Ziegfeld Theatre

141 West 54th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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Vito
Vito on January 22, 2006 at 5:59 am

I was saddend to hear the “Backdraft” story. I was working in Hawaii
at the time but the news reached us there, a blemish on the great profession of projection to be sure.
I am hoping REndres will be able to report back to us regarding the format being used to show WSS, MFL and others. 70mm prints are getting harder and harder to find, I worry we may end up seeing them in 35mm possibly with mono sound. I played WSS twice in 70mm and several times in 35mm. None of the 35mm prints had magnetic tracks, they were always optical (momo) So I am not sure if any 35mm stereo prints exsist. In addition, I don’t recall hearing of any Dolby remastering as was the case with MFL. But whatever it turns out to be I agree we must support the showings, if they are a sucess perhaps we can begin to se more of that at the Ziegfield and
possiblly Radio City as well. Wouldn’t THAT be sweet.

umbaba
umbaba on January 22, 2006 at 3:23 am

There has to be a reason the Ziefeld is doing this festival….at a low price no less…is it an experiment based on this room?? or is it a sign of a closing…I myself am really psyched…I hope the prints are good….I hope they put an effort into this…I wonder how successful “Chicago” and “Gladiator” and “Rings” will be as they might be just too recent..I’m looking forward to WSS, MFL, Ben….I’ll keep checking for reviews on the prints..

Movieguy718
Movieguy718 on January 21, 2006 at 11:47 am

I remember that screening of Backdraft!!
I also agree that the presentation at the Ziegfeld was iffy for a while there.
Since Clearview has had it though, it’s been quite good.
RENT rivaled some 70mm shows I’ve seen there.
EVERYBODY GO TO THE REVIVALS!!! If enough people support it, maybe we’ll luck out and get a series every year!

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 21, 2006 at 10:54 am

I worked at the Ziegfeld in the 80’s. The projectionist was a crack addict who put BACKDRAFT on in the wrong reel order at the World Premiere. The run of MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON was destroyed because the asshole never seemed to be able to run a complete show. Has the Ziegfield really survived local 306?

God help the Ziegfeld and may it survive tragically bad history of projectionists!

PeterApruzzese
PeterApruzzese on January 21, 2006 at 10:40 am

Bill Kallay:

There’s no way that the faded print you saw of MFL in the late 90s was from the 1994 restoration. Those 1994 prints were made on LPP film stock which does not fade. They were obviously misinformed and received an original print from the 60s or 70s.

Movieguy718
Movieguy718 on January 21, 2006 at 10:09 am

Hey Vito & RC – I’d love to continue this with you via e-mail before everyone gets pissed about this being off topic ;–)

You are absolutely right that some people do try to put on a good show – the guy at the Ziegfeld does a good job, Stanley at the Astor Plaza used to put on a great show . The people at the Union Square and Battery Park do the best job out of all the multiplexes in the city. They don’t use the fader memory feature or dual fader setting capability – they just leave it set for the feature and seem to deal well with the trailer complaints. At Loews E-Walk I can tell which projectionist is on duty based on the presentation – I believe they have 3 guys on staff – ONE of them does a good job. The Chelsea 9 (already a crappy theatre – even on a good day) took 45 minutes to manually switch over formats because “we can’t find the projectionist.” The dialog for MatchPoint at the Village 7 came from the right channel speaker and the projectionist had no clue how to fix it (it was running in the wrong program – he couldn’t figure out how to push one single button and quite frankly his attitude was one of “I couldn’t care less.”) I had to explain to the manager what to do and he manged to fix it. And it cost him 4 free passes and two refunds. AND he invited us to stay and see the movie anyway.

I don’t mean to demean the profession – and I’m sure all you guys are consummate pros who actually took/take pride in putting on a good show – but I’m also sure that you can see why I’m a little miffed.

As for the fader settings, why not do as my friend does: My buddy runs a 6 screener – 5 Dolby Digital & 1 SDDS. In the Dolby houses he sets the trailers to 4.5 and the feature between 6 and 7. In the SDDS house, he tries to get all the trailers to run in the SDDS format and sets it to -2.0 and sets the feature between -0.5 and 1.5. He actually goes into the auditorium and listens to the movie. He has said that on ocassion, he has had to run some movies at 7.5 and 2.5 DD/SDDS respectively to get clear dialog. He does have to move films a couple times a week for screenings, etc and says it’s not a big deal ‘cause it is just two cues. Sure, every commercial/trailer has a different level, but you can group all the commercials/trailers/etc and set them at one fader setting and the feature at another. No need to babysit the volume. I’ve watched him do it and I’ve heard the results. It’s a great and relatively simple solution.

