Ziegfeld Theatre

141 West 54th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 6, 2006 at 5:06 pm

I always thought “The Godfather Part II” was planned with an intermission in mind, but they changed their minds about it before release. There’s a long fadeout and a great Nino Rota musical crescendo right after the Little Italy stoop scene (“Michael, your father loves you very much”) which follows the killing of Don Fanucci. When I saw the film in 1975 I was all set to get up and use the men’s room at this point, a bathroom break I needed badly. Then, a few seconds later, we faded back in to Al Pacino as Michael coming home to his snowy Lake Tahoe house, and I stuck it out for another hour or so. A movie like that is too good to walk out on, unless it’s the most serious emergency. But that’s one more reason why intermissions are a good thing.

When I saw “Schindler’s List” in Italy in 1994 it had an intermission after the ghetto purge sequence, with a title card in the same font as the film’s credits saying “Intervallo”. There was no intermission for the film’s US release, though. It ran about 3 hours 20 minutes, same as “Godfather II”.

Deester on February 6, 2006 at 4:54 pm

As I’ve said, it isn’t the sound system — it’s the house that’s the problem. The shape of the theater itself. There’s a lot of natural echo, which is great for music, and very bad for speaking. Our modern movies have very complex soundscapes, but to take advantage of them properly, you’d have to have a very dry room.

The Loewe’s is simply better suited to movies, in my opinion. I even think it’s nicer-looking. But it’s got a problem too — the bathroom is a mile away down a long narrow corridor.

I’ve also seen movies at Radio City Music Hall (the early 70s — saw Bedknobs and Broomsticks and many others there) and I think it’s actually a better place to see a movie than the Ziegfeld, even though monstrously huge.

And I went to the Rivoli too, though unfortunately, my recollection of it was that it was practically a ruin.

RobertEndres on February 6, 2006 at 4:48 pm

Just a note about sound at the Ziegfeld. It has been one of the best sounding houses in the city, and to this day Dolby techs still check out the sound (and in the case of the last “Star Wars” the picture since it was played on a Dolby cinema server) regularly. “Chinatown” was issued before Dolby tracks became common. It is mono, unencoded optical sound that you’re hearing. Not even a Dolby “A” noise reduction system was used. Those tracks are also susceptible to scratching and wear, much the same way as vinyl record tracks were. Try listening again when they do a contemporary print or a digital cinema presentation. I always admired the sound there when I was running 70mm prints, even though I agree with the statement that the house is too long to have a really impressive wide screen image.

Deester on February 6, 2006 at 4:40 pm

Haha, that IS a problem with the Loewe’s. I would always try to choose that theater based on the times it presented. If the movie had a 7 PM showing, and an 8 PM showing, I would choose the latter, because that 8:00 timeslot seemed more likely to be in the bigger Loewes. I know, it’s a crazy system of guessing, but it worked quite a few times.

HowardBHaas on February 6, 2006 at 4:24 pm

No, I don’t think it is auditorium 1 or at least wasn’t years ago when I gave up. If they want to adopt that as a custom- of always playing in the ornate movie palace auditorium the movie listed at # 1, then, yes, that would help.

VincentParisi on February 6, 2006 at 4:20 pm

Is that simply room 1? So that if you saw the movie title next to 1 in the listing you would know that was the film playing in that large Lamb imitation auditorium?

HowardBHaas on February 6, 2006 at 4:16 pm

I meant to say that I would truly welcome intermission, not to imply everybody else would.

Also, no intermissions in other nations I’ve seen movies in: Canada, England, France, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Denmark.

HowardBHaas on February 6, 2006 at 4:12 pm

No intermission for either first Godfather or Part II at the Ziegfeld.

I saw Braveheart at the Ziegfeld, and Gladiator at the Boyd (main auditorium of what was then Sameric 4) and like every long movie in recent decades, there was no intermission.

Why doesn’t somebody ask the management, and projectionists, at the Ziegfeld if they plan intermissions in those particular films that originally had them? And, write down the request on the white cards they distribute which ask for future film choices?

In the 1990’s, in Portugal, I observed every single film getting an intermission. I loved the practice, and most would truly welcome it for those that last 2 hours or more. It would also increase concession sales.

