Ziegfeld Theatre

141 W. 54th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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VincentParisi on February 24, 2006 at 4:09 am

All this talk about projectionists. I remember seeing 2001 at the Rivoli in 76. I hadn’t seen the film for years since when I was a boy and really remembered nothing about it except it was boring as hell and the kids matinee I saw it at in the suburbs practically rioted at the stupid plot turns(if you can call them that.)

When I saw it again at the Riv it was one of the greatest cinema experieces of my life and at the end of the first half just as you realize Hal is spying the huge curtains started closing in on the Rivoli’s magnificent curved screen absolutely perfectly timed.
I was in shock.

Vito on February 24, 2006 at 2:51 am

I agree Stan, I mean it’s a whole lot better than watching Gene Kelly dancing with no head or just his head and no feet :)

StanMalone on February 24, 2006 at 2:39 am

About 10 years ago I ran “Singing In The Rain” and if my memory is correct, it was one of those windowboxed prints mentioned above. That is, it was a 1:85 frame with the 1:33 image in the middle and black bars on each side. At this particular theatre the masking was moved manually by stagehands so we were able to bring it in to the 1:33 setting. Even if a theatre has only a flat / scope masking set up, the black bars were hardly noticable unless you were looking for them. Not the best solution perhaps, but when you remember that 99% of theatres have no 1:33 lenses, plates, or masking, or have anyone on staff that knows the difference, it is probably the best way to handle this situation.

Vito on February 24, 2006 at 1:24 am

The name of the test film is RP40 and can be purchased from most cinema supply houses. Theatres should have this tool to check the proper presentation of all aspect ratios, it is usually purchased in 50'lengths and can be made into a loop which can be run while cutting plates, setting masking, scope configeration and picture centering.

Vito on February 23, 2006 at 1:43 am

Congratulations to Joe the projectionist for doing it right. He is probably from the old school who enjoys “putting on a show” as much as we do seeing it done properly. Who knows, Joe may have read our comments and learned something :)
I would also like to suggest to Clearview that they invest in an
SMPTE test loop which will enable the tech/projectionist to cut the aperatures and mask the screen to the exact 1:33/1:37 ratio. I have seen too many theatres simply throw a white light on to the sheet and cut the plates to fill it. There is an exact science to presenting movies in the proper aspect ratio and all the tools needed are easily available.

HowardBHaas on February 22, 2006 at 10:00 pm

The Ben Hur presentation sounds wonderful! Realize, though, it might be that these movies were too long to include the commercials.

Thanks for the Gladiator attendence, but I don’t expect much during M to Thursday, and have nothing to compare. How’s Ben Hur doing during those days?

I’ve learned a lot volunteering to get a film program at Philadelphia’s Boyd when it reopens, and one thing is that it doesn’t cost much to get a new lens cut for the projector, to show the film in the correct aspect ratio. Since they showed Metropolis correctly at the Ziegfeld in 2002, they SHOULD already have the lens sitting in a box. We found many lens at the Sameric (the Boyd’s name when it closed), whole boxes full, so they likely have this at the Ziegfeld. Lens are particular to each auditorium, as Vito indicates above. Of course, “should” doesn’t always happen, so we will see soon.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on February 22, 2006 at 9:22 pm

Beautiful presentation tonight of Ben-Hur.

Joe the projectionist lowered the house lights to half and opened the main gold curtain. The sheer white curtain remained closed, and the six-minute overture played.

The most beautiful part: as the overture ended, the house lights went all the way down, and the white curtain began to part the moment the MGM logo came on screen. Perfectly timed, the curtain was fully open just as Leo let out his last roar, and a big map of Judea and vicinity burst open the screen.

Real showmanship, the way movies were meant to be seen.

And no ads or trailers of any kind.

Movieguy718 on February 22, 2006 at 8:49 pm

Hey Howard,

Not bashing Clearview at all – I’m happy to see the revivals! However, at Chelsea Classics, they throw 1.33 movies up on the 1.85 screen and crop the image top and bottom.
Perhaps there are prints of Singing… in which it has been optically printed (“windowboxed”) onto the 1.85 frame?? As in the last releases of Gone With The Wind and Wizard of Oz…
I won’t complain – either way I’m happy to see it since I have never seen it projected at all.
Gladiator on Monday night attracted perhaps 75 people.

