Ziegfeld Theatre

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

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William on February 7, 2006 at 5:23 pm

A few reasons they might have chosen the “Indiana Jones” series and “Lord of the Rings” series, is that they are almost a sure thing to make money at the box office for the classic series. These fans love to see these films on a big screen and they come rain or shine. Back in the day the studios did release the “Back to the Future”, “Star Trek” series and the almighty “Star Wars” original trilogy. And the print of these titles are easy and cheap to rent. I think the rent on most titles is $350 vs. 35% of the gate per picture plus shipping to and from storage. And with “Gladiator”, “Chicago”, they did very well the in first run. Hopefully the print of “Gladiator” will be runable. The one they sent to me for a Academy screening was a piece of crap from the first reel to the last.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 7, 2006 at 5:11 pm

I think the programmers at the Ziegfeld are trying to balance showing “truly” classic films with booking newer (yet still worthy) films to attract a wider audience. They have 1100 seats to fill and this is, after all, a sort of trial run here. The admissions are seperate so the bean counters should be able to see whether the older fare or newer films drew the largest audiences. If showing the Rings movies and Gladiator brings in crowds and helps subsidize showings of “Ben-Hur” and “West Side Story” then I welcome it wholeheartedly.

All of your suggestions are good, andreco, so I hope you jot them down (or print your post out) and drop them off with theater management – who are evidently looking for ideas for future retrospectives. I for one am ecstatic at the opportunity to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on the big screen again.

As for intermissions… thanks for all the info and history from everyone. There wasn’t one at the original Ziegfeld engagement for “Apocalypse Now” in ‘79. I remember one that definitely seemed arbitrarily spliced in for “The Towering Inferno” where the screen literally just went dark prattically in mid-dialogue. I really wish they’d reinstate the practice for all films over 2 and ½ hours.

mhvbear on February 7, 2006 at 5:08 pm

Idiot maybe but I imagine that the week that the 3 Lord of the Rings films play will be the highest grossing of the whole series.

Andres on February 7, 2006 at 4:42 pm

If Joe Masher is still a division manager for Clearview, this is for him:
I was totally disappointed when I went into the Ziegfeld page at the Clearview web and saw the “classics” revival schedule. Gladiator a classic? Chicago a classic? Who’s the idiot who programmed this series, a 19 year old? The 7 year old daughter of the programmer that, like Amy Carter, advised her father, president Jimmy Carter, on nuclear weapons? (Remember that?) Well, I sent the program of the series to a friend in LA — where they have Cinerama and have REAL series and retrospectives, and he sent me his comments — which follow. Incidentally, it is a shame that in the “capital of the world”, we don’t have a Cinerama theater or have REAL retrospectives and REAL CASSIC FILM series.

Here are his suggestions:

1) “Epics Week”: Remove “Gladiator” and “Braveheart”, and replace with the restored 70 mm prints of “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Spartacus”, and/or “El Cid”.

2) Eliminate the “Indiana Jones” week, replace with Western week. (High Noon, Shane, The Searchers, Gunfight at OK Corral, The Big Country, Magnificent Seven, and so on). Ok, maybe have an Indiana Jones day, ( a weekend if you must) but please not an entire week at the expense of John Ford & company!

3) Eliminate “Lord of the Rings” week, replace with war epics: “Bridge on the River Kwai”, “Guns of Navarone”, “The Longest Day”, “The Great Escape”, “Tora!, Tora!, Tora!”, “Dirty Dozen”

4) Remove “Chicago” and replace with “The Sound of Music”, “Hello Dolly” , “Oklahoma!” or “Singing in the Rain”. Any of those will do.

4) Put all those removed films (“Lord of the Rings”, “Gladiator”, “Chicago” etc.) in a “Contemporary Award Winners” week.

5) I would have a “Cop/Tough Guy” week: “The French Connection”, “Dirty Harry”, “Bullitt”, “Point Blank”

6) Comedy week. Lots to choose there!

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 7, 2006 at 2:42 pm

“Doctor Zhivago”’s intermission is right after the red train carrying Strelnikov speeds past the big train carrying Zhivago and the others, which has been sidelined. It does come out of nowhere but it’s intentional – a direct cut to the Intermission title card – no fadeout or dissolve – accompanied by a big crash of cymbals. It’s very effective, I think.

VincentParisi on February 7, 2006 at 2:17 pm

The stage version comes after the ball which makes the first half too long. The movie got it right. It helps that the always radiant Audrey is heart stoppingly beautiful at that moment. How lucky the world is that she got the role.

William on February 7, 2006 at 1:41 pm

The Roadshow intermission on “My Fair Lady” happens just after Eliza comes down the staircase and her and Professor Higgins & Colonel Pickering go off to the ball. Act II Begins at the ball.