OF COURSE THEATRE CHAINS DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PRESENTATION – THEY ARE WAY TOO CONCERNED WITH SELLING POPCORN!!! That’s why you’d assume that theatres with fulltime projection staff would do a better job – all the projectionist has to do is work with the film. But again, in my experience, here in the city, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. They put on just as crappy a show at the AMC as they do at the UA East as they do at Lincoln Square and Lincoln Plaza (where we just tried to see Mrs Henderson Presents – which was presented at a volume so low that about half the dialog was inaudible. Mrs Henderson herself couldn’t hear what she was saying!!! My complaint was greeted with “I’ll let the projectionist know.” Ten minutes later we were getting a refund.

rcdt55b
rcdt55b on January 21, 2006 at 2:40 am

I know all about different fader settings. I install this equipment daily. My point was that you can’t have automatic settings for individual trailers. You can have saved settings for the feature and trailer mode only. As Vito said, every trailer and commercial has a different level. You cannot be at every machine every show and sit there while they run through and babysit the volume. Also as Vito said, the majority want to put on the best show possible. Do you think the managers do? They had no choice but to learn how to thread up and hit the start button. The owners don’t give shit about the customers. It’s all about saving money. The reason presentations are going downhill is because the qualified operators are being replaced by film threaders! That’s a fact.

Vito
Vito on January 21, 2006 at 2:10 am

Sorry Movieguy, I simply cannot accept your comments regarding projectionists. Sure, in every industry you have people who are as you described, but in my many years in theatre business I have found the guys in the booth to be hard working, dedicated profressionals who would never disrespect the the fine art of projection. We are a breed of individuals who love the job and get great satisfaction and joy in putting on a good show. As for volume in trailers, it was a major problem for a while, the studios and producers recorded them at a high level to get your attention in selling the picture. several of the industry’s most prominent organizations, including the Motion Picture Association of America, the National Association of Theatre Owners, and THX’s Theatre Alignment Program have decided to work together on developing a set of guidelines to regulate trailer volume. As a result, an industry committee dubbed the Trailer Audio Standards Association has been formed to help ensure that volume levels enhance, rather than hurt, the moviegoing experience, so as you pinted out, have improved over the last few years. Problematic, too, was that the difference in dB levels between trailer and feature presentations was still quite discernible. Trailers were so loud, theatres turned down the volume because they were getting complaints, and then not turning them back up for the features. You are quite correct in your statement regarding level adjustment settings in sound processors and automation panels, however, their are some flaws contained in those options as well. As the Loews guy said it can be troublesome, due to the fact that in a multi screen operation, prints are moved from house to house and trailers are interchanged, replaced, updated on a regular basis, so it can become difficult to keep track of all those settings. Keep in mind not all trailers are recorded at the same level so it’s not just one level adjustment involved. Hopefully I have caused you to change your opinion of “the guys in the booth"
honestly, the vast majority want to put on the best show possible.

Movieguy718
Movieguy718 on January 20, 2006 at 10:29 pm

Hey RCDTJ,

Absolutely… the SDDS 3000 and all Dolby processors from the 500 series on. They allow you to set a sound cue for commercials, trailers and feature. The SDDS has memory – it will remember the level for a trailer even if it is removed from the platter and is reintroduced later. The Dolby does not have a memory feature but it CAN accept different fader settings for trailers and feature.
I had a conversation with a “tech” from a Loews theatre about this. His response was “it’s too much trouble, we have to program the machine every time we move the film.” Gee – that’s what I thought they get paid to do?

moviebluedog
moviebluedog on January 20, 2006 at 5:56 pm

It was interesting to hear about the 70mm print of “The Exorcist.” The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) screened a special 70mm print of the film, if memory serves, in 1997. The print I saw was in pristine shape and the sound was very good. You never know how these prints will end up in the future. As for “My Fair Lady,” there was a 70mm screening at California State University at Long Beach sometime in the late 1990s. That print, however, was severly pink, faded and had a “click” running through one of the front channels via one of the reels. The head of the festival, Gary Prebula, stopped the film midway and said that it was the same print that screened at Century Plaza in Century City during its re-release in 1994! How could a print get so beat up in so little time?

