Ziegfeld Theatre

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

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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.

Vito on February 21, 2006 at 11:00 am

Another point about all this is, we were overwelmed with all the new sound and picture formats we were hit with in the early 50s. It’s a little difficult to remember what we ran and how we presented it, I had enough trouble remembering what the heck we were doing at the time, plus I’m an old man :) Bless you Bob for keeping it all straight.

StanMalone on February 21, 2006 at 10:56 am

All of this talk about the proper way to present a movie reminds me of a time (1973) years before my projectionist days. I was working as an usher at the ATLANTA, which was Walter Reade’s only theatre in Atlanta Ga. Two Reade bigshots, the directors of advertising / promotions and public relations were at the theatre preparing for the Atlanta premiere of “Man of La Mancha.” They were interrupted by a call from HQ in New Jersey because during the afternoon showing of “Sleuth” at the Ziegfeld, the picture had slipped out of focus. This had also happened the night before and both times a call had to be made to the booth to alert the projectionists to the problem.

At the time, the Reade organization was involved in a dispute with the projectionist local regarding the terms of the contract involving the Ziegfeld’s very expensive and cutting edge (for the time) automated equipment. Since “Sleuth” was a roadshow it seems that two projectionists had to be on duty at all times. Reade’s position was that since the booth was completely automated, one should suffice. And since it seemed obvious that even with two on duty no one was actually paying attention to the screen there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the office that day. (Of course I only got the management side of this story.)

It is a sad commentary that the “push a button and forget it” style of booth operation so common today is even in the houses of the great Times Square that I so much wished to be a part of in those days. Even sadder is that most of the movie going public would not even notice the difference in a good presentation and a bad one unless the bad one was upside down. I am afraid that by the time I became a projectionist, showmanship was mostly a thing of the past and very seldom have I been able to enjoy the privilege of presenting a movie where film, masking, curtain, and light cues were coordinated.

For the record, this is how I did it, as learned from the professionals at “The ATLANTA, A Walter Reade Theatre”: When previews were shown first, we opened the show the usual way. Just before the overture the curtain would close and the curtain floods would go to bright. As the overture ended, the floods would dim out and the curtain would open on the film company logo. No white screen! If there was no preshow, the overture would start and then the house would go to half. Near the end of the overture the house would go out and the curtain floods would dim. Curtain open on the logo. There have been a few times when I have recreated the overture, intermission, and exit music using the CD player in the booth. “West Side Story”, missing its opening footage, and “Sound of Music” were the titles. It seems that on “Ben-Hur”, the lights went out and the curtain opened and then the audience sat there in the dark while the black film of the overture showed on the screen.

Not a very satisfactory way to set the mood or open the show. But, as others have pointed out, be thankful you at least have this. My beloved ATLANTA is now a parking lot. I was planning to fly to New York for “West Side Story” but the blizzard took care of that. Maybe it will return. I wish I had the chance to work with Vito. I will bet we could have kept “Sleuth” in focus! Hopefully I will make it up for “Lawrence” where I can enjoy it with some of my fellow Cinema Treasures posters who still appreciate a good presentation and movie when they see it.

Vito on February 21, 2006 at 10:50 am

I recall running “Charge at Feather River” and “House of Wax” with the left eye print print having 3 mag tracks (left, center, right) along with a composite optical back up track, and the right eye print with a surround (optical) track, it was a loooooong time ago so I could be a little off here, but it’s as best as I can recall. As for “Kate” I never ran the sound on a seperate interlock so unless the print was either Prespecta or 4 track mag, it must have been optical mono.

BobFurmanek on February 21, 2006 at 10:12 am

Vito, thanks for the compliment!

However, I should point out that KISS ME KATE was never presented in Perspecta. It was originally shown in stereophonic sound with an interlocked full coat 35mm magnetic track which had the left, center and right channels. KATE opened at Radio City Music Hall (flat only) in November, 1953 and then played wide (in 3-D) on the New York Loew’s circuit for Christmas, 1953.

MGM’s first Perspecta release in the U.S. was BETRAYED with Clark Gable, which opened in September, 1954.

Vito on February 21, 2006 at 9:37 am

Bob, I ran “Kiss Me Kate” in that 3-D format with Prespecta sound,
Wait till they all see that! it will knock their socks off.
As Ann Miller sings
“it’s too darn hot”!

Vito on February 21, 2006 at 9:22 am

Memo to Clearview: Hire Bob Furmanek

BobFurmanek on February 21, 2006 at 8:58 am

If the good folks at Clearview want to see how a classic film should be presented (i.e. showmanship) I suggest they make the trip out to Suffern, New York.

The Lafayette Theatre kicks off their annual Big Screen Classics series this Saturday, February 25, with THE BAND WAGON. You’ll learn how to use entrance music; when to dim the lights; when to open a curtain before the vintage shorts/trailers as opposed to the main feature, etc. You’ll also see that modern commercials and coming attractions are most certainly NOT part of the classic movie going experience.

If you can’t make it on Saturday mornings, they have an excellent Movie Musicals weekend on March 10-11-12 with loads of rare prints, including KISS ME KATE in dual-strip Polaroid 3-D with stereophonic sound, and LOVING YOU in an archival dye-transfer Technicolor print!

Visit View link

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 21, 2006 at 8:51 am

Hardbop is right – I would have bought some candy for sure if “Ben-Hur” had an intermission, but like I said before they had very little time to get the audience turned over for the next show.

The manager who told us there would be no intermission also said the Ziegfeld will be showing classics whenever there was a downtime in their schedule for new releases. I think she mentioned September and October. I figure the classics will outgross most of the new releases anyway, even at the reduced admission price.

Having attended the Ziegfeld four times in two weeks reminds me of something Carly Simon sang: These ARE the good old days.

hardbop on February 21, 2006 at 8:25 am

It kind of seems penny wise and pound foolish not to schedule an intermission. Theatres make the bulk of their money (or at least they get to keep it all) from concessions. These long films give them an opportunity to sell more popcorn.

YMike on February 21, 2006 at 7:56 am

Went to the 4:30 screening of “Braveheart” yesterday. No trailers and the print looked great. Hope this series continues. There was a survey card given out where you could list the movies you would want to see at the Ziegfeld. Hopefully this means there are plans to continue this series.

Vito on February 21, 2006 at 4:12 am

Yes andreco, during the roadshow heyday we always ran a technical rehersal of both the show print and the back up. I am not sure what goes on today in most theatres, but I can tell you National Amusements, which was the last company I worked for before I retired, has an excellent company policy which states all prints must be screened the night before they open. I spent many a night running prints till three or four in the morning. Since we were running platters, the main purpose of the screenings was to be sure there were no mistakes in continuity or misframes, but if there was a print problem we had an 800# to call to get a replacement
reel/print. In the old days we would get pre inspected prints from a film exchange, now however, it is not out of the ordinary to get the prints straight from the lab. Although it was rare, I did have a couple of times when I recived two reel 3s and no reel 4 etc. The worst case was when I called to tell the exchange I was missing the 5th reel of a movie and had recived two reel 4s, so guess what they sent me, yup… another reel four.

Andres on February 21, 2006 at 2:53 am

When I worked in film distribution and exhibition some years ago, we always checked the prints and if it was a roadshow film we always had a rehearsal the day before opening the film. From what I have read here from Vito, I am sure he always checked the print before throwing the switch.