Ziegfeld Theatre

141 West 54th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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VincentParisi on April 14, 2005 at 9:56 am

When Funny Girl played at the Criterion in ‘68 a mezz seat(considered the best place for a movie though not by me) for a Saturday night was $6.00. A top Broadway musical for orch would cost you $15.00. This means that a roadshow mezz seat(which of course does not and will not never exit again- the Ziegfeld is really far back orch)would cost you today about $40.00. Then if in line with contemporary avarice we were to discuss Premium Seating a theater then could charge $100 for a hit roadshow film.

William on April 13, 2005 at 8:25 pm

BobT, Thats an idea.

Does Clearview own the building or are they just tenant with a lease?

There are a few companies that operate Deluxe type plex theatres that charge more than the going rate of admission.

BobT on April 13, 2005 at 7:29 pm

Just look at the photo above, all that space over the theatre. Wonder who has the air rights? Leaving the main auditorium alone and building up would secure it’s future.

William on April 13, 2005 at 6:08 pm

They use the reserved seat ticket policy at the ArcLight Theatre complex (Cinerama Dome) in Hollywood. Tickets are around $14.00 and it works well. You go up to the box office and the cashier shows you a seating plan of the auditorium and then a screen shows whats available for that show. When you get to the auditorium the usher will show you to your seat. Just like the old Roadshow days in the theatres. Before Pacific Theatres built the ArcLight complex the Cinerama Dome was doing about the same amount of business as the Ziegfeld. Both are single screen First Run presentation houses.
But now since Pacific built the extra screens, this theatre complex is doing killer business. The arclight complex is what we really need in Manhattan. The only way this theatre is going to last is if Clearview could build a multi-screen plex next door and operate it like the ArcLight complex in Hollywood.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 13, 2005 at 5:24 pm

Hardbop, I was at the Ziegfeld’s first public screening of “Last Temptation” with the cops stationed at the exits and at the sides of the screen, and I too thought a bomb or some kind of big disruption was going to happen in the theater near the end of the movie.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 13, 2005 at 5:21 pm

You’re welcome, CC. The show will be on CBS June 21st (I think), and I hope the Moses quote makes the final cut.

chconnol on April 13, 2005 at 4:00 pm

Bill: Thanks so much for the list! And my favorite quote is there!!!!

hardbop on April 13, 2005 at 3:10 pm

I was at a Q&A a couple of years ago where former NYT film critic Janet Maslin interviewed Harvey Weinstein of Miramax and in that discussion he expressed worry about the future of the Ziegfeld. I do remember walking by one night and they were having the premier for Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown.” In the lobby Harvey was there with Q, Mira Sorvino (Q’s then paramour), Bridgit Fonda and I forget who else getting their picture snapped.

Some people might remember this, but I think shortly after Clearview took control of the Ziegfeld they put in place a dunderhead policy regarding “pick your seat.” I’m not even sure how it worked, but I think it was tailored for people who reserved tickets over the phone. So, you couldn’t just walk up to the box office, buy a ticket and sit anywhere you pleased (getting a good seat has never been a problem in the capacious Ziegfeld).) You would buy a ticket and have to pick where you wanted to sit. It was awful annoying and it was quickly abandoned. Anyone remember that fiasco?

And I remember going here to see one of the recent “Star Bores” films and specifically wanted to see it at the Ziegfeld because it was one of two places in Manhattan where they were projecting digitally. When I got there, they said the digital equipment had broken and they would be screening a regular film print.

I also remember viewing Scorsese’s “Last Temptation of Christ” here on original release and kept thinking that someone had planted a bomb in the theatre. The screening went off, of course, without a hitch.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on March 22, 2005 at 2:50 pm

CConnolly: Back in February you were posting on the Capitol Theater page about “The Ten Commandments.” Well, the American Film Institute will be announcing their 100 Greatest Movie Quotes in June, and here is the link to the 400 nominated quotes they’ll be choosing from. Check out #348.


Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 22, 2005 at 8:42 am

Tommy was one of the first movies I saw at the Ziegfeld and I can remember it as if it was yesterday. The sound and spectacle were awesome; and coming from the suburbs (RKO Twin, anyone?) the theater was a revelation. Who knew you could see a movie in such a glamorous and elegant setting.

