Ziegfeld Theatre

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

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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.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 30, 2006 at 11:51 am

Time Out is sponsoring the series – or is otherwise involved – so that makes sense. But shouldn’t the advertising be just a bit more widespread?

mhvbear on January 30, 2006 at 11:14 am

There is an ad for series in the current TimeOut Magazine.

BobT on January 30, 2006 at 10:41 am

“The Boatniks” and “From The Mixed Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” were both move overs from Radio City. “The Anderson Tapes” and “Grease” like BH said were move overs from Loew’s State. “Bananas” was from the upper East Side. As for AlAlvarez statement “Contrary to popular opinion, "New Yorkers have never truly supported the Ziegfeld, preferring to see their movies elsewhere when possible.”, I don’t know but having seen a good chunk of those bookings he posted and having stood in line for a sold out show on almost all those occasions, I would say I don’t agree. But if you look at some of the bookings, like their ‘71 Christmas show, “The Star Spangled Girl”, a movie based on a bad Neil Simon play that Simon himself probably never saw, or pictures that seemed perfect “Ziegfeld” bookings like “Flight Of The Navigator or Polanski’s big budget "Pirates” that turn out to be dogs. You can’t blame a theatre if there is no product or the owner doesn’t book it properly.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 30, 2006 at 1:09 am

And P.S…. Still looking for advertisements for the upcoming series. There was no mention of it in the Sunday Times Arts & Leisure section. Are they waiting for the Friday Weekend section to spread the word? Or are they looking only to pull in passersby and visitors to Clearview Cinemas website and the folks on Cinema Treasures?!?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 30, 2006 at 1:05 am

Another great list, Al… Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. I know my parents made the trip in from Queens with me to see “That’s Entertainment” here. It’s possible I saw “Earthquake” here as well, but I think that might have been elsewhere in Manhattan on the upper East Side where my Mom’s freind Lilliana – who accompanied us – lived. Saw “The Grateful Dead”, “Hair” (my first trip into the city on my own – St. Patty’s Day ‘79) and “Apocalypse Now” to round out the '70’s. The following decade my pals and I came in to see “Pink Floyd’s The Wall” and I saw “Fantasia” here a couple of times during the '80’s. The only other film I can be certain of seeing here on the list is “Yentl”, though I might have also seen “Tough Guys” here in '86. I look forward to a '90’s list, Al… I believe on Christmas Day 1990 I was sitting in the Ziegfeld anxiously watching (and being ultimately disappointed by) “The Godfather, Part Three.”

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on January 28, 2006 at 4:51 pm

GREASE was a moveover from either the Loew’s Astor Plaza or the Loew’s State where it originally opened. But of course it was better at the Ziegfeld.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 28, 2006 at 4:12 pm

Bill, you are probably right. I have a small gap in THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL period (newspaper strike, I think) and those 1986 double features were a Kirk Douglas/Burt Lancaster prelude to TOUGH GUYS that may have included even more titles for a day or two.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on January 28, 2006 at 4:09 pm

Just about a week before its DVD release, I’d like to salute David Lean’s RYAN’S DAUGHTER for being the long-run champ of the Ziegfeld.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on January 28, 2006 at 4:03 pm

Al: Wow – another one of your fantastic lists. Thanks for it. I’d like to make two additions, though. In 1978, between REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER and THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, I saw GREASE at the Ziegfeld. And in 1986 I saw a Kirk Douglas/Burt Lancaster double feature of LUST FOR LIFE and THE PROFESSIONALS. LUST FOR LIFE had turned completely pink, but it was still in CinemaScope on the big Ziegfeld screen.