Ziegfeld Theatre

141 West 54th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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chibitotoro on May 13, 2005 at 7:03 pm

“Do the employees go on unemployment between "major first run engagements”?"

We either get placed in another Clearview theater around town, or we just don’t work. I worked there a couple years ago, and I’m thinking of working there again when I come back from college for the summer, but if they’re only going to be doing limited engagements, I may have to go with a place that’ll guarantee me more hours. It’s a shame that such a wonderful theater isn’t getting used as much as it could be.

When I worked there, the A/C didn’t work for half of the summer, so we’d have to bribe people into the theater with discount tickets and free drinks. And a friend of mine who attended the “Kingdom of Heaven” premiere there the other night told me that part of the backlighting on the marquee was out. Little maintenance issues like that should not be plaguing one of the greatest movie houses in the world. I told the managers many times what I thought of how the place was being run, and all they could do was look at me and say “I wish it were up to me to change things”.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on May 4, 2005 at 5:42 pm

I’m only in New York for 2 days so it’s highly unlikely that I’ll go to New Jersey. And, as it turns out, it’s been suggested that I see Star Wars Episode 3 at another theatre nearby. So the chances of my visiting the Ziegfeld are looking slim. Besides…I’m not interested in tours just for tours sake. I’d rather see a movie in these palaces!

Benjamin on May 4, 2005 at 3:14 pm

Chris, I very much hope you get a chance to see a movie at the “Loew’s Jersey” and take a tour of the “Stanley.” While both of these theaters are listed as being in New Jersey, they are both very, very close to mid-town Manhattan (which is just across the Hudson River from New Jersey). They are probably more convenient to mid-town Manhattan than many parts of the Bronx, Queens or Brooklyn (and certainly more convenient than Staten Island). (Both of these theaters have listings, with lots of info on them, on the Cinema Treasures website.)

As far as I know, the Loew’s Jersey is the only remaining TRUE movie PALACE in the NYC area that still shows movies (albeit, mostly on weekends as a non-profit showcase, I believe). The Stanley, which is a block or two away from it, is also a TRUE movie PALACE that is used as a church — but I believe the church gives tours of it. (Check out the Cinema Treasures listings for both theaters for more details.)

(To clarify the terminology a bit: it seems to me that the current Ziegfeld is a movie THEATER, rather than a movie PALACE. In the same sense, one would say that the Alden and the Merrick (two, modestly decorated, 1,000+ [?] seat, local movie theaters in Jamaica, Queens) were movie THEATERS. The nearby Valencia (a lavishly decorated, 3,000+ [?] seat, atmospheric), however, was a movie PALACE. The Stanley, by the way is also an atmospheric, and as a kid it reminded me of the Valencia.)

The thing I would emphasize is that despite the “Jersey City” location, both of these theaters are extremely convenient to Manhattan. They are just steps away from the Jersey City station of the PATH train. (PATH is a “subway” — which in some ways is nicer than the NYC subway — that connects Manhattan with towns in nearby New Jersey, just across the Hudson River.) In Manhattan, there are PATH stations at Herald Sq., 23rd St., 14th St., 9th St., Christopher St. and at Ground Zero. The trains taking the most direct route leave from the newly rebuilt World Trade Center terminal — the other stations listed are on a train line that folows a more indirect route to Jersey City.

I have never been to the Loew’s Jersey myself. But I did go to the Stanley as a kid (to see Jerry Lewis' “Visit to a Small Planet”), and this theater is a TRUE movie palace that will show people who missed the movie palace era what people are talking about.

I also second Vito suggestion about Radio City Music Hall and — especially — the Beekman. Radio City Music Hall will always be there (hopefully!), but the Beekman is slated to be torn down very shortly. In a way, the Beekman is an early 1950s art house version of the movie “palace” (albeit, the “Petit Trianon”?) — it’s the very embodiment of a certain movie-going way of life. Check out the page on Cinema Treasures (especially the links that someone has posted to photographs). I think you will be kicking yourself if you miss out on visiting it before it is demolished.