Astyanax on March 21, 2005 at 11:44 pm

Seeing Tommy at it’s premiere engagement at the Ziegfeld was truly an incredible experience. The pulsing stereo sound and Tina Turner’s performance were incomparable. Could only be fully appreciated in the deluxe surroundings of the Z.

Edward Havens
Edward Havens on March 21, 2005 at 5:43 pm

So the Ziegfeld isn’t the greatest theatre that ever existed. So what? I’m 37 and most of the greatest theatres that did exist were torn down or mutilated in some way before I was born. Nothing I can do about that. A palace it may not be, but for what’s left in this city, I’ll take the Ziegfeld or the Beekman as many times as I can as long as they’re still here.

RobertR on March 21, 2005 at 4:56 pm

At least they played it in 70mm for the 25th anniversary at the Trans-Lux East (Gotham). It’s my favorite film but I refused to see it in that sing along version.

VincentParisi on March 21, 2005 at 4:33 pm

Considering that I am bashing 20th Century Fox today may I continue?
Am I the only one to have noticed that the 40th Anniversary of the Rivoli’s world premiere of The Sound Of Music in March of ‘65 has come and gone this month?
So where was the deluxe Todd AO print which should have been struck for this occasion with a run at(gulp)the Ziegfeld?
Pretty soon those of us who saw it in our youths will be gone and then who will go to see the thing in a theater ever again?

Benjamin on March 21, 2005 at 4:05 pm

While, in a sense, I can understand why they included the Ziegfeld in the article (I can see how, in a narrow sense, it meets their criteria), the listing of it in such an article made me think of the concept and the expression, “defining deviance down.”

There is no greater disdainer of the Ziegfeld than myself … .
Talk about damning with faint praise … .

The Ziegfeld may not be ideal … .

I think we tend to put the Ziegfeld on a pedastal and worship her because sadly she is all we have left. In the good ole days she would have been just another movie house, and certainly not a movie palace … .

it’s as good as it gets these days … .

Is it a palace? No, I was cheated out of the great palaces. The Paramount, Capital, Roxy were all gone, The Rivoli, Criterion, & Warner were twinned when I came into my own as a serious moviegoer.

I realize, especially from reading the posts on this site, that movie theaters are more than just their architecture and design. Just as important — actually, even more so — is the way a theater presents a movie (e.g., the quality of the picture, the quality of the sound, etc.).

Luxuriously comfortable seats with great sitelines, state of the art sound and projection, great bookings, it is a palace to me, with or without the gilded plaster cherubs.

BobT on March 21, 2005 at 3:51 pm

You MUST’VE been a Ziegfeld junky to sit through dreck like “Grease 2” and “Staying Alive” not to mention “Can’t Stop the Music” (you should be cited for your bravery, though).

Actually “Grease 2” was a treat because I got to go to the 70MM test run. They tested the print before the premiere. It was just a friend and I in the auditorium with the director Pat Birch and some producers in the back making sure things were working fine. I also got to go into the projection booth. Nothing like your own private 70MM screening at The Ziegfeld, which made it all the more sweet because I had been such a fan of the place. Like I said everything was better at The Ziegfeld.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on March 21, 2005 at 3:49 pm

RobertR: The paper I saw had all the movie showtimes listed in a separate column called Movie Clock or something like that, but that was probably set up to be printed before the assassination. I don’t know if the movie theaters actually closed, but I’m sure you’re right about not too many people going to the movies that day.

bruceanthony on March 21, 2005 at 3:44 pm

I like the Ziegfeld and it is the best remaining theatre in New York City still showing movies. It does lack the showmanship that the exclusive reserved seat attractions it use to show. I went with a friend to see the “Road to Perdition” and was surprised at the lack professionalism at such a high profile industry theatre. The curtains never opened and closed during the presentation and the theate wasn’t as clean that you would expect. My friend owns a theatre complex of his own with an Egyptian theme and curtains in each auditorium and was surprised that this was the one of the top screens in New York City.brucec

br91975 on March 21, 2005 at 3:43 pm

The Ziegfeld, when held in comparison to some of NYC’s past movie palaces, doesn’t hold up in the same league, but for what it is and for how much the filmgoing scene in the city (and in general) has changed in the last 30-40 years, it’s the closest thing to a ‘classic’ cinema treasure we have.

