Ziegfeld Theatre

141 West 54th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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Vito on January 19, 2006 at 1:53 am

Thanks REndres for that information. Now can you give me your opinion as to why they would choose to use a platter in a single screen operation, with a licenced union projectionist, instead of reel to reel? Help an old man understand the thinking behind such madness. Apparently they are doing the same thing at Graumans in LA, the big (original) house has a platter. An industry friend of mine in LA,who attended the premere of “The Producers”, told me that about half way thru the movie a brain wrap caused the print to jam in the gate causing the image to burn away. Is that supposed to be progress? In both locations they have a professional maning the booth, with two projectors, sitting for 2 hours watching a platter go around instead of running reel to reel. Thank God I am retired!

RobertEndres on January 18, 2006 at 9:06 am

They are running platter. The last time I worked there covering an emergency was in 1990, but I had run a revival series before that and they were using platters then. They still have two 35/70mm Century JJ’s, and the third position is for digital cinema projection. They were using a Texas Instrument prototype projector for the last “Star Wars” and a Christie for “The Island”, with Dolby Digital Cinema Show Store and Player. When they do digital projection for premieres they have a 35mm print running on the platter as a back-up.

Vito on January 18, 2006 at 8:40 am

REndres, are they running reel to reel or platter?
Some of the biggest problems with projection today comes from the use of platters, with brain wraps, thrown prints etc.
I understand the need for platters in a plex or manager operator theatre, but not in a single screen or even a twin operation where the booth has a projectionist.

VincentParisi on January 18, 2006 at 6:30 am

Movieguy 718,
What’s this about revivals?
Where did you read about this?
Any details?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 18, 2006 at 5:58 am

Paul Bubny… I think that would be a very fair comparison regarding the Ziegfeld and Avery Fisher Hall. We as aesthete’s are disappointed that the Rivolis and Capitols and Strands have all been demolished and all we are left are pale architectural shadows like the Ziegfeld (and until recently, the Loew’s Astor Plaza). However, as pragmatists, we must acknowledge that there is much to be appreciated about the Ziegfled, particularly when compared to the alternatives that currently exist.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 18, 2006 at 5:29 am

Fascinating point about Spielberg… He filmed his first 4 theatrical features in scope (“Sugarland Express”, “Jaws”, “Close Encounters…” and “1941”) as well as all three Indiana Jones movies. In the last 15 years, only “Hook”, “Minority Report” and “Munich” have been released in 2.35:1 ratio. And “Hook” might have been his last true anamorphic scope release since both “Minority Report” and “Munich” utilized the Super 35 process (based on RKO’s old Superscope) which utilizes a flat negative from which a widescreen image is carved during the transfer process. This process has come into favor in recent years because new prints can be struck using the full 1.37:1 negative aspect for T.V. and full-screen video release. There is fascinating information on various widescreen processes at the widescreen museum website… though I’m sure that’s not news to many on this site.

pbubny on January 18, 2006 at 5:13 am

REndres' insight might explain why the screen seemed a tad larger for “Lawrence of Arabia,” which would have been projected in the 2.21 aspect ratio for Super Panavision, than it was when I saw “Apocalypse Now” here back in ‘79 (still one of the most stunning film experiences I’ve ever had, with the projection and sound having a lot to do with it). And here I thought it was all those desert vistas that only made it SEEM bigger!

Re the comments taking down the Ziegfeld for not being a true movie palace: Would it be fair to liken the Ziegfeld to, say, Avery Fisher Hall, in that both are the city’s “premier” venues for their particular purposes (AFH is after all the home base of the NY Philharmonic) and that both are roomy, sleek and efficient (except for AFH’s sometimes boomy acoustics), but not all that plush/ornate as compared to Carnegie Hall in AFH’s case or the Rivoli or Criterion in the case of the Ziegfeld?

chconnol on January 18, 2006 at 5:10 am

If the Ziegfeld ever closes, that’s it for movie going in NY. It will be the theatrical apocolypse (did I spell that right?). I mean it. We’ll be left with shoebox theaters and dwindling audiences.

And I love all this analysis and handwringing over why audience attendence is dwindling. The movies, by and large, are garbage. Even “King Kong” failed to ignite audiences. A large scale passionate remake of what was/is a B rate movie is not what audiences want right now.