Vito on May 3, 2005 at 6:43 am

Welcome to New York Chris, I would suggest you also check out the Beekman which sadly, is about to close. Take the Radio City Music Hall tour as well.

evmovieguy on May 3, 2005 at 1:50 am

Went to the Ziegfeld tonight to see ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. I can’t remember the last time I was there. I know I missed a couple of great revival screenings in the past, but I was never jazzed about any of the first run stuff either. It must have been years since I was there last, and I am so glad that I went tonight. Even though many people on this blog think it pales in comparison to the the old NYC theaters of yore (which I’m sure it does), it’s still an amazing place and pretty much all we have left in terms of grand old places of any kind. As far as ‘Hitchhikers Guide’ is concerned, I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about! It seems like a movie geared to those who have already read the book. It get’s points for creativity and great set design (and Zooey Deschanel is nice to look at too), but the story was muddled as hell. Kind of a shame since it was a really great looking film. The Ziegfeld screened it in digital projection with amazing clarity and sound, and coming from a Luddite like me that saying alot.

Once again all I can say is that this place is a jewel in the rough, and I hope I get to see many, many more flicks there in the future.

And just for old time’s sake here are some I’ve seen there in the past:

Vertgo (revival screening early 90s)
The Doors
Edward Scissorhands
Jurrasic Park
Primary Colors

and probably more I can’t remember. Hope they do more revival screenings soon.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on May 2, 2005 at 4:31 pm

So many comments…I’m amazed! Anyway, I’m a 20 year Southern Cali resident making my first trip to NYC later this month. Needless to say, I plan on hitting the Ziegfeld while I’m in town. They’ll be showing Star Wars Episode 3 so that’ll be fun. I’m a big fan of single screen theatres and complexes with very large main auditoriums. I’ve had more than my fair share of experiences with the great LA landmarks like the Cinerama Dome (saw the 3-strip Cinerama print of “How The West Was Won” in 2003…or was it 2004?), Grauman’s Chinese, The Village & The National in Westwood and Big Newport in Orange County. I’m looking forward to checking out the Ziegfeld.

VincentParisi on April 27, 2005 at 9:28 am

Funny when i was a boy in the 60’s big budget Hollywood movies were for the most part for adults to which they could bring their children. Now its a guy in a gorilla suit running around with a laser in front of a computer screen. With of course some twinkie spiritual transcendental junk layered on top with a trowel.

evmovieguy on April 24, 2005 at 9:43 pm

I went by the Ziegfeld the other day to see what was going on. ‘Saharah’ has already ended it’s run there. They are re-opening Apr. 29 with ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. In the meantime they are selling advance tickets for the upcoming ‘Star Wars’ flick and from what I could see, some of the screenings were sold out already.

BobT on April 24, 2005 at 8:01 pm

Not about The Zeigfeld, but a definite blast from the past. I rented the new DVD of “Finian’s Rainbow” from Netflix because it had a full length commentary from Francis Ford Coppola. It was one of his first features and his first for a studio. It’s a very entertaining commentary in which he describes what a Roadshow Engagement was and talks about 70MM. What I didn’t know was the DVD has a 15 minute documentary of the World Premiere at The Penthouse Theatre on Broadway. Numerous shots of the marquee and it’s sister theatre The Warner which was playing “2001”. You could clearly see the old Latin Quarter across the street with Rick Nelson headlining. There are some shots of the outer lobby with the gilded mirror walls going up to the glass front doors. Fun to see the old Times Square again, worth the rental.

RobertR on April 23, 2005 at 7:05 pm

At one time the Ziegfeld would fill in these dry spots with revivals of classics, many times in 70mm.

BobT on April 23, 2005 at 6:29 pm

They will probably make more in the rental for the upcoming Star Wars premiere and press screenings than being opened to empty houses.

Astyanax on April 23, 2005 at 4:19 pm

Quite a while back weekly Variety would list the weekly grosses of each theatre, and in parentheses would also indicate the “nut”. This was the cost of operating the venue taking into account all expenses. Depending on the box split with the distributor for the week’s revenue, it may not pay to remain open during slow periods.

PeterApruzzese on April 23, 2005 at 2:49 pm

Don – I don’t know. I guess it would depend on whether they were ‘laid off’ of if Clearview can temporarily put them in another location.

Jodar – I beleive the bigger theatres used to do this from time to time during the roadshow era, especially if they needed to do technical upgrades between engagements. Depending on the size of the venue, it certainly does cost more money just to open the doors for a handful of customers instead of being dark.

