Ziegfeld Theatre

141 West 54th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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Vito on June 24, 2004 at 4:01 am

I honestly do not remember the number of seats the Plainview had. The orchestra had at least 800 and the balcony another 300 so perhaps 1100 in all.

joemasher on June 23, 2004 at 6:44 pm

It’s entirely possible and something we’ve been talking about….for now it’s “The Terminal” followed next month by “I, Robot”.

VincentParisi on June 23, 2004 at 1:36 pm

Joe Masher what is the possibility of this?

moviebluedog on June 23, 2004 at 12:56 pm

Thanks Vito for the information on the Plainview. Do you remember how many seats the theater had?

In regards to some 70mm films being “flat,” a number of films shot in the 35mm 1.85:1 aspect ratio were blown up to 70mm. Some include “Days Of Heaven,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Empire Of The Sun,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Stakeout,” “Adventures In Babysitting,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Batman,” and the list goes on. Tati’s “Play Time” was filmed in 65mm, but masked for 1.85:1 projection.

Many studios, but mostly directors I think, like to shoot safe for eventual television broadcast. This is a phenomenon that has occured for years. Directors like Sidney Pollack have shied away from shooting in widescreen because of their horror of seeing their beautiful compositions ruined on television. But with the long time practice of letterboxing available since the days of Laser Disc and now DVD, there’s no reason why some directors can’t choose widescreen again.

There are numerous reasons for the lack of shooting in 65mm for commercial films. There is a perceived notion that it’s more expensive and cumbersome than shooting in 35mm and now digital. Truth is in the scheme of a movie’s budget, shooting in 65mm isn’t that expensive. And considering that studios are paying for digital intermediates to improve picture quality on Super 35mm films, and that Warner Bros. spent a considerable amount on IMAX DMR prints of “Harry Potter 3,” the arguement against shooting in 65mm is quite ridiculous.

Yes Vincent, it would be great to see “My Fair Lady” and “The Sound Of Music” at the Ziegfeld for their anniversaries. In fact, how about a Todd-AO 50th Anniversary Festival? “The Sound Of Music,” “Hello, Dolly,” and “Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines” have been restored by 20th Century Fox. Heck, I’d even see a 70mm print of “South Pacific.”

Mikeoaklandpark on June 23, 2004 at 10:48 am

I know that a lot of film studios don’t want to do 70mm anymore becuase they said when it does to DVD or video or for TV they loose to much.

Mark_L on June 23, 2004 at 8:58 am

70mm does not necessarily mean full widescreen. All 70mm indicates is that the projected film is 70mm wide.

70mm presentations were not just for width. Some directors chose 70mm for better quality 6-channel sound. Coppola’s ONE FROM THE HEART was framed at 1.37 and it had at least one 70mm print.

STAR IS BORN, ALTERED STATES and ET were all 1.85 films.

VincentParisi on June 23, 2004 at 8:57 am

But those films were blow up which is simply a marketing tool. To have seen “true” 70mm at the Ziegfeld recently you would have had to have seen Lawrence and Lady.

The Ziegfeld should show Lady again for its 40th anniversary in the fall and Music in the spring in Todd AO for its birthday. And get Wise to come to New York to celebrate its world premiere in New York at the Rivoli 40 years ago.

Mikeoaklandpark on June 23, 2004 at 8:32 am

The first 70mm film I saw at the Ziegfeld was A Star Is Born in 1976. I rememebr being totally upset because WB masked off the film as if it was filmed as a flat.Other films were done the same way Altered States adn ET. The first true 70mm I saw at the Ziegfeld was The Muppet Movie. After that I saw Fame in 70mm. To me if a film is done in 70mm than it should be shown in widescreen not masked off than called 70mm. Anybody else have any other comments on this?

Vito on June 23, 2004 at 3:49 am

To Ken F: I too remember the Plainview, having worked there for a few years. unfortunatly it is gone now having been converted into office space. It was run by Century theatres, the best cicruit in it’s day. The booth had three Century JJ 35/70 projectors with Peerless corelight carbon arc lamps. Many 70mm roadshow engaements like “Ben Hur” were presented there. The last 70mm I believe was a re-issue of “sound Of Music”. Like all Century theatres, the first show of the day began with a showing of the National Anthum.

moviebluedog on June 22, 2004 at 9:47 am

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 6:49 am

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 6:03 am

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

joemasher on June 22, 2004 at 4:29 am

The Zieg does employ union projectionists, full time!

KenF on June 22, 2004 at 2:14 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 6:11 am

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 20, 2004 at 6:28 pm

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 11:16 am

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 6:04 am

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 19, 2004 at 8:57 pm

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 19, 2004 at 7:59 pm

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

Bway on June 19, 2004 at 6:51 pm

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 8:32 am

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 7:58 am

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 6:49 am

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 5:45 am

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