William on February 22, 2006 at 12:30 pm

Technically, it is actually 1.37:1 . Many of the First Run special theatres like the Cinerama Dome, Chinese, Egyptian, Hollywood Pacific, Century Plaza and the art house circuits in Los Angeles, all had a full set of lens to play all 35mm formats in their booths. (1.37 , 1.66 , 1.85 , 2.40). Or if it was something special we would just call the home office and talk to our circuit’s head projectionist, to find the right lens. And since the Ziegfeld is part of a circuit their home office would have other lens in stock.
Remember the operator in the booth is a union projectionist, not some popcorn jockey from downstairs.

Vito on February 22, 2006 at 11:07 am

Bravo Howard, that needed to be said, I am as guilty as anyone here for Clearview bashing, however they have been listining to our comments and appear to be trying, quite frankly I do not think they simply thought,the heck with it just show the darn movies. I am willing to bet Clearview has a better understanding of what they should be doing to present these films properly, and will in the future do the classics justice. As for “Singing in the Rain”, I suggest Clearview contact their equipment vendor with the screen size and projection throw to optain proper prime lenses for 1.33 projection. Once that is done it will be a simple matter of masking the screen accordingly. National Amusements has a classic film day once a month in many locations and have purchased lenses to ensure movies are presented in the proper 1.33 ratio.
Clearview should do the same.

HowardBHaas on February 22, 2006 at 9:59 am

Let’s be constructive! Dear CLEARVIEW: Singin in the Rain has different dimensions than new films. New films are scope, so 2.35 wide as high, or flat which is 1.85 wide as high. Movies before 1953 are 1.33, like television sets before new wide screen ones. That means a different lens for the movie projectors.

One of my greatest pleasures of moviegoing was enjoying the restored 1927 Metropolis at the Ziegfeld in 2002, so I know it has been done before. If Clearview is presenting classics at the Chelsea, presumably they are projecting them in the right dimensions there.

A few years I enjoyed a double bill of Signin in the Rain and An American in Paris at the Paris theater.

ok, now what I’d like to know is whether there has been a big turnout for Braveheart and Gladiator.

Kudos again to Clearview for the classics! Do try to accomodate intermissions, and try to get 70 MM prints in the future, but know we love the Ziegfeld and thank you for keep presenting movies, new and vintage, there!

Movieguy718 on February 22, 2006 at 8:36 am

Singing In The Rain… that’s in 1.33 isn’t it? Now THERE’S a possibility for catastrophe…

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 22, 2006 at 5:31 am

Vincent: I agree with you about “Ben-Hur” at the Loew’s, but if you check the Loew’s Jersey page you’ll find some people still had some complaints to make. There’s always going to be some people finding fault with anything. Eveything you said is valid and true, but I can’t bring myself to complain about the shows at the Ziegfeld. Four times now, I’ve left the theater happy and impressed and feeling 30 years younger. But if Clearview does make any changes based on your suggestions and those other CT members have made, that would be even more wonderful.

The three theaters showing classics in the New York area all have their own special characteristics that set them apart from each other. For perfection of presentation, showmanship and diversity of genres and subject matter, the Lafayette wins hands down. For the sheer spectacle of a 1920’s cathedral of cinema that is somehow still standing and still showing movies, it’s the Loew’s Jersey. For screen size and sound power, it’s the Ziegfeld. I’m only grateful that I live near enough to patronize all three whenever I want.

VincentParisi on February 22, 2006 at 4:39 am

This is pretty disappointing to read but not surprising. The Loew’s Jersey presented Ben Hur beautifully.

The Ziegfeld should be the top of the line.
Clearview you should not be presenting a film just because somebody wants to see it. You should be getting the best prints and presenting them as they should be shown reel to reel. You are not a college film society which orders up a print willy nilly.
A pristine print of a 70mm Zhivago was just shown in LA.
Why are YOU showing it in 35mm?
There is absolutely no excuse but laziness and sloppiness.
You are professionals. BE PROFESSIONAL!
Get Bob Furmenek as a consultant.
It took you long enough to listen to our pleas.
Now do it right!
And don’t get all defensinve on us and say screw you buddy.
You are not doing your job as it should be done and somebody has to tell you.
The suburbs have been doing this 10 times better than you for years now and you are just waking up. Well good morning!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 22, 2006 at 4:31 am