I’ve been only a couple times to what was built as the “Loews” theater of the Sony Lincoln Square, mentioned above. It seemed a great place to see a film, from the balcony. I wish they would put in newspaper and online just which movie is playing in that ornate auditorium, as we can’t always guess corrrectly.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 6, 2006 at 3:56 pm

I agree that the Ziegfeld is too deep to make seating in the raised section at the rear an enjoyable experience for my tastes. Typically, I like to sit about 10-12 rows back and dead center in most theaters. From this vantage point, I think the Ziegfeld makes for an awesome movie going experience. A tip of the cap to the Loews auditorium at the Lincoln Square, as Deester correctly points out – that is a superb place to see a movie.

Are they running an intermission for “The Godfather, Part II” at the Ziegfeld? That film is well over 3 hours and I was curious if they planned on having intermission with some of the longer films – particularly “Ben Hur” which has entr'acte music in its restored version. I’m sure that “Braveheart” and “Gladiator” where presented without intermission during their initial theatrical release, but I wonder if that’s a purely American development. Do intermissions survive in foreign markets? If so, do filmmakers still keep a spot in mind for the break when assembling prints for overseas distribution? I imagine they’d have to insert an “intermission” card wherever the film is projected from a platter. Or is this a completely antiquated concept that now exists only in the memories of aging film enthusiasts like myself?

Deester on February 6, 2006 at 3:42 pm

I’ve seen many movies at the Ziegfeld, including some first-run movies in the 70s like A Star is Born, and the Lawrence of Arabia restoration from 1988, and the My Fair Lady restoration from 1994, and many others. I’ve never had a good experience there.

I know why people extol it, though, because they are trying to hold onto the experience of a large audience at a movie palace. As such, the Ziegfeld is close to the last remaining place in NYC to experience such a thing.

So, premieres are exactly what should be showing there.

But for watching the actual movie the way it’s meant to be seen? I think the Loews theater (the biggest one inside the Loews 68th Street multiplex) is the best theater in town to see a widescreen, 70mm, DTS kind of movie, particularly when you sit in the balcony. The sound is superb. The screen itself is bigger than at the Ziegfeld, and the number of seats is actually smaller.

The problem with the Ziegfeld isn’t the sound system — it’s the theater itself, its shape (a horizontal box that’s too deep), and the design makes the bathroom and refreshment areas seem like a mile away from the seats, and they’re too small.

Since there are no other movie palaces, the Ziegfeld must suffice, but overall, it’s a bad choice.

My opinion, of course. And of course, I don’t even go to the movies anymore — now it’s home theater.

HowardBHaas on February 6, 2006 at 3:07 pm

Thanks for replying to my Chinatown question. If the sound wasn’t heard as it was originally supposed to be, I’d bet that it isn’t the fault of the Ziegfeld, but that of the print that was shipped there. As I wrote, the sound of first Godfather yesterday was flawless. And, though we didn’t meet, both Bill H. and I agree that the sound for Godfather II was very good. And, I’ve not had any problems with hearing the sound of the many 1st run movies and reissues that I’ve attended there.

Your clarification as to the history of the Ziegfeld is also very worthwhile. There’s a photo in the current theater of the original, dated 1927. It was a masterpiece of design by Joseph Urban, but was torn down. The artifacts are wonderful, but they are just that, artifacts. Nevertheless, many of us have commented on this site on how much we like the existing Ziegfeld. And as vintage movie palaces don’t show movies in Manhattan, the Ziegfeld is a great choice. That said, I’ve never thought there will be a battle to declare the current theater a historic landmark. Like so many others that have fallen recently, it too will fall.

Deester on February 6, 2006 at 2:52 pm

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but the Ziegfeld is not a good place to see a movie. Most people don’t realize how bad the sound is in there. There were plenty of things in Chinatown that were barely audible (and I don’t think the movie was mixed that way).

The other odd thing about the Ziegfeld is that everybody thinks it’s some kind of movie palace with a great history, since it houses all those theatrical artifacts in the lobby. It is NOT the original Ziegfeld theater where Show Boat premiered, nor is it built on that site (it’s down the block from the original site).

It is a barn, and not particularly beautifully done — very 60s rococco (SIC), if you ask me.

There is an old movie palace in Manhattan that is worth preserving — the Beacon at 76th street. Also, the old Mark Hellinger theater, now Times Square Church, was built as a movie palace.

William on February 6, 2006 at 1:37 pm

The 1973 reissue of “This is Cinerama” was optically converted from the 3-strip original to 70MM. And in many cases for this reissue a special curved screen was installed in front of the regular screen for theatres that did not have a curved screen.

