Ziegfeld Theatre

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

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evmovieguy on February 11, 2006 at 6:35 pm

I was also at the screening of WSS at The Ziegfeld tonight and everything that Bill has just written above is true. Great night. It’s great to see films on that big Ziegfeld screen that were shot by cinematographers that really made use of the wide screen format. Some of the shots compositionally were just beautiful. I was hoping that the Ziegfeld was going to follow Robert Wise’s instructions at the beginning of the film, but they didn’t. No big deal it was still a great experience. Thank god this kind of thing still happens in New York City. It’s sad that it doesn’t happen as often as it did 20 or 30 years ago, but at least it’s happening. I hope the box office receipts for this festival are showing good numbers. There was a good crowd there tonight, way more people than the last time I was there to see the god-awful Cameron Crowe disaster ‘Elizabethtown’. Can’t wait to see Ben Hur and hopefully this kind of thing will continue to happen at the Ziegfeld, the last great movie palace in New York City.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 11, 2006 at 5:58 pm

While walking uptown from the Port Authority after taking the bus in from Weehawken, NJ, I made believe it was a snowy night in 1961 and I was going to the Rivoli to see “West Side Story”. I passed the Caroline’s Comedy Club where the Rivoli once stood, then headed over to the Ziegfeld. It turned out to be a good omen. My one-word capsule review of “West Side Story” at the Ziegfeld: WOW.

I sat in the front row, center seat. The print was in beautiful condition and the sound was perfect, with lots of deep bass tones. There were several hundred people there, who came out in a blizzard. The audience broke into applause about 5 times during the actual movie, and several more times during the credits. And, for the first time in over 40 years (and thanks to my front row seat and the size of the Ziegfeld’s screen), I finally got to read the title of the book in Gladhand/John Astin’s pocket at the dance: “Existentialism”.

All the people who are complaining about the “My Fair Lady” shows should try not to miss “West Side Story”. It will restore their faith in the Ziegfeld.

RichSchoenholtz on February 11, 2006 at 12:49 pm

I was also at today’s sparsely attended 1PM “MFL” screening. It was a really beat-up print, with starts/ends of each reel in poor condition (scratches, jumpy, discolored, bad audio), the first half of reel one had some kind of synch problem, there was no intermission (just an abrupt cut/fade where the intermission title card used to be) and no walk out music. The series is billed as “Movies…The Way They Were Meant To be Seen!” Sorry, I don’t think so. What’s the point of promoting a special series like this and then you kill the experience by showing a crappy print? I’m hoping the “WSS” and “Ben-Hur” prints are in decent shape.

Forrest136 on February 11, 2006 at 10:32 am

Just got in from the 1 pm screeening of “My Fair Lady”. There was about 30 people attending. The print was awful scratchy, faded, and discolored. Itr also seemed out of sinc at times. The stereo sound was non existant. I remember it 42 years ago as such a wide SUPER PANAVISION 70 fim. The sould and picture then was breathtaking! Oh the good old days!

Andres on February 11, 2006 at 9:23 am

Re Roadshow instructions, I guess most of you may have seen it, but in case you haven’t, go to American Widescreen Museum web and click on Roadshow in the Lobby page. They have the instructions for WSS, 10 Commandmets, El Cid and others. Incidentally, though WSS does noy have an intermission, when I saw it in San Juan they put an intermission right before I Feel Pretty. No intermission title, no entre'act music. They just closed the curtain when the previous secene faded out and opened the curtain after 15 minutes with I Feel Pretty. I think it worked, and in the recent DVD, in Special Features, they have an optional intermission music, an instrumental I feel Pretty in a lovely arrangement.

Vito on February 11, 2006 at 7:03 am

Yes Bill, I remember that memo, it was not uncommon to receive such instructions regarding the presentation of a movie, we also recieved a personnel letter from Mr wise as described in my earlier post.
It was not only roadshow movies that would be accompanied by letters or memos from studios and directors, I recall getting one from Woody Allen (Manhatten) and Warren Beatty (Reds) amoung others. In the case of Mr Allen and Mr Beatty, they were very specific about the proper aspect ratio and framing of those two films.
As a personnel note to REndres: Rob,I would appreciate your finding out exactally how the films being shown now at the Ziegfeld.
The comment about the MFL presentaion was disturbing, are we to understand that not only was it in 35mm, but non Dolby as well?
I Can’t wait for Bill and others to review the WSS screenings.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 11, 2006 at 6:03 am

Here’s an excerpt from the Robert Wise memo Vito talked about. It was reprinted in the book which came with the “West Side Story” DVD. I am so looking forward to seeing it tonight at the Ziegfeld, even though a blizzard is approaching New York.