JodarMovieFan on April 22, 2005 at 11:13 pm

Isn’t that a waste of money having a venue that isn’t used? You would have at least some revenue coming in from a few patrons rather then to have nothing and still have to pay for your rent, electricity, etc. I’ve never heard of such a thing.

DonRosen on April 22, 2005 at 11:10 pm

Do the employees go on unemployment between “major first run engagements”?

PeterApruzzese on April 22, 2005 at 10:48 pm

According to information I heard from Clearview, the plan now is for the Ziegfeld to remain dark between major first-run engagements. And expect nothing to be playing September and October.

RobertR on April 22, 2005 at 8:19 pm

I’m sure it’s dark because they have nothing to play.

JodarMovieFan on April 22, 2005 at 8:14 pm

I’m curious as to why the Ziegfeld is dark until next week. I’m wondering if they are upgrading their digital projectors to the new 4K units out by Sony.

tomovieboy70 on April 22, 2005 at 6:38 pm

I’m so glad to have lived in NYC for a number of years and to have seen many a film at this fine theater. It remains in 2005 the premier screen in all of Manhattan, the rest of the big-screened movie houses all now gone and/or converted to retail spaces. The Ziegfeld has superb 70mm, digital sound and projection capabilities. I’ve seen such titles as “Brainstorm”, “Roger Rabbit”, “Yentl”, “The Wall”, “The Rose”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Fantasia”, “Pennies from Heaven”, “Victor/Victoria”, “Grease 2” and many others at this spectacular house. Long may it live!

movieguy on April 22, 2005 at 3:49 pm

The ZIG is not screening a film this week.The next attraction will be The Hickhikers Guide To the Galaxy(3-29),and then STAR WARS!

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 16, 2005 at 8:49 pm

The Star Wars faithful will begin lining up outside the Ziegfeld on April 30th. This is a line for the best seats only – tickets have already been sold for the first show at midnight 5/19 (I got mine today).

hardbop on April 14, 2005 at 11:54 am

The latest and hopefully last of the “Star Bores” films will be opening next month I believe. I’m sure we’ll start to see the fanatics camping out on the sidewalk waiting to get into the first screening. They literally pitch tents and camp out in Midtown Manhattan days, if not weeks, in advance of the “Star Bores” movies.

Benjamin on April 14, 2005 at 10:48 am

I’m not sure about this, but I always assumed that the Ziegfeld Theater was part of the same zoning lot as the skyscraper next door (and that the skyscraper got a zoning bonus for providing the through-block “park” separating the two).

If that’s is the case, then I think there would some kind of constraint as to what could be built on the Ziegfeld site — since the skyscraper next door had already not only utilized all the allowable commercial space for the zoning lot, but was bonused for the through block “park” to boot.

If this is true, and I’m not mistaken, this is actually a pretty clever use of space under the existing zoning regulations (whether these regulations are good urbanism or not, is a different question). On the Avenue, you have a tall skyscraper utilizing the allowable commercial space, with front and side “plazas” and a through block pedestrian “park” boosting the amount of space the skyscraper can have. Plus you have a low-rise theater, with a parking garage entrance (below the theater on the 55th St. side) on the side streets, utilizing the areas that cannot be built up too much. (And, I’m guessing, that the parking garage space extends beneath the through block “park.”)

hardbop on April 14, 2005 at 10:48 am

I pretty sure that Clearview doesn’t own the real estate. I worked with a guy whose brother-in-law was a mega-rich real estate mogul and he mentioned in passing that his brother-in-law “owned the Ziegfeld” among other things.

William on April 14, 2005 at 10:47 am

It looks like the Ziegfeld Theatre is at a point in it’s life that the theatres in Beverly Hills went through in the mid 1970’s. The three palaces in Beverly Hills (Warner Beverly Hills, Fox Wilshire, Beverly). They would still get booked with major releases during the year from the studios. And most of the year be only running evening performances during the week. And finally going to running the classic Roadshow prints that were available. At that time there was many prints to choose from, that were still runable and you had real projectionists manning the booths.
Pacific Theatres had a few locations that they showed little motivation in rebuilding. In Los Angeles there are a few of these Deluxe type theatres and they are doing killer business. The ArcLight in Hollywood, The Grove in Park La Brea area near the Farmers Market and The Bridge near Culver City & Marina Del Rey area of Los Angeles. For the $14.00 admission price you get the Deluxe service that was once availible for the price of any ticket and validated parking for about 3-4 hours.