Ziegfeld Theatre

141 West 54th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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moviebluedog on June 22, 2004 at 5:47 pm

Ken F: Are you familiar with the Century Plainview on Long Island? It ran some 70mm during the ‘70s and I’m curious to find out anymore information about it. There is a Plainview theater listed here on this site, but there’s not much info on it. Thanks.

Indeed, times have changed in regards to getting a “cinematic” experience anymore. Though it’s not totally absent, film presentation quality is subpar these days and has been for a long time now. At least (from my memory), there was greater care in how films were presented in the finer theaters in my area during the 1970s & most of the 1980s.

I could go to an AMC or one of the mall UA theaters in Orange County and be guarenteed that a film would look terrible, sound terrible and the screen would be very tiny. But if I went to the Orange Cinedome, Edwards “Big” Newport and some of the better Edwards theatres, I would usually be given a good-to-great presentation. There were times when the Dolby Stereo soundtrack, advertised as such in the newspaper, wasn’t turned on. There were times when the picture would briefly be out-of-focus, but overall, I kept attending those theatres because of their A) Ability to put on a good show, B) Ability to get either Dolby Stereo or better yet, 70mm prints, and C) Ability to maintain and upgrade their theatres.

Now we’re given hype on how big the screens are nowadays, but in truth, the screens are big for 1.85:1 films, then the masking is brought down on the screen to fit in a 2.39:1 frame. This method truly takes out the scope in ‘scope! Most shows on a Friday or Saturday night are sold-old, even when the film is on five screens (in bigger auditoriums, too). And we’re paying much higher prices at the box office and especially at the snack bar for less presentation-wise.

Now, the Cinedome is gone and the property in sat on for 30 years still remains empty while throngs of teens attend the oversized and sterile AMC and Century (who owned the Cinedome) megaplexes down the street. Big Newport and its chain, Edwards, is now a part of Regal. The Big 1100+ auditorium (I know, nothing compared to the old NYC palaces :)) was refurbished, but the last time I was there, Regal was showing those annoying digital pre-show video ads. And most of the Edwards theaters have gone downhill or have been shuttered.

umbaba on June 22, 2004 at 2:49 pm

Funny Ken…..your so right though. There’s nothing worse than having a lousy premiere movie experience. I bet everytime you think about Apocalypse Now, you remember it as blurry.

I agree with your assessment of the golden times of movie theaters. My very first job was at a theater in NJ as an Usher. I kept law and order. Back when there where smoking sections. The projectionista (all union) were great guys and back then when a picture went out of frame or out of focus, it was quickly repaired. You didn’t have to wait 5 minutes, get out of your seat, trek though an entire multiplex to find some kid at the candy counter and tell them to fix it. Those were the days.

KenF on June 22, 2004 at 2:03 pm

Just my luck I draw the one who’s cross-eyed.

joemasher on June 22, 2004 at 12:29 pm

The Zieg does employ union projectionists, full time!

KenF on June 22, 2004 at 10:14 am

Too true. The half of Apocalypse Now I saw in focus was a stunning experience.

I worked for Century Theatres in the 60s (I was an usher at the Queens) back in the days of single-screen theatres, union projectionists operating carbon-arc projectors, managers who regularly checked image and sound, and ushers who maintained law & order. Today that sounds like an impossible paradise. The only theatre I’ve been in recently that upholds these standards is Cinestudio in Hartford CT.

umbaba on June 21, 2004 at 2:11 pm

That’s too bad Ken, you must’ve had the bad luck days when you went or just bad coincidence. I saw Apocalypse Now in 70MM twice at the Ziegfeld, and it was the best experience. What you comment on is basically what happens at mostly all theaters these days because the theaters are run by hacks with no feel for the moviegoing experience or teenage dunces.

KenF on June 21, 2004 at 2:28 am

I’ve never had much luck with the Ziegfeld. I saw CLOSE ENCOUNTERS there, and every other reel was out of focus. Two years later, I went back to see APOCALYPSE NOW — and every other reel was out of focus. I haven’t been back.

moviebluedog on June 20, 2004 at 7:16 pm

Rhett wrote: If the Ziegfeld staged some kind of retro festival…it would do big business…

That’s probably true! Going back through the NY Times, especially during the 1970s, The Ziegfeld and Radio City Music Hall ran either film retrospectives or special engagements of the “biggies;” “Gone With The Wind (in its tilt-and-scan psuedo-widescreen format), "Doctor Zhivago,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.” There were also runs of “The Sound Of Music” and “The Bible…In The Beginning.”

But by the 1980s, the only 70mm re-issues around Manhattan you could see were of the “Star Wars” Trilogy and “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” (not that I would be complaining if I lived in Manhattan at that time!)…and return engagements of “Poltergeist,” “Rocky III,” “Annie” and “Gandhi.” Of course, there was the fantastic re-issue of “Lawrence Of Arabia” in 1989. There were a few in the 1990s, but few and far between.

umbaba on June 20, 2004 at 2:04 pm

Joe….do you work at the Ziegfeld?? Will there be any special programs coming up like restored epics? classic movies? or will it just be the standard releases?? also are 70MM films that were great at the Ziegfeld now kaput??