Vito… Could that film at the Paramount with the girl in the swing been “The Maze”, a 1953 Allied Artists release filmed in 3-D and starring ‘50’s sci-fi stalwart Richard Carlson. The film took place on a Scottish estate, as I recall. Fifty-three was also the year “Man in the Dark” was released by Columbia.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 22, 2006 at 4:30 am

I thought the Ziegfeld did have reel to reel capability (REndres' post on 1/18/06). Maybe this is why they got the 70mm print of “Lawrence of Arabia”.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 22, 2006 at 4:23 am

Deester… I agree with you 100%. And that scene is precisely where I went to the men’s room during “Ben-Hur” as well. The concession stand was still open as there was an 8:30 “Braveheart” screening to follow the show I saw, but I just raced back and forth from my seat so as to miss as little of the movie as possible.

Bob… thanks for that insight. I suppose that it would be far too much to expect the Ziegfeld to run reel-to-reel for this series (assuming they still have that capability) so that we could get grade A prints and more 70mm – Craig??? Shouldn’t the Ziegfeld Theater be a “special venue”?

Did anyone see the gentleman who came to the 8:30 Saturday night “Braveheart” screening in full William Wallace regalia and face paint? I caught him coming into the lounge area as I was leaving the auditorium. He was among a handful of people who were upstairs already, even though a considerable ticket-holders' line had already formed and been courdoned off from the stairs in the lower foyer. Too bad my camera batteries had died or I’d have taken a portrait – only after obtaining permission, of course (armed as he was with a set of bagpipes)!

Vito on February 22, 2006 at 4:20 am

Bob, my 3-d days were as an apprentace (reel boy) on Staten Island.
I worked the Paramount, St. George, Ritz, and latter on Lane
I can’t remember titles to well but I do remember The Paramount with “Man in the Dark” and a movie I can’t recall the title of but I do remember the opening shot of a girl on a swing, I recall that one because it was my first time with a major screw up, the images were out of sync, so to our horror we watched the swing go once on the left eye and then again on the right eye, yikes!
“House of Wax” was at the St.George and Ritz, we started out with a 3-D print of “French Line” at the Ritz but had to go to flat (too many problems) The glases were always a problem, people seemed to hate them. Improvements came with the new “Scoop” plastic frame glasses, which were more popular. 3-D projection was plagued with problems, I think it was one of the reasons exibitors started to shy away from it, in addition the novelty soon wore off and the public became disinterested. An other thing I hated weas when we had a film break, in those days it was all safety film which is not as strong as the mylar we use today. If let’s say the left eye print broke and you had to remove any frames, you would have to slug the print with black leader to make up for the lost frames in order to keep the two prints in sync. We NEVER cut the same number of frames lost in the left print out of the right print to even it out. So if you ever remember watching a 3-D movie and suddenly saw your right or left eye go black for a second, that’s what happened.
You are quitw right about the studios not allowing pristine prints run on a platter, however I understood the Ziegfeld had two projectors but were using only one with a platter. If so they could get the prints and run reel to reel, has that situation changed? I never understood running a platter in a single screen when you have two projectors.

BobFurmanek on February 22, 2006 at 3:32 am

Veyoung; many of the 3-D features released in 1953 had interlocked magnetic stereo tracks, so you had 3 film elements running in (hopefully) perfect sync! Stereo titles include Fort Ti, Stranger Wore a Gun, Miss Sadie Thompson, The Maze, Second Chance, It Came from Outer Space, Wings of the Hawk, Devil’s Canyon, Cease Fire, and many more.

Vito; if you don’t mind my asking, where did you project 3-D in NYC? I’d love to hear any stories you could share of those days.

Deester; the Ziegfeld will not get the same pristine and archival 35mm prints as the Lafayette or the Loew’s Jersey. The reason is because they are not running reel to reel, and studios will not send their pristine prints to a platter house. That’s why they can’t get many of the 70mm prints as well. In most cases, there is only one available 70mm print and it’s reserved for archival screenings and special venues.

Deester on February 21, 2006 at 2:28 pm

I’ve enjoyed the 2 movies I’ve seen in this series (Chinatown, Ben-Hur). But I do wish the presentations were better, the prints in better condition, and I wish never to hear that young reviewer speak again — he didn’t know what he was saying. (He spoke about Chinatown.)

I needed the intermission in Ben-Hur to go to the bathroom, but since it had been removed, I had to go anyway during the scene when Heston talks to the horses in the tent, and I planned to buy some snacks, but the concession stand was closed at this point, of course. Overall, I’d give the experience about a B-.