RobertR on March 21, 2005 at 3:41 pm

I have papers my mother saved from JFK’s assasination and I think most of the Broadway theatres were dark in memorial to the president. Did it mention anything about movie theatres? Everyone was glued non-stop to the TV.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on March 21, 2005 at 3:25 pm

Vito: I also recently saw a paper from November 23, 1963, the day after JFK was assassinated. I noticed the ads for the two great Cinerama features playing three blocks away from each other, and I wished I was as old as I am now when that paper was new, instead of being only 9 . I would have been going to see them on a regular basis. Another great ad I noticed: Fellini’s “8 ½” playing at the New Embassy 46th St. in Times Square.

Vito on March 21, 2005 at 3:01 pm

I was not sure where to post this, however since all of my Cinema Treasure friends visit this page I thought I would put it here
I came across and old newspaper movie listing from November 1963, if we had all decided to go to a movie that day we would have had quite a time decided where to go from the following choices.
Loew’s Tower East, played “Fantasia” in 4 track stereo sound
Radio City Music Hall,“ On screen "The Wheeler Dealers”
On stage “High Spirits”
Rivoli, reserved seat engagement of “Cleopatra"
Warner Cinerama, reserved seat engagement of "Mad Mad World"
Loew’s Cinerama, reserved seat engagement of "How the West Was Won"
Oh heck, let’s just take the weekend off and visit all those fabulous theatres.

chconnol on March 21, 2005 at 2:56 pm

BobT: You MUST’VE been a Ziegfeld junky to sit through dreck like “Grease 2” and “Staying Alive” not to mention “Can’t Stop the Music” (you should be cited for your bravery, though).

If you look at the posts above, I too champion The Ziegfeld with much the same arguement that you make: that it may not compare well with the true palaces, it is at least comparable to some of the lesser ones such as The Mayfair/DeMille.

The place is maintained beautifully and it’s a great theater to see an event film.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on March 21, 2005 at 2:53 pm

BobT: When I think back on the best soundtrack experiences I’ve ever had in a theater, one of the best of them all was “Tommy” at the Ziegfeld.

BobT on March 21, 2005 at 2:44 pm

Wow Benjamin, who peed in your popcorn at The Ziegfeld? Gee, tough crowd when I’m defending this place. Hard to believe that I’m in the minority that considers The Ziegfeld a great theater. Is it a palace? No, I was cheated out of the great palaces. The Paramount, Capital, Roxy were all gone, The Rivoli, Criterion, & Warner were twinned when I came into my own as a serious moviegoer. I grew up on Long Island and as soon as I could, jumped on the LI Rail Road to the big city. The Ziegfeld was always considered first class. When you went there, it became an event. Rain or shine, you knew you were going to stand online down 54th Street and I gotta tell ya, no one complained. Getting online before you turned at the corner of 6th and you were guaranteed your favorite seat. In all my viewing, I can honestly say I never experienced a problem in any aspect of presentaion, and I can be a picky SOB.

I went to see films I had no interest in only because it was The Ziegfeld. If it was in 70MM I was there, a musical, I was there. I had the honor of seeing “Apocalypse Now” opening weekend. I still have the special program book with the full credits because the print didn’t have them. If the theater was good enough for Coppola, it was good enough for me and hot damn if those helicopters didn’t sound like they were above you. Musicals I saw there included, “Grease”, “Grease 2” “Tommy”, “Hair” “The Rose”, “Fame” “Staying Alive”, “Pink Floyd, The Wall” and yes (head down in shame) “Can’t Stop The Music”. But c'mon it was in 70MM at The Ziegfeld!!

Sci Fi was cool there too. “2001”, “Close Encounters”, The “Star Wars” Trilogy SE, 12 Monkeys. A piece of crap like “Saturn 5” was made better than it was by playing there. The thrill of 1100 people cheering when Apollo 13 landed safely, c'mon what more could you want plus fresh popped popcorn, take that Loews. Not going to continue boring you with all the titles, but I saw more films at The Ziefeld than my own neighborhood theater and I remember everyone of them too.

The last time I was there was for “Chicago”. Miramax played it right with the exclusive and it payed off. You would think studios would learn but they are so afraid of not getting that $20 million first weekend, they are blind that exclusives can and do work. I’ve been to The Grauman’s Chinese, been to London’s Empire but I’ll keep my Ziegfeld. Luxuriously comfortable seats with great sitelines, state of the art sound and projection, great bookings, it is a palace to me, with or without the gilded plaster cherubs.