Re: Digital projection …I had no idea the Ziegfeld removed their equipment….whic is a good idea, I saw Attack of the Clones in digital there and was extremely unimpressed…Last year I saw Lawrence of Arabia in 70MM and was blown away. The Ziegfeld is one of THE best theaters in the country, I hope they don’t give in to the masses and just play the contemporary crap. It would be great to see some re-releases on that big screen. It’s something to look into. Go to the Astor Plaza discussion and you’ll see what I mean. If the Ziegfeld staged some kind of retro festival…it would do big business…

Bway on June 20, 2004 at 4:57 am

That’s great to hear. I didn’t think anything other than that till reading this thread, so was a bit sad at first.
I no longer live in Brooklyn, so don’t go to the Ziegfeld as much as I used to. I have been planning to see “The Terminal” anyway, and I think your post just made me plan a trip to the city with a friend, with a sidetrip to see “The Terminal” at a certain theater…

joemasher on June 20, 2004 at 3:59 am

The Ziegfeld is open—-we’re now showing “The Terminal” and will open “I, Robot” there on 7/14.

Bway on June 20, 2004 at 2:51 am

I am really sorry to hear that the Ziegfeld is not open as much as it used to be. I had no idea. I admidt, I haven’t been there in a while, but when in Manhattan, and in the mood for a movie, I always used to check to see what was at the Ziegfeld first, before going to a movie.
The last movie I saw there was “A Thin Red Line”. I have seen many movies there, and nothing beats the screen there. It’s a great “old feel” theater.

Vito on May 30, 2004 at 4:32 pm

I was happy to learn the Ziegfeld is presenting Day after Tommorrow in 35mm film format rather than with Digital projection, which the theatre had installed and recently removed. I want to see movies on film and no other way. Digital projection is ok I guess on a small screen but NOT on the Ziegfeld screen.

Peter on May 30, 2004 at 3:58 pm

Last night I went to see The Day After Tomorrow at the Ziegfeld.There were about 700 there for the 7:oopm show.I was struk be the beauty if this theatre with its red velvet on the walls and the thick yellow curtian that covers the screen.

I sat in the “balcony area dead center.The sound and projection was 10++ the curtian closing and opening adds to the movie experience.

Watching a movie about the New York City getting hit by natures furry in the the LAST movie palace in NEW YORK was BREATHTAKING!!

William on May 18, 2004 at 2:49 pm

Sometimes theatres close when there is a lack of real product or they do maintenance to the theatre before the busy time of the year. Back in the golden days, some of the big Times Square houses closed for short periods of time because of product and maintenance.

mhvbear on May 18, 2004 at 1:45 pm

Will be re-opening on May 28th with ‘The Day After Tomorrow’

umbaba on May 18, 2004 at 12:32 pm

What is the deal with the Ziegfeld right now?? Is it going to stay closed and be used only for premieres? It seems that they won’t be playing new releases since they’re playing at all the multiplexes anyway.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 11, 2004 at 4:15 am

“Troy” premiere was here tonight (5/10/04.

bruceanthony on April 27, 2004 at 6:26 pm

I think the Ziegfeld will be around for awhile. The studios use it for all the major premieres and is the only one with the capacity for such premieres unless they start using Radio City again.There are plenty of big summer popcorn movies coming to keep the Ziegfeld open. I think New Yorkers should support Loews Jersey when they show films because here is a true movie palace.brucec

YMike on April 27, 2004 at 4:30 pm

Three strip is the only way to see Cinerama. Still remember seeing How The West Was Won in that format. They would have to cut half the seats out of the Ziegfeld to show three strip and they would never do that.

YMike on April 27, 2004 at 4:30 pm

Three strip is the only way to see Cinerama. Still remember seeing How The West Was Won in that format. They would have to cut half the seats out of the Ziegfeld to show three strip and they would never do that.

RobertR on April 27, 2004 at 4:27 pm

What are your thoughts on The Gramercy? That theatre would be convertable to Cinerama. MOMA is leaving there but again it would take people with alot of money to create a film museum.

VincentParisi on April 27, 2004 at 3:42 pm

It was a curved screen in front of the current one and it was odd. In place of a curtain there were simply lights reflected on the screen. Read Vincent Canby in the NYT Arts and Leisure from this time(‘73.)He wrote a Sunday piece about how disappointing the presentation was.
I’m surprised Lowell even agreed to it.

Concerning what Jim wrote the proper presentation of classic films can only done now as a not for profit enterprise. It is now a lost art like ballet or opera and needs the support of those who feel passionate about it and have money or time. We should have great presentations of Lawrence or How the West Was Won just as one goes to the Met to hear Tosca or see Sleeping Beauty.
Why do people find this such an odd idea and not worthy of consideration? What’s wrong with a film museum with a truly magnificent screen that can properly show 70mm, Todd AO and Cinerama? The visceral impact is one of the greatest joys of moviegoing.

William on April 27, 2004 at 3:23 pm

The 1973 re-issue of “This is Cinerama” was a single strip 70MM version which slightly cropped the original image. The three Cinerama theatres here had ground floor booths. To put Cinerama into the Ziegfeld, you would cover the front half of the theatre with drapes and a larger curved screen. The Ziegfeld was not designed for those larger aspect ratio films.

JimRankin on April 27, 2004 at 3:20 pm

Let’s not be too hard on Clearview or any other operators of movie houses these days; the cut-throat competition by the movie makers and distributors now spell the rules by which exhibitors (movie houses) live! The distributors are in cahoots with the movie makers, of course, and now make exhibitors sign huge, terrible contracts that make the distributors the virtual owners of the theatres, and almost no theatres can play what they want when they want. The ‘big fish’ will always seek ways to eat the ‘little fish’ and now with DVD/tapes out almost as soon as the title appears ont he screen, the theatres are mere fodder for the big fish. Have sympathy. (And read all about it at www.bigscreenbiz.com))