That tells us something…maybe about the drinking water.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 20, 2004 at 2:01 pm

Interesting that Days of Wine and Roses and To Kill a Mockingbird played back to back. If New Yorkers wanted to see some of the best screen performances from the year 1962 (besides Lawrence of Arabia), they had to go to the Music Hall in early 1963.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 20, 2004 at 1:43 pm

Ron-Thanks for the great work but now I’m reminded of all the great films that I would have loved to see at the Hall but couldn’t because I was too young. As you can see the list in the 70’s gets pretty pathetic(with a rare gem every now and then.) And of course most of them I did get to see while regreting the fact that the Music Hall was stuck with such mediocrity to show on its screen(like watching paint dry as they say.)
Well either the Hall couldn’t get anything else because of studio execs or the people choosing the films had pretty horrendous taste. I remember when Wanda Hale was lamenting the fact that a mindless gore fest like See No Evil was playing there. They might have well shown Night of the Living Dead which is a better film.
Films the Hall should have shown from this era;
The Boy Friend
The Way We Were
Prisoner of Second Avenue
Murder on the Orient Express
The Poseiden Adventure
That’s Entertainment 1 and 2
Funny Lady
Lost Horizon(yes, a seriously bad movie but it would have packed the place)

I’m sure there are others I have left out. But PG product was plentiful during this era and every time I saw the ad for the next Music Hall film my heart would sink.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 18, 2004 at 6:52 pm

Thanks so much Ron – what a great list and what great memories it triggered. Now I know for sure that the first film I saw at the Music Hall was Bon Voyage, when I always thought it was That Touch of Mink. I was 7 years old for both films. I also got to relive all the films I WANTED to see at the Music Hall but was too young to go see by myself.

SethLewis
SethLewis on July 18, 2004 at 11:26 am

Well done Rob…I know I was there for Mary,Mary…Mary Poppins…True Grit…What’s Up Doc…Viva Max…The Odd Couple and The Out of Towners though it feels like more than that

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 18, 2004 at 10:05 am

Movie credits are fairly easy to come by. But what is desparately needed is a full list of all the stage shows that supported the movies at RCMH, complete with titles, dates, producers, directors, writers, and casts of performers, including the members of the Rockettes, Corps De Ballet and Symphony Orchestra. This seems a worthy dissertation for someone going for a PHD in theatre history.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on July 18, 2004 at 9:56 am

I wonder if Ron3853, or anyone, has found a website that has compiled the weekly grosses that Variety has only on microfilm.