View link

Forrest136 on February 11, 2006 at 2:47 am

If Clearview is going to do this, why not do it right? I have attended many of their CHELSEA CLASSIC SERIES and the prints are bad and sloppily shown too!

Vito on February 11, 2006 at 2:35 am

I would like to comment on the projectionist role in a proper roardshow presentaion. We often received suggestions from the studio regarding light cues, as a matter of fact WSS came with a lovely letter from the man himself, Robert Wise, which basically pointed out how hard everyone worked on the movie and how proud they all were of the final product, “it’s in your hands now” the letter went on to say, “we ask that you give my movie the same love and attention I have” (or words to that effect). As all of you recall, The WSS overture was a series of changing colors coordinated with the music, my job was to lower the two sets of lights to match the changing musical pieces, which was very effective and a hoot to do.
This is pretty much how we handled all roadshow engaements, although we did not always get advice from the studios, most of the boys would develop their own special presentation to the overtures,
entr'acte and exit music. It’s what we did, it was part of putting on a show. Someone asked about the 35mm releases of a 70mm roadshow, the answer is yes, in almost every case the 35mm version was the same as the 70mm version with respect to intermission. During my days as a projectionist we were bombarded with new and exciting ways to project movies, from Cinerama and 3-D to my final position with IMAX, it was a fun and fabulous way to make a living. I must say it breaks my heart to see the way movies are presented in some theatres today and especially sad to hear the comments about MFL presentation at the Ziegfeld. What a shame!

ErikH on February 10, 2006 at 5:39 pm

I attended tonight’s MFL screening for about an hour before giving up. The 35MM print is in poor condition. Numerous scratches, faded colors and tinny sound. During one reel, the dialogue and music were accompanied by a considerable amount of audio interference that sounded like static. The rest of my group decided to stick it out, but they were also dismayed by the condition of the print. I noticed several other walkouts before I departed. Very disappointing, especially after seeing the restored 70MM print of MFL at the Ziegfeld in the 90s.

The film was preceded by commercials (no trailers) that were hard to see due to insufficient projection lighting. When I asked one of the ushers about the problem, I was told that the lighting problem would be resolved when the film started (it was).

HowardBHaas on February 10, 2006 at 12:34 pm

Ed, unless the projectionist did this before, for say one of the major re-releases in recent years, they may not even know.

Do you have an extra copy of the instructions? Bring it to the Ziegfeld. Write a nice, short, simple, legible, note as to the “good old times of movie presentations including overture music” (better to rely on implicit suggestion than telling them how to do their jobs) and give it to an usher in the auditorium or concession area. Ask him or her to please give it to the projectionist in the booth, that it might interest them. And, then, maybe, you will get your wish!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 10, 2006 at 9:05 am

The last deluxe edition DVD box of “West Side Story” contains a booklet that includes reproductions of the instructions to roadshow projectionists as to how the film’s overture was to be presented. I recall reading detailed specifications as to exactly when during that opening montage of colors the curtains were to be open and how far the house lights should be brought down with each change of color.

I wonder if the Ziegfeld projectionist will be following these instructions this week. I’m planning on attending Sunday’s matinee, so I’m hoping the predicted snow storm doesn’t upset my plans. If not, I’ll take in an evening showing during the week.

PeterApruzzese on February 10, 2006 at 8:49 am

Robert – If I remember correctly, MFL does not have an overture. Similar to West Side Story, the “overture” plays over images of the flowers for a few moments before the titles start.

RobertR on February 10, 2006 at 8:04 am

I am going tonight to see “My Fair Lady”. Do the 35mm prints have the walk in music and intermission?

HowardBHaas on February 9, 2006 at 9:15 am

As to the above wonderful list of 1990’s movies (thanks!) there are many blockbusters and many Oscar winners. I attended some, including the East Coast exclusive of The Thin Red Line which filled the house. Sure, there may be some clunkers, but many great movies. Of course, the best classics of all time are even better, but that doesn’t diminish the experience of enjoying the movies they showed.

As to the Godfathers, they are Paramount releases, and I was under impression that Paramount favored the Astor Plaza.

Jane Eyre, which I saw there, I recall being a moveover from the Paris when it closed for awhile. The Paris ceased being a Pathe operation, then later ceased being a Loews aka Sony house.

The Ziegfeld thrived the best as an exclusive venue for New York runs. It survived with movies opening elsewhere until the two 42nd Street megaplexes. Now it is a wander they get any first runs, but I’m glad they do. Problem is people get in the habit of going to 42nd Street, where the blockbusters start every half hour.