RobertEndres on January 18, 2006 at 3:02 am

Actually, the Ziegfeld used a strip across the bottom of the screen when I worked there as a relief projectionist starting with “Close Encounters” in the ‘70’s. The screen height was the same for 1.85 35mm and 2.21 70mm ratios, but the bottom was masked to provide the correct 2.35 anamorphic aspect ratio. Perhaps they stopped doing that after I stopped working there in (I guess)the late '80’s, but they do have a good projection crew there, and since its a premiere house they do have to be able to meet studio specs for both film and digital presentations.

Mikeoaklandpark on January 18, 2006 at 1:55 am

Speaking of scope. We chatted here earlier about Steven Spielberg and why 99% of his fils are filmed inflat. I took a peak in one of the auditoriums where Munich was playing and extremly surpirsed to see he filmed that in scope.

Forrest136 on January 17, 2006 at 11:27 pm

I heard they are returning THE BAXTER for another week! lol

Movieguy718 on January 17, 2006 at 9:26 pm

Sometime in the early 90’s they started to mask the bottom of the screen for scope presentations. I recall seeing a “sneak preview” of Ghost (which was flat) and in those days you could stay for the regular feature afterwards which in this case was Days of Thunder (which was in scope) and during the interval, they opened up the side masking and a couple ushers carried in two long black strips that they used masked the bottom of the screen.
I also recall reading something around that time about people complaining that the screen at the Ziegfeld was too low and that audience heads were always blocking the screen… perhaps this was their response to that complaint. Who knows…
On another note – the quality of the presentation here has been on the upswing lately. The Island, Rent, The Producers, Tristan and Isolde, hell – even The Baxter were presented extremely well. It was pretty sketchy there for a while – sometimes worse than a third-rate multiplex. Good for them!
As you can probably tell, I’ll see any old crap they put up here. ANYTHING. I just don’t want them to close. The Astor Plaza was my house of choice, but now this is all we have left. Gotta support it.
I also heard that they will be doing a short program of revivals… anyone know details?

VincentParisi on January 3, 2006 at 10:41 am

I decided to see the original Producers at the Film Forum a few years back after having seen it innumerable times on TV since I was a boy.
I was not prepared for how wonderful it was. Zero and Gene on a movie screen are so brilliant that all those TV broadcasts now seem to have had them trapped in a cage. Next to them Lane and Broderick as someone has said are nothing more than understudies.
That being said I did see Zero 3 times in a Fiddler revival at the Winter Garden in the 70’s and he was awful. The least professional performance I have ever seen.
So why did I see it 3 times? Because it was a great production. The supporting cast and the rest were impeccable with the great staging and sets and costumes beautifully recreated.

umbaba on December 31, 2005 at 3:33 am

“The Producers” was horrible. A filmed stage play. Matthew Broderick was horrible and Nathan Lane didn’t register. Will ferrel was as annoying as ever and UMa (while georgeous) was OK. I imagine on the stage it was better with an audience BUT unfortunately the original movie is my ALL time favorite comedy so I was prejudiced. Nathan is no ZERO and Broderick is no Gene. The delivery and the comedy was just so effective….and NO, seeing it at a single screen would not have made a difference. No wonder the film is bombing.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 30, 2005 at 9:02 am

Went in to see “The Producers” at the Ziegfeld the other day – now that the prices have dropped back down to $10.75. I liked the movie and thought it was very entertaining. It isn’t much of a film, per se — as others have noted, it is basically a filmed version of the staged play. But as such, its existence is justified for preserving on film for all to see the dynamic pairing of Lane and Broderick and the inspired performances of Roger Bart and Tony-winner Gary Beach, who recreate their supporting stage roles here. Unfortunately, the equally impressive stage performances of Brad Oscar and Tony-winner Cady Huffman are left only to the memories of those lucky enough to have seen the original cast, but, we are compensated with excellent turns by Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman in their respective roles. I laughed nearly as hard and long as I did in the St. James Theater 4 years ago.