BobFurmanek on February 7, 2006 at 1:26 pm

Often times – in revival houses – they would just place an intermission at the end of a reel, whether it belonged there or not. I saw many revivals of 1950’s 3-D films with the intermission incorrectly presented that way.

chconnol on February 7, 2006 at 1:19 pm

With the exception of the “Lord of the Rings” films which practically begged for an intermission, I agree that an inappropriately placed intermission can be a killer.

I remember seeing Apocolypse Now at a third run house in Massapequa (even then with curtains!) and the intermission seemed to pop out of nowehere.

Correct me if I’m wrong but weren’t there these different kinds of intermission “logos”? I remember the one they had for “The Sound of Music” seemed to write the word Intermission in script across the screen. There must’ve been others.

One movie that didn’t seem to have an obvious intermission part is “My Fair Lady”. The plays' first act ended after the ball with Act II beginning upon their return home. Where was it in the roadshow version? And how about “Doctor Zhivago”? Again, I can never quite tell where an intermission should be. I saw it at a couple of revival houses in NYC and like my experience with “Apocolypse Now” the intermission seemed to pop out of no where.

PeterApruzzese on February 7, 2006 at 12:47 pm

Yes, CConnolly, those two films have built-in intermission, as many of the 3-hour films of the past did. Regarding newer films, adding an intermission to a movie not specifically edited to accomodate one is a bad idea, IMO, as it will disrupt the carefully constructed flow of the film.

RobertEndres on February 7, 2006 at 12:46 pm

A couple of comments about AlAlvarez’s post. I was Head Projectionist at the Music Hall and a relief projectionist at the Ziegfeld at the time of the “Abyss” premiere. That premiere at the Hall had a surround system brought in by an outside contractor for the screening. It was huge and not particularly good considering it took a week to take out seats to install it. Nonetheless, the sound at the Ziegfeld would have been better at the time. There was a classic echo at the Hall because of its sheer size. Acousticians had tried to solve them from the time the Hall opened, including Tom Holman of THX. When I would screen new prints I would sit in the middle of the orchestra at the producer’s table, and if I turned my head in the empty auditorium I would hear two soundtracks, one from the screen and one from the backwall. If you sat in the Mezzanines there wasn’t a problem, since you weren’t hearing the slap from the area above the 3rd Mezz. Thus the Zieg had comparatively better acoustics. When we did the “Lion King” premiere, we installed a completely new film sound system with adequate speakers behind the screen and a plethora of surround speakers (I think its up over 100 now). Disney was extremely happy with the sound, and we added more speakers both for the stage system and the surround system for later premieres. Since then, the house has added acoustic treatment installed during the 1999 remodel. For all of the romanticism about the movie palaces, we tend to forget that many of them had enormous acoustic problems because of their sheer size. One of the acomplishments of the Dolby system was to include house eqalization to try to iron out the acoustic differences. Now we are used to E.Q. and digital reproduction and would probably be shocked if we actually had to hear the sound in a Paramount or Roxy as it played when those theatres reigned.

chconnol on February 7, 2006 at 12:37 pm

I’m sorry if my above comment upsets and Lloyd Webber fans out there. I just consider him such a hack compared to the old greats. I’m somewhat glad to see his last few offerings being quickly dispatched here in NY.

But to the discussion regarding intermissions: weren’t some films shot with an intermission clearly in mind? For example, “The Sound of Music” seems to have a hand made intermission at the scene where Maria leaves the children’s house after The Countess has “talked” to her. And “Gone With The Wind” seems to have the intermission built into the scene with Scarlett declaring she’ll never go hungry again. Right? Or does it just seem that way?

chconnol on February 7, 2006 at 12:33 pm

I’d probably run from the theater regardless of the sound quality if I had to sit through the movie OR stage versions of either “Evita” or “Phantom”.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 7, 2006 at 12:29 pm

I must contradict a previous poster. Having seen THE ABYSS at Radio City Music Hall for a premiere and then a few days later at the Ziegfeld (I am not a sadist, my office was at the Zieg), I assure you the sound at the Ziegfeld was far superior.

Having said that, Loews Lincoln Square is probably better and the only draw back is that most movies today record the music sound track too loud compared to the dialogue. When audiences complain, you lose the dialogue. This is common almost everywhere on blockbusters and is a print problem, not a theatre problem. I dare anyone to sit through EVITA at the recommended sound levels. The audiences would run for the nearest exit.

I saw a notoriously bad digital version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Lincoln Square and that soundtrack was embarrassingly bad so I think the theatres sound better when things are exploding.

Due to the premieres, the Ziegfeld is constantly tested for sound quality. Admittedly, many sound technicians over the years have expressed their displeasure with the acoustics.

By the way, here in the UK we only insert intermissions on Bollywood films. Hollywood intermissions are forbidden unless it is already there on an older film. If you get caught, you could lose the run.