VincentParisi on February 6, 2006 at 1:02 pm

Howard see above posts about Cinerama at the Ziegfeld in ‘73.
Also look up Vincent Canby’s '73 article in the Times.
It was a case of why did they bother.

HowardBHaas on February 6, 2006 at 12:28 pm

Did anybody catch Chinatown in the last few days, and if so, how was the print and sound?

The wonderful long list of movies above (we’d love one for the Boyd in Philadelphia!) lists in 1973, This is Cinerama, which played before my time in 3 strip Cinerama at the Boyd in its original run. How did it play at the Ziegfeld? 35 MM or 70 MM? Surely not with 3 projectors and a special wide screen? What is the experience of seeing this movie in a theater that isn’t set up for 3 strip Cinerama?

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 6, 2006 at 12:11 pm

Howard is right – it felt great to walk in and see the curtain closed, just like the old days.

HowardBHaas on February 6, 2006 at 2:00 am

Attended Godfather I and Part II today. Both were great prints. I had excellent sound, including side and/or back sound in the auditorium. I had a 1997 re-release in DTS, so probably digital sound.

II sounded loud and very good as Bill said, but not quite the same as I. So, I asked an usher, who walked up to the projection booth and returned, telling me “SR” which I take to mean SR Dolby.

For first run movies, the curtain is open before you enter the auditorium, there are slides, then they close the curtain briefly before the pre-show. For the classic series today, the curtain was closed when you entered the auditorium and stayed that way until it opened for commercials, then the classic movie. It was nice to sit there and look at the curtain.

When I entered, I asked the ticket taker and she said about 800 per day, not good, but not bad. That would have been Friday, Saturday. As Bill says, a good sized house considering Superbowl Sunday. I’ve attended various first run movies there with far less people attending.

They had the curtain open to scope, but as these films are flat, the black matting was seen. That shouldn’t keep anybody away, but the right way is to see curtain and film, not matting.

All things considered, an excellent experience with great prints, great sound, and fantastic movies.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 6, 2006 at 12:01 am

Just got back from “The Godfather Part II”. The print was in very good condition. Some scenes were very dark, but I’m sure that’s the way it was supposed to look. And the sound was great – when Pacino screamed at Michael V. Gazzo, “In my HOME!”, it shook the Ziegfeld to its core.

It wasn’t a full house by any means, but it was a good-sized crowd considering it was Super Bowl Sunday. Here’s something that gave me hope for more classic movies at the Ziegfeld: all patrons were given a card where they could list what classics they’d most like to see at the theater in the future. I asked for “2001” and “Ryan’s Daughter”.

DonRosen on February 5, 2006 at 7:25 pm

The Boatniks was a Ziegfeld premiere exclusive. It never played at Radio City Music Hall. After an excellent run, Walter Reade dropped the admission to The Boatniks at Ziegfeld to $1 admission for kids.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 3, 2006 at 4:24 pm

Still no print ads anywhere in the local papers, but there is {url=]this New York Post article[/url] from Lou Lumenick about the series. I submitted a news item to Cinema Treasures today to try and spread the word beyond this particular page. In any event, I have plans with my gal to see “West Side Story” next weekend and “Ben-Hur” the weekend after that. Plus, the kids are all excited to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on the big screen in March. I hope word of mouth and the Post article can generate enough interest to make this program a great success and encourage Clearview to try it again somewhere down the line.

William on January 30, 2006 at 6:41 pm

Pacific’s Cinerama Dome ad line for their display ads was “Where Movie Going is an Event”.

BobFurmanek on January 30, 2006 at 6:37 pm

“Movies…the way they were meant to be seen!”

Gee, it seems that I’ve heard that somewhere before…

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on January 30, 2006 at 5:09 pm

The website says “Check Local Newspaper Listings”. Maybe Thursday or Friday?

This reminds me of when “2001: A Space Odyssey” played the Loew’s Astor Plaza in December 2001. The New York Times ad in the Friday paper was so small it could easily be overlooked, and no other papers ran any ads at all. Hundreds of people still managed to find out about it and showed up for the Friday night show.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 30, 2006 at 5:07 pm

Bob, my comment referred to the fact that if the same film played with the tiny Coronet, the Coronet always outgrossed the Ziegfeld. If a film moved to the National or Warner, it picked up. It was always a battle to book the Ziegfeld unless an exclusive was on offer by a distributor trying to establish a film.