There are some new or fairly new 70mm prints around.

“The Sound Of Music”
“Vertigo”
“The Agony and the Ecstasy”
“Doctor Dolittle”
“Playtime”
“Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines”
“The Greatest Story Ever Told”
“It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World”
“Hello, Dolly"
"2001”
“Lord Jim”
“Patton"
"The Sheltering Sky"
"Tron”

These have all screened in the Los Angeles area in recent years in 70mm DTS (except for “The Sheltering Sky” and “Tron”). It probably depends on which theatre, if any, has a DTS decoder for 70mm in New York, to book a print. And most of these screenings were either near capacity or sold out.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on January 20, 2006 at 4:27 pm

REndres: That’s a great story (though painful for you) about “Gandhi”. I went to the Ziegfeld to see “Gandhi” on the Friday night of that blizzard weekend in 1983. I and many of my co-workers had picked that night to go before we knew a blizzard was coming, and we decided not to call it off and go anyway. To our amazement, the place was packed to the gills. It’s still one of the most memorable shows I ever attended at the Ziegfeld.

rcdt55b
rcdt55b on January 20, 2006 at 1:53 pm

Hey Movieguy, I dont know what theaters you are going to but if what you said was happening, the union guy would be replaced. To say that the managers do a better job than the union prjectionists is absurd and shows what little you know about it. As far as the loud trailers, that has been a problem for years. Everyone knows about it. If you can show me a processor that can change levels for each trailer I would love to see it.

rcdt55b
rcdt55b on January 20, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Hey Movieguy, I dont know what theaters you are going to but if what you said was happening, the union guy would be replaced. To say that the managers do a better job than the union prjectionists is absurd and shows what little you know about it. As far as the loud trailers, that has been a problem for years. Everyone knows about it. If you can show me a processor that can change levels for each trailer I would love to see it.

rcdt55b
rcdt55b on January 20, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Hey Movieguy, I dont know what theaters you are going to but if what you said was happening, the union guy would be replaced. To say that the managers do a better job than the union prjectionists is absurd and shows what little you know about it. As far as the loud trailers, that has been a problem for years. Everyone knows about it. If you can show me a processor that can change levels for each trailer I would love to see it.

Vito
Vito on January 20, 2006 at 11:15 am

Oh Rob that’s a riot! Good point about the weight of the two reels, the difference,of course, was the diamater of the reel which made it a bit harder to handle. In addition we often used “floating hubs"
which was good for the takeups but much harder to handle. I also remember doubling up a lot of the reels on a 70mm musical picture because in order to avoid a reel end in the middle of a musical number, many of the reels ran only 11-12 mins. You spoke of mounting prints on reels running just to or slightly over the edge, I remember many a time joining two reels together not knowing for sure if they would both fit, just shouting "come on baby you can do it” Alas it not always did. I never really liked having the print run over the edge, although I did. I was always concerned some relief operator would not pay enough attention during rewind and cause damage, it happened to a print of “Hello Dolly” and the boys in the booth caught holy hell. At the next union meeting after that incident, we were forbidden by the union president to allow reels to run over the edge. By the way, ever see a 70mm print on a platter have a brain wrap?, not a pretty sight.
So what do you hear about the prints being used in the upcoming festival? any 70mm?

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on January 20, 2006 at 10:57 am

Just spoke with Clearview and Fair Lady will not be in 70mm. Bummer. So what genuine 70mm films still exist in that format? And will we ever see them again in New York?

RobertEndres
RobertEndres on January 20, 2006 at 10:08 am

A double 70mm reel packed out to the edge (and sometimes over it at the Ziegfeld) weighs more than a full 6,000' 35mm reel, at least in part because of the magnetic tracks which do add some weight. When we started using 6,000' reels at the Hall some of the older operators on the crew protested. I took a single 70mm reel up to the hospital and weighed both it and a full 6,000 reel and could point out that the 6,000' 35mm load weighed less. I don’t think in most cases they doubled 70mm before I was there. I was always a lttle afraid of doubling 70 at the Hall because of the way the Simplex reel shafts were made, but I never had one snap off. The Ziegfeld had ZeissPrevost 70mm machines which were made for 70mm when I was there so I didn’t have the same concern.