Vito
Vito on July 18, 2004 at 9:50 am

Nice job Ron!
Thank you for sharing

Ron3853
Ron3853 on July 18, 2004 at 8:26 am

Part of the history of a great theater is the films which played there. This is especially true of the Radio City Music Hall, the largest theater in New York City, and truly the “Showplace of the Nation.” I have enjoyed reading the comments posted wherein people remember visits to the Hall and the films that were showing there. Listed below are the films which played at Radio City Music Hall from late 1959 to 1975. Research is from microfilms of Variety and The New York Times. The date listed is the Wednesday of the week that the film opened. In those days, most new films opened on that day, not on Fridays as they do now. I believe in most cases, the RCMH opened its films and new stageshows on Thursdays, although there may be instances where this was not the case.
11/11/59 The Miracle
12/02/59 Operation Petticoat
01/20/60 Never So Few
02/10/60 Once More, With Feeling
03/02/60 Home From the Hill
03/30/60 Please Don’t Eat the Daisies
05/18/60 Pollyanna
06/22/60 Bells are Ringing
08/10/60 Song Without End
09/21/60 The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
10/12/60 Midnight Lace
11/09/60 The World of Suzie Wong
12/07/60 The Sundowners
01/18/61 Where the Boys Are
02/15/61 Cimarron
03/15/61 The Absent-Minded Professor
05/03/61 Parrish
05/31/61 The Pleasure of His Company
07/05/61 Fanny
09/06/61 Come September
10/04/61 Breakfast at Tiffany's
11/08/61 Flower Drum Song
12/13/61 Babes in Toyland
01/10/62 A Majority of One
02/07/62 Lover Come Back
03/14/62 Rome Adventure
04/04/62 Moon Pilot
05/16/62 Bon Voyage
06/13/62 That Touch of Mink
08/22/62 The Music Man
09/26/62 Gigot
10/31/62 Gypsy
12/05/62 Billy Rose’s “Jumbo"
01/09/63 The Days of Wine and Roses
02/06/63 To Kill a Mockingbird
03/13/63 A Girl Named Tamiko
04/02/63 Bye Bye Birdie
05/15/63 Spencer’s Mountain
06/05/63 Come Blow Your Horn
07/31/63 The Thrill of it All
09/18/63 The VIPs
10/23/63 Mary, Mary
11/13/63 The Wheeler Dealers
12/04/63 Charade
01/22/64 The Prize
02/19/64 Captain Newman, MD
03/18/64 The World of Henry Orient
04/22/64 The Pink Panther
05/20/64 The Chalk Garden
07/15/64 The Unsinkable Molly Brown
09/23/64 Mary Poppins
11/11/64 Send Me No Flowers
12/09/64 Father Goose
01/27/65 36 Hours
03/03/65 Dear Heart
03/31/65 Operation Crossbow
05/12/65 The Yellow Rolls-Royce
07/14/65 The Sandpiper
09/15/65 The Great Race
11/03/65 Never Too Late
12/01/65 That Darn Cat
01/19/66 Judith
02/16/66 Inside Daisy Clover
03/16/66 The Singing Nun
05/04/66 Arabesque
06/08/66 The Glass-Bottom Boat
07/13/66 How to Steal a Million
09/21/66 Kaleidoscope
10/12/66 Any Wednesday
11/09/66 Penelope
11/30/66 Follow Me, Boys!
01/18/67 Hotel
02/15/67 The 25th Hour
03/08/67 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
04/26/67 Two for the Road
05/24/67 Barefoot in the Park
08/16/67 Up the down Staircase
09/27/67 The Bobo
10/25/67 Wait Until Dark
11/29/67 The Happiest Millionaire
01/17/68 How to Save a Marriage & Ruin Your Life
02/07/68 Sweet November
02/28/68 The Secret War of Harry Frigg
03/20/68 The One & Only, Genuine, Original Family Band
05/01/68 The Odd Couple
08/07/68 Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?
09/18/68 Hot Millions
10/16/68 Bullitt
12/04/68 The Impossible Years
01/15/69 The Brotherhood
02/12/69 Mayerling
03/12/69 The Love Bug
04/23/69 If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium
05/21/69 Winning
07/02/69 True Grit
08/27/69 The Gypsy Moths
09/24/69 The Christmas Tree
10/22/69 Hail, Hero!
11/12/69 The Brain
12/03/69 A Boy Named Charlie Brown
01/21/70 Viva, Max!
02/11/70 …tick…tick…tick…
03/04/70 Airport
05/27/70 The Out-of-Towners
07/22/70 Darling Lili
09/23/70 Sunflower
10/28/70 The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
11/18/70 Scrooge
01/20/71 Promise at Dawn
02/17/71 Wuthering Heights
03/10/71 A New Leaf
05/12/71 Plaza Suite
06/30/71 Murphy’s War
07/28/71 The Red Tent
09/01/71 See No Evil
09/29/71 Kotch
10/27/71 The Railway Children
11/10/71 Bedknobs and Broomsticks
01/12/72 The Cowboys
02/02/72 Mary, Queen of Scots
03/08/72 What’s Up, Doc?
05/03/72 Play it Again, Sam
05/31/72 The War Between Men and Women
07/05/72 Butterflies are Free
08/16/72 The Last of the Red Hot Lovers
09/20/72 Cancel My Reservation
10/18/72 When the Legends Die
11/08/72 1776
01/31/73 The World’s Greatest Athlete
02/21/73 Charlotte’s Web
03/14/73 Tom Sawyer
05/16/73 Mary Poppins
06/27/73 40 Carats
08/08/73 Night Watch
09/26/73 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler
10/17/73 The Optimists
11/07/73 Robin Hood
01/31/74 Superdad
03/06/74 Mame
05/16/74 The Black Windmill
06/05/74 Herbie Rides Again
07/10/74 The Tamarind Seed

08/21/74 The Girl From Petrovka

From this point, my records only show first-run films that were reviewed in The New York Times. Certainly, the films below did not have such long runs, indicating that the Hall began to be used for other events or was dark.

11/06/74 The Little Prince
03/05/75 At Long Last Love
05/21/75 The Wind and the Lion
06/25/75 Bite the Bullet
07/30/75 Hennessy
11/04/75 The Sunshine Boys

As can be seen, during the period from 1959 to 1975, most of the films which played at Radio City Music Hall were indeed, family-friendly, which along with the accompanying stage shows were selected to draw in not only New York residents but the large tourist trade. There were only rare instances when RCMH featured a film with “adult” themes, such as “The Days of Wine & Roses,” “The World of Suzie Wong,” and “The Sandpiper.” Of course, many big films received their American and NYC premieres there. A number of films which played the Hall were those which were set in NYC. And special consideration was given to booking films from the Walt Disney studios, cute romantic comedies, and the film versions of successful plays and musicals from Broadway which in New York had built-in name recognition. Almost all of the films which were made from Neil Simon comedies got their NY premiere at the Hall. Finally, a big consideration was given to films which had the name box-office stars of the time such as Cary Grant, Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Sophia Loren, Julie Andrews, Goldie Hawn, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Debbie Reynolds, James Garner, Paul Newman, John Wayne.

(If I have made omissions or there are corrections, please post and let visitors to this fine website know. I realize from reading above that these films are listed in a book about the Hall, but not all of us have access to it, and so they are now on this site. My research and interest in films began in 1958 when I was only 5, so perhaps someone who has access to data about the films which played there in earlier decades will be kind enough to put it here. I am trying to get my research information on the Cinema Treasures website for all of the major theaters in the large cities around the country so it will be easy for future theater scholars to find it. Thank you.)