RobertR on February 7, 2006 at 11:34 am

When I was managing theatres we always added an intermission for long films. I never had a complaint. I would screen the movie the night before to find a suitable spot. We then spliced in an intermission snipe. Speaking of sound issues I was in Roosevelt Field one night and the house was pretty full. One whacko complained that the sound was too loud so they lowered itn and it stayed that way, despite many people going out and complaining that you could not hear the film.

BobFurmanek on February 7, 2006 at 9:14 am

Everybody is so amazed that the Ziegfeld is using its curtain. After attending all the classic films at the Lafayette Theater in Suffern New York over these past several years, I’ve gotten used to seeing movies presented with curtains, pre-show organ music, and all the other bells and whistles which constitute good showmanship. I guess the Lafayette has gotten me spoiled for a true movie palace experience.

And the Lafayette doesn’t run commercials, unless it’s a vintage trailer for one of their upcoming classics. Friends, f you think the Ziegfeld is doing a good job, you don’t know what you’re missing!

William on February 6, 2006 at 2:37 pm

EdSolero asked about placement of intermissions in Foreign markets. There is one major problem with the placement, it is sometimes limited to equipment and it become a judgment call of the projectionist as to where to make place it. Not every theatre in the world runs on platters type systems. Some theatres run using whats called towers, which are around 12,000 foot reels on one projector. In running Towers (12,000 reels) they are limited to around 130-140 minutes of film. So they have to split the film on to two reels for longer releases. With some of the longer newer releases that do not have built-in intermissions by the film maker the projectionist has to make the decision of on the placement of the intermission slug.

Movieguy718 on February 6, 2006 at 1:26 pm

They ALL have mice. Do you remember the PLAZA on 58 St? It was CRAWLING with roaches.

Deester on February 6, 2006 at 1:22 pm

The Union Square UA multiplex has mice. I saw one there myself.

Deester on February 6, 2006 at 1:08 pm

This is of course, the truth about moviegoing in general, now. The presentations at nearly every theater are simply not what they were, even 10 years ago, let alone in the late 60s. Movie theaters can’t afford big staffs, or upgraded equipment.

Movies in the theater, I think, are doomed to be a niche part of the movie grosses — not dissimilar to the “hardback” edition of newly published books. Most people will wait for the paperback.

It’s true that Chinatown isn’t exactly a movie that needs to be seen at the Ziegfeld. The best experience I ever had at the Ziegfeld was seeing A Star is Born, in 1976, there. Both movies are now available for home viewing, and in 1080i high-definition. I suspect once high-definition broadcasts are the norm, a movie like Chinatown will never be seen in the movie theater again.

Movieguy718 on February 6, 2006 at 12:34 pm

Here’s the HUGE problem with the LOEWS @ Lincoln Square: If just ONE person complains that the movie is too loud, down the volume goes. And down it stays. In fact, most of the time, the volume is kept low anyway so that they don’t have to deal with complaints. This applies to ALL the auditoriums there. Talk about inaudible. This WAS a great thaeter when it opened, but sadly it no longer is. My very last visit was for WALK THE LINE (my friend lives across the street and didn’t want to travel.) In addition to the volume being too low, the sound was muffled and distorted. It didn’t concern the nearly soldout house or the management. We got refunds. Eventually saw the movie at the Union Square where it was loud and crystal clear (as it usually is there.) As for the ZIEGFELD, they have really done a tremendous job over the past couple years. As for CHINATOWN, you can’t hold an old optical mono track to the same standard as a new release or a freshly struck print. Yeah, they probably coulda cranked up the volume but those old worn out optical mono tracks tend to sound harsh and shrill at high volumes. The Ziegfeld DID indeed have sound and projection problems for a while. From Jurrasic Park until up to and including Moulin Rouge no matter how loud they made it, dialogue was mostly unintelligible. Including the VERTIGO rerelease after their renovation – it was BARELY audible. Also, many times, they couldn’t even manage to get the picture on the screen properly. Now however, it’s in the top 3 moviegoing experiences in the city. In a good way ;–)

Deester on February 6, 2006 at 12:10 pm

Vertigo, is an example of a movie with a very “dry” soundtrack, very little reverb built into the soundtrack. The recent restoration of the movie had re-recorded foleys (sound effects) to take advantage of the recovered stereo recordings of the music.

When I saw the movie at the Ziegfeld, I was surprised at how bad I thought the presentation was. The movie was shown in 70mm, with beautiful stereo surround music. But the picture wasn’t bright enough (the theater is too deep), and the dialogue was echo-y, reverberant, and wet, and because of that, it was hard to understand. This is a movie I know very well, and I was disappointed seeing it in all its glory at the Ziegfeld. I went again to it at another theater in town, and the experience was much better — the movie looked and sounded great. The problem wasn’t the movie, it was the Ziegfeld theater itself.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on February 6, 2006 at 12:06 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 11:54 am

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 11:48 am

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.