I do remember getting called to the Ziegfeld on an emergency after a blizzard one Saturday when we were running “Gandhi”. Since I live a few blocks away, I kept a theatre key and a booth key at my apartment, and would frequently get called. On that day I took a 70mm double first reel off the projector, and slipped putting it on the rewind shaft. The reel landed on my foot. While it didn’t break any bones (or damage the reel) it was not a pleasant sensation! Then I thought, “Why shouldn’t it hurt? I’ve just dropped the first 30 years of Gandhi’s life on my toe!”

Vito
Vito on January 20, 2006 at 9:50 am

Thanks REndres, I feel better now. Yes, I too ran double 70mm reels (oh my acking back) at the D-150 in Syosset, New York and also in Hawaii at the Cinerama. I did a few 15 hour grind days lifting those suckers and still feel the pain. That was unusual, generally I ran single 70mm reels which weighed quite enough thank you very much.
As for the 6k reels, they were very common in many theatres due most in part, as you said, to the Xenon lamps. Interesting note about “Napoleon” I can see how 2k reel to reel could be problematic for the conductor. Lastly you mentioned the producers and of course the other studio guys (ya had to love em) who would always show up for the technical rehersals (dry runs)to put in their two cents,
I never minded though, cause if we did not agree with their ideas we
would forget them after they left. In addition, every now and then they had a good idea. One thing they all had in common, and that was they all wanted it played loud.

PeterApruzzese
PeterApruzzese on January 20, 2006 at 9:36 am

REndres -
Thanks for clarifying the early days of CinemaScope via Marty Hart’s site. I haven’t read through all of his material in a long time.

Regarding the weight of 70mm reels, how would you compare it to a fully-loaded 6000' reel of 35mm acetate? I’ve always wanted to run 70mm but, sadly, will probably never get to do it. But at least I’ve run just about every 35mm format during my festivals at the Lafayette.

RobertEndres
RobertEndres on January 20, 2006 at 9:22 am

If you check the Widescreen Museum, Martin Hart has a copy of the original CinemaScope handbook on line. The cuved screens were also meant to emulate to some extent the Cinerama screens although the curve was shallower, dictated by the projection throw as a radius. Another reason for the curve in addition to focus was light distribution. The Fox “Miracle Mirror” screens were aluminized and fairly high-gain. You could actually run Polarized 3-D on them. In addition they were embossed with lenticulations to further focus the light into the audience. There were for a while “Miracle Mirror” screens which were designed for theatres with a steep projection angle such as the Music Hall which has a nominal 19 degree downward projection angle. The lenticulations would be embossed at a 5 degree tilt to bring the light (which would be be reflected off the screen at a downward angle into the orchestra) up to cover at least the back of the house and front balcony. Fox insisted on a curved screen for all CinemaScope installations, which meant the Music Hall couldn’t run Scope until MGM released “Knights of the Roundtable” a year later. They wanted it at the Hall and said they didn’t care if the screen were curved.

Vito: Yes we ran reel-to-reel for MFL, but since one reel (and case) had been destroyed I was able to splice the two reels on one. We did use 6,000' 35mm reels after we installed xenon lamps to save strikes on the bulbs, and as did the Ziegfeld, we doubled up a number of our 70mm prints combining two reels on one. You could usually do that because the 70mm single reels were designed for 30 frame 70mm release and could accomodate two of the average 24 frame 70mm release reels. When I think about all those double 70mm reels I lifted at the Ziegfeld I shutter — I’m not sure I could do that now! We did use platters for “Lion King” because Disney wanted Dolby Digital sound and there was no 70mm digital format at the time. Thus we interlocked a 70mm print to a 35mm print with Dolby Digital running on the next projector. (Although this really belongs on the Hall site, we also ran “Napoleon” and other silent features on 6,000' reels to make it easier for the conductor to keep the score synchronized consistantly on each show by minamizing any discrepency that might occur with multiple changeovers.The opposite situation occurred with the Universal festival. We were running archival prints and the studio didn’t want them assembled on platters or 6,000' reels. We always wanted to accomodate the producers when we could.)