VincentParisi on February 9, 2006 at 8:25 am

I am a big Fellini fan but I have to say I think Charity is better(no bricks ok?) The Pompei club and the whole movie star bit is so wonderful in the Fosse, Oscar in the Fellini is just too hateful and I have little tolerance for Giulietta and her cute waif routine(now Giulietta in Fred and Ginger and Spirits for me is a pretty wonderful actress.)
The revival had a young woman as Charity which makes no sense and then they replace Bob Fosse with Wayne Cilento.
They worked very hard to have a failure.
Anyway off to the Ziegfeld for multiple viewings of WSS next week.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 9, 2006 at 6:30 am

Vincent… I never saw “Half a Sixpence” and I would say that “Sweet Charity” was definitely one of the better musicals of the late ‘60’s – a time when the big budget Hollywood musical started to wane – but I’d much rather see the original “Nights of Cabiria” by Fellini. But, overall, if I were to select a run of lavish musicals for a retrospective at the Ziegfeld, I don’t think I’d start with any of the films on Forrest136’s list! I don’t think “not as bad” is a good enough endorsement to make a case for booking (and then filling) a big 1,131-seat theater. What might be a better idea – although quite hard on the arse – would be to pair one of these underdogs with a more widely accepted classic on a single admission. Pair up “Wagon” behind, say, “Oklahoma!” and you might fill enough seats to make it worthwhile. “Sweet Charity” may be good enough to top a double bill, but the recent revival didn’t fare so well on Broadway. “Oliver!” would be a good choice to represent the late '60’s as would “Funny Girl.”

Clive Barnes has completely gone in the other direction, by the way – his critical teeth having been dulled by years of alcohol abuse. He just seems interested in seeing his name quoted on marquees and in newspaper ads these days, so he more often than not seems daffily delighted by every bit of nonsense they wheel him out to review. One Times critic that I do miss is the very even handed Janet Maslin, who wrote intelligently and thoughtfully about every film she ever reviewed, but never seemed to look down her nose at even the most formulaic of cinematic fodder. She wasn’t above giving a positive review of a Cheech and Chong film, for instance, which I would find shocking were it to appear in the Times today. I didn’t always agree with her opinions, but she always seemed to give a fair an honest appraisal – without affectation – no matter how common or complex the film in question was.

VincentParisi on February 9, 2006 at 5:23 am

Ed Sweet Charity is sensational and I saw Paint Your Wagon at the Warner Cinerama in 70mm in the late 70’s and I loved. Some of them properly present are not as bad as the critics made them out to be. Remember when they opened cinema critics had to prove how hip they were and how old-fashioned the roadshow concept seemed to them. I thought they were and continue to think they were pretentious idiots. One of their crew(albeit on Broadway) is still around and thriving-Clive Barnes.
You should read Ethan Morden’s comments in his book One Last Kiss on Renata Adler’s New York Times review of Half a Sixpence at the Criterion. He skewers the mind set of the New York intellectuals of the period in just a few words.

RobertR on February 9, 2006 at 2:30 am

Does anyone know how the weekday attendance has been?

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 9, 2006 at 12:32 am

Saps has a good point. In going down the list, my choices for the best movies to play the Ziegfeld in the 90’s are “Spartacus”, “My Fair Lady”, “Vertigo” and the original “Star Wars” trilogy.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on February 8, 2006 at 7:04 pm

That’s some doggish lineup at the Ziegfeld in the 90’s. The wind must have been whistling across the empty seats. It’s a wonder it’s still open.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 8, 2006 at 4:21 pm

Thanks Al… I thought I saw “The Godfather, Part III” here on Christmas Day, 1990… but I was obviously mistaken. It must have been at the Loew’s Astor Plaza. I definitely saw “City Slickers”, “Interview with the Vampire”, “The Empire Strikes Back” (which was the special edition with re-vamped SFX) and “The Thin Red Line” here. Can’t be positive about anything else, but it is possible that this pretty much wraps it up for me and the Ziegfeld in the ‘90’s. I do believe I saw more films over at the Astor Plaza over the years than I did at the Ziegfeld, though it wasn’t until seeing this list that it occured to me. Al… I’d love to see an Astor Plaza list for the '70’s, '80’s and '90’s if you have it in you one of these days.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 8, 2006 at 3:35 pm

“Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?” had an intermission at the Park Lane Theater in Palisades Park, NJ in 1969. It was definitely put in to increase concession sales like Vito said – the movie only ran 1 hour and 41 minutes.

And thanks again Al, for the 90’s at the Ziegfeld.

SteveJKo on February 8, 2006 at 2:31 pm

I saw “Towering Inferno” twice in it’s original theatrical run. The first showing had no intermission, but the second screening had an intermission as poorly placed as many have already mentioned here. The last film I saw with a proper intermission was the original 242 minute version of “Hamlet” at the Paris.