Better presentations, please.

Vito on February 21, 2006 at 1:51 pm

The 10-12 man Cinerama rule represented the total number of men assigned to the theatre, with five or six, depending on the location, per performance. Generally there would be one man in A booth, three men in B booth, and one man in C booth. Again depending on the set up you might have a man in the upstairs booth handling the 35mm “Opps” reel and possibly lightining and curtain, however in some locations that was controlled by an electrician. Basically it varied from location to location.

veyoung52 on February 21, 2006 at 1:25 pm

Only 5 boothmen for Cinerama? The former biz mgr for the now defunct Philly local told me recently there were 6 at the Boyd; and story goes that the reason the Chicago premiere at the Palace was delayed was because the union insisted on 12 operators. As for the Philly setup I can only imagine – because the last known C'rama operator in the area is now either dead or is unlocatable – 1 man for each of the A/B/C projectors, possibly one for audio and/or picture control, one for the 35mm operation upstairs (prologues and breakdown reels), and one who who go behind the screen and start the curtain motor. (This guy was recognizable in that he could easily be seen walking down the side aisle to the edge of the screen curtain, and disappearing, and then reappearing before and after each of the two acts.
As for the 2-man rule for 70mm presentations, I always thought it was something like that for here whenever a 70mm roadshow began to fail, the feature would go off roadshow policy and go grind, but a 35mm print would be substituted. “Fall of the Roman Empire” at the Stanley comes immediately to mind, but with some thought I can recall others.

Vito on February 21, 2006 at 12:56 pm

Yes Bob, it’s coming back to me now, in fact I seem to recall having a sound tech, I think from WB, who ran the sound tracks, it was a bit busy because in some locations the unions insisted on two projectionists for 3-D projection.
I very much enjoyed Stan’s post, we would have made a good team Stan, I would also use soundtrack albums to replicate overtures when there was none. As to the two projectionist rule, we alwys had em for 3-D and 70mm, in fact, for Cinerama there were as many as 5 guys in the booth. Later in the early 70s some of the circuts cut the second man and one man ran the show with an increase of salary for the engagement. Then when so many roadshows were 35mm, the theatre owners baulked and insisted on the elimination of both the two men and premium pay scale. The last 35mm roadshow I ran with a premium rate was “Fiddler on the Roof” I also recall the automation installation at the Ziegeld, I think it was for the 70mm roadshow of “Marooned”. They had some clown in a little booth in the rear of the orchestra seats with a bunch of buttons like “The Wizard od Oz” doing God knows what. He made a comment something to the effect that “we really don’t need those guys in the booth” Upon hearing of this I gave the little jack**s a piece of my mind. I was youger then and pretty full of myself, not to mention very proud of what I did for a living.

veyoung52 on February 21, 2006 at 12:41 pm

And you wouldnt actually see or hear – multichannel mag striping on the actual projection prints until “The Robe,” for which Hazard Reeves (by that time supervising the technical activities at Cinerama, Inc.) won a technical Oscar.
However, there were a slew of 2-D features before the introduction of CinemaScope’s 4-track-mag-on-film that did incorporate interlocked 4-track: “From Here to Eternity,” “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T,” “Gilbert and Sullivan”, “Julius Caesar,” “Mogambo,” “Shane,” quite a few others including a reissue of “GWTW.” It wasn’t always a welcome event, according to some critics. In the NYTimes review of “From Here to Eternity” on 8/5/53, it was reported “…is being shown on a wide screen and Stereophonic Sound. It does not need these enhancements. It has scope, power and impact without them.” Earlier in April of that year, the Times, equally disappointed in Warner Bros.‘ 4-channel-interlocked “WarnerPhonic Sound” introduced with the 3-D “House of Wax” sighed “Dimly we forsee movie audiences embalmed in three-dimensional wax and sound.”

BobFurmanek on February 21, 2006 at 11:07 am

Vito; those 2 Warnerphonic titles were originally presented with full coat magnetic interlock as well. The full coat had the left, center, right channels, and the right print only had the surround mono optical track. The left print had a mono optical composite of the 4 tracks which served as an emergency back-up in case the interlock went out of sync.

None of the dual-strip 3-D films from that period had magnetic stereo tracks on the actual print. By the time mag/optical prints were introduced (late 1954) 3-D was dead. If you did play KISS ME KATE in stereo, it would certainly have been via mag/full coat interlock.