Movieguy718
Movieguy718 on January 20, 2006 at 9:18 am

Not a comment about the Ziegfeld, but about theatres with with/without projectionists…
I have seen movies in theatres with fulltime projectionists who do a truly crappy job – and if there’s a problem, they can usually be found sitting around or holding up a wall or having coffee and usually are incapable of fixing the problem anyway. I have left the auditorium to try to get sound/projection problems fixed up to SIX times at a single showing (at a union theatre with a “tech” on duty) with zero results – for really simple things to fix (wrong sound format, pictures out of focus, picture on the wall, low volume.) Conversely, I’ve been in manager run theatres where they do a superb job and if there happens to be a problem, it is usually fixed. I always come away with the feeling that the projectionists just don’t want to be bothered.
At the manager run theatres, the answer to a complaint is “I’ll fix that for you right away” and it usually is done by the time I’m back in the auditorium. At union theatres the answer is “I’ll let the projectionist know.” The second time “I told the projectionist, I’ll call him again.” The third time I get a manager and it’s “The projectionist said he was just up there and nothing is wrong. I’ll call him again.” The fourth time it’s “The projectionist said that’s what the movie is supposed to sound like.” Then I have the manager come into the theatre with me at which point he says “Oh, I see. I’ll call again.” The fifth time I tell the manager that it’s the fifth time I’ve had to come out about this and then he says “I’ll go up there myself.” And then he does and manages to fix the problem.
Additionally, most complaints are about loud trailers (that really aren’t that loud anymore) and every single projectionist I have spoken with either doesn’t know about or is too lazy to use the capability of the new sound processors to set a separate sound cue for each commercial/trailer so that the feature can be shown at the proper level. They’re too busy holding up the walls.
Sorry to vent on you guys, but I see about 150 movies each year and that has been my experience in general. There are good and bad in all professions, but here in NYC, I find that there are more bad projectionists than good.

Movieguy718
Movieguy718 on January 20, 2006 at 9:17 am

Not a comment about the Ziegfeld, but about theatres with with/without projectionists…
I have seen movies in theatres with fulltime projectionists who do a truly crappy job – and if there’s a problem, they can usually be found sitting around or holding up a wall or having coffee and usually are incapable of fixing the problem anyway. I have left the auditorium to try to get sound/projection problems fixed up to SIX times at a single showing (at a union theatre with a “tech” on duty) with zero results – for really simple things to fix (wrong sound format, pictures out of focus, picture on the wall, low volume.) Conversely, I’ve been in manager run theatres where they do a superb job and if there happens to be a problem, it is usually fixed. I always come away with the feeling that the projectionists just don’t want to be bothered.
At the manager run theatres, the answer to a complaint is “I’ll fix that for you right away” and it usually is done by the time I’m back in the auditorium. At union theatres the answer is “I’ll let the projectionist know.” The second time “I told the projectionist, I’ll call him again.” The third time I get a manager and it’s “The projectionist said he was just up there and nothing is wrong. I’ll call him again.” The fourth time it’s “The projectionist said that’s what the movie is supposed to sound like.” Then I have the manager come into the theatre with me at which point he says “Oh, I see. I’ll call again.” The fifth time I tell the manager that it’s the fifth time I’ve had to come out about this and then he says “I’ll go up there myself.” And then he does and manages to fix the problem.
Additionally, most complaints are about loud trailers (that really aren’t that loud anymore) and every single projectionist I have spoken with either doesn’t know about or is too lazy to use the capability of the new sound processors to set a separate sound cue for each commercial/trailer so that the feature can be shown at the proper level. They’re too busy holding up the walls.
Sorry to vent on you guys, but I see about 150 movies each year and that has been my experience in general. There are good and bad in all professions, but here in NYC, I find that there are more bad projectionists than good.

BobT
BobT on January 20, 2006 at 9:10 am

I saw MFL and “The Exorcist” at RCMH. Lady, I thought looked terrific but “The Exorcist” was a disaster. Especially since they advertised a restored 70MM print. It was so bad that when William Friedkin and Ellen Burstyn came out on stage after the film, Friedkin apologized for the terrible condition of the print.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 20, 2006 at 9:09 am

Thanks Peter and Vincent. After realizing that I had posted a link to the excellent widescreen museum site a number of posts back, I availed myself of the information therein and have received a nice education on the rectification process associated with single strip Cinerama presentation. I really hope this policy continues at the Ziegfeld beyond the 5 weeks currently scheduled. I plan on seeing (finally!) “Ben Hur” and “West Side Story” on the big screen at the Ziegfeld (and will probably take the kids to experience the original “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as intended), but I look forward to a screening of “2001: A Space Odyssey” – if only my prayers would be answered.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on January 20, 2006 at 8:54 am

And early Cinemascope is wider than Panavision.