As for the theater itself… I went there with the thought of taking a fresh look at the decor and re-assessing my opinion of the place. It’s certainly not as horrible or tacky as it may have been in my memory and it is a wonderful space to enjoy a film – nice big screen, spacious auditorium, comfy seats – but it still stands in my estimation as an ersatz palace. The auditorium is a big box, not unlike those ‘60’s suburban standalone’s built by Century’s and Loew’s, but the walls are adorned with thick red-velvet carpeting and there is some decorative rope-like patterns of gold that break up the monotone. At either side of the screen (I wouldn’t call it a proscenium, exactly) there is a panel with a flourished “S”-shaped motif in relief and then there is the theater’s finest touch – the magnificent drapery and curtains. The photo posted above by HowardBHass on December 26th depicts all of this beautifully. It is a shame that the theater allows commercial slides to be projected on the screen between show times. It’s sort of absurd to watch as the traveling curtain is closed only to be opened again seconds later for the trailers. Actually, there are a series of annoying commercial spots that precede the trailers, but I try to forget about their existence.

Had I taken my camera along, I might have snapped some shots of some of the detail work that sets the theater apart from other modern-era houses. These include the detailing at the end of each row of seats along the aisles, the fanciful signs for the bathrooms (using a rendering of stylish early 20th Century footwear to identify each gender), and the chandeliers that hang from the ceilings in the various portions of the lobby. Too bad the lobby was designed with such segmentation and low ceilings. When one enters from street level, you are in a small square vestibule, where you’ll find the box office. Through another set of doors is the inner lobby where your ticket is ripped and you are sent along your way upstairs to the mezzanine foyer (where the restrooms and candy counter are located). You enter the auditorium on either side at the point where the orchestra seating ends and the raised rear stadium-style loge seating begins.

What might have really abetted the attempt at old time splendor would have been a more open atrium approach to the lobby design that might have showcased the handsome set of stairs used to get to the mezzanine foyer (there is also an escalator along the opposite wall that runs parallel to the stairs). At least there are those wonderful display cases along the lobby and staircase walls featuring vintage photos and posters from the previous Ziegfeld Theater as well as from various Ziegfeld presentations at other theaters (like the Selwyn and New Amsterdam).

Mikeoaklandpark on December 30, 2005 at 4:52 am

The one thing I noticed from Howard’s picture is tha masking is different. It never came down below the screen in the past. Maybe they did it becuase they don’t use those beautiful curtains.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 30, 2005 at 4:49 am

I think that the screen seemed so big a few years ago is because it was one of the biggest ones in town. But now that the newest multiplexes (Empire, Lincoln Square, E-walk, Kips Bay) have wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling screens, all the space around the Ziegfeld screen makes it seem smaller.

Butch on December 30, 2005 at 4:01 am

This is the same size screen the Ziegfeld always used, excopt for the temporary “Cinerama” installation. Side masking opens a few feet for scope presentations. Existing drapery treatment limits potential screen size.

Mikeoaklandpark on December 30, 2005 at 2:48 am

When did they put in a new screen. I agree they had a huge screen when I lived in NYC 76-82.

umbaba on December 30, 2005 at 2:30 am

Can anyone comment as to WHY the Ziegfeld installed such a narrow and smaller screen than the one they had years ago?? I remember seeing “Apocalypse Now” and thinking WOW…this is the largest screen I ever saw

Mikeoaklandpark on December 27, 2005 at 4:29 am

I felt they made it to slapstick almost like a Three Stoges movie.

ErikH on December 27, 2005 at 3:04 am

Reaction to “The Producers” from critics and audiences alike has been sharply divided. I prefer the stage version with Lane and Broderick (which I saw six times), but the film is enjoyable if you can accept the staginess of the presentation—-the film is an odd hybrid of a filmed stage production (such as the tv version of “Sweeney Todd”) and a movie.

In his review on “Ebert and Roeper,” Ebert said “I loved the play and liked the movie.” I agree.

Mikeoaklandpark on December 27, 2005 at 12:40 am

The movie is absolutely terrible.I love musicals and loved the broadway show, but this did not transfer well into a movie. Beleive me the people who paid $12.75 to see thismovvie were ripped off. If I was a critic, my review would have statrted like this.
Mel Brooks creattes majoy FLOP in Producers movies. I would have gien it *½ stars and only the half because Will Farrell is the best thing in the movie.

uncleal923 on December 26, 2005 at 6:06 pm

How is the Producers? I did not see it on Broadway and I would like to see the film at my local theater.

uncleal923 on December 26, 2005 at 6:04 pm

Try contacting cinematreasures.org from their ‘contact us’ link on the homepage.