Ziegfeld Theatre

141 West 54th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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dave-bronx™ on December 16, 2005 at 10:02 am

Wedding hall chic? I always thought of it as ‘New Orleans Whorehouse Chic’… at least in the lobby…

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 16, 2005 at 8:20 am

Stevebob… I wholeheartedly agree with you. This is certainly not a “movie palace” in the traditional sense of the phrase – but then, neither are probably more than 80% of the theaters listed on this site. The Ziegfeld is basically a larger more decked-out version of some of the more upscale suburban boxes that were built in the ‘60’s (like the Fox in East Setauket or the Loew’s Bay Terrace in Bayside). The seating is plush and there’s a sufficient amount of velvet and brocade trim for the theater to have passed as “elegant” in the '60’s and '70’s (sort of wedding-hall chic). I felt the same towards the former Astor Plaza, which was a bit less flashy than the Ziegfeld but shared with it the one virtue that made both places a rare treat for moviegoers, particularly as older theaters (the true palaces) were either multiplexed or razed in the '80’s and '90’s: an extraordinarily spacious single screen auditorium.

That’s still good enough reason to seek out the Ziegfeld when an interesting enough film is booked there. But, I would agree that there is nothing particularly palatial about the theater’s architectural merits and certainly nothing in its interior appointments to merit favorable comparison with true lost cinematic treasures like the Rivoli, Strand, Loew’s State or Roxy Theaters.

Edward Havens
Edward Havens on December 16, 2005 at 8:15 am

Sorry, SteveBob, but no one is pretending the Ziegfeld is anything more than it is. The last large single-screen cinema left in Manhattan.

I’ll repeat what I said in this comment section back in March of this year:

“So the Ziegfeld isn’t the greatest theatre that ever existed. So what? I’m 37 and most of the greatest theatres that did exist were torn down or mutilated in some way before I was born. Nothing I can do about that. A palace it may not be, but for what’s left in this city, I’ll take the Ziegfeld or the Beekman as many times as I can as long as they’re still here.”

Granted, the Beekman is gone, I’m now 38 and I’ve since moved back to Los Angeles, but the Ziegfeld was still a hell of a place to see a movie.

VincentParisi on December 16, 2005 at 7:57 am

Remember that way back in the fall of ‘70 when Lean’s first film since his greatest success Zhivago opened he chose not the Rivoli or Criterion two great epic theaters still intact in all their Time Square glory he chose the small screened tackily appointed Ziegfeld. From the very beginning this theater superseded all the others still standing and I will never know why. One of fate’s cruel jokes I suppose.

stevebob on December 16, 2005 at 7:28 am

I already posted this in response to the story about the exclusive engagement of “The Producers”, but I think it’s worth saying here too.

Sometimes I get a little sick of the devoted reverence shown to the
Ziegfeld Theater. Think about it — if it weren’t the only large single-screen house left in Manhattan, it would merit scant attention at all.

It is not a movie palace, was not built during the movie-palace era, and the decor is frankly tacky. (If you are a gay man of a certain age, you’ll probably agree that “piss elegant” is a perfect description for the style.) It is just a sad, sad joke when you consider the spectacular original Ziegfeld Theater it replaced.

Now, with the demise of the Astor Plaza, I will admit that I will choose to see a film at the Ziegfeld if possible simply because of the size of the house. That’s what it has going for it, and that’s all that it has going for it.

It is what it is. Let’s not pretend it’s something it’s not.

VincentParisi on December 12, 2005 at 3:53 am

That ad really brought me back. Imagine a full page film ad for one theater with a stylized logo the way ads often were in the Times' Arts and Leisure until the 70’s.

DonRosen on December 12, 2005 at 2:42 am

Nice “exclusive” New York Times ad for “The Producers”. They used the cursive script logo for The Ziegfeld Theatre. I don’t remember ever seeing that in an ad. I remember the Walter Reade font that every one of his theatres used.

RichHamel on December 5, 2005 at 2:26 am

The premiere for The Producers was there last night. It will run exclusive at the Ziegfeld beginning Dec. 16th.

Mikeoaklandpark on December 5, 2005 at 12:35 am

Is the theater closed again? UGH Rent is wonderful no reason for them not to do well with it.

Vito on December 3, 2005 at 1:00 am

Gustavelifting, I did not know that, I will go out and get a couple to share with the little ones. Of course when I showed hem “Dracula” and told them how scared I was watching it as a kid, they said “scary, your kidding right”? Ah, kids today, ya gotta love em.

uncleal923 on December 2, 2005 at 5:17 pm

Many of those serials are now on DVD.

Vito on December 1, 2005 at 7:51 am

I called my brother regarding the dish breaking thing, with me in the booth most of the time, he spent more time with the patrons than I did, and he told me that yes, on occassion some one would drop a dish, but it was usually accidental and the rest of the audience members would clap and cheer at the sound. Ed, you write about different days, and oh my goodness were they ever, not only did you get a free dish every Wednesday, but a double feature, a newsreel, a cartoon, and a chapter of the latest serial as well, and all for about twenty five cents. Of course many movie palaces offered eight acts of vaudeville too.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 1, 2005 at 3:26 am

My Dad grew up in The Bronx in the 1940’s and used to talk about dish nights and how at some point there’d be the sound of someone dropping their set followed by a responsive rise in the crowd. He grew up on 167th between Tiffany and Fox and most frequently mentioned the Loew’s Spooner and the Boulevard Theater as frequent destinations along with the occasional trip to the grand Loew’s Paradise on the Concourse. Those were certainly different days… and I wish I could’ve had a taste of the movie-going experience from back then.

Vito on December 1, 2005 at 1:53 am

Gustavelifting, no, can’t say that I had. Each week a new part of a compete set of dishes were given out, most people returned week after week in order to complete their set.

uncleal923 on November 30, 2005 at 5:18 pm

I heard tell many people would drop dishes during dish nights. Did that ever happen on your watch?

Vito on November 28, 2005 at 7:54 am

$2 Dave? Now I know I’m old, when I ushered it was 25 cents and we got free dishes every Monday and Wednesday. I gotta go take a nap now, where is that ole rockin chair anyway?

dave-bronx™ on November 28, 2005 at 7:34 am

When I started as an usher in 1968 tickets were about $2. An increase to $12.50 over nearly thirty-eight years is not unreasonable.

Mikeoaklandpark on November 28, 2005 at 6:56 am

Hopefully Rent will be a hit for the Ziegfeld. The movie is wonderful despite some negative reviews. I would have loved to have seen it at this theater.
I saw it here in NC at a new chain, Epic Theatres which is a top noche chain.(Unlike Carmike The Worst) They have 5 theaters so far and are building more in Florida. They recently purchased a small United Artist theater down the street from where they opened the areas first stadium seat theater.

Vito on November 23, 2005 at 3:35 am

Vincent make a very good point, most theatre owners and studio bosses would agree, todays movie prices are in line with the rising cost of just about everything today. Of course, some of my friends still scold me for the cost of tickets like it’s my fault.
Movie passes make great stocking stuffers!

chconnol on November 23, 2005 at 2:36 am

$12.50, eh? I remember my Mother being shocked, SHOCKED going to see “Rocky” at the big, old, grand Lynbrook theater and having to shell out a whopping $4.00.

VincentParisi on November 22, 2005 at 11:14 am

Well 12.50 for an exclusive engagement reserved seat is an absolute bargain. Remember My Fair Lady at the Criterion was $5.50 for the mezz in ‘64. That would without exageration would be close to $50 today(and if I could see that or Lawrence in 70mm today at the Criterion I’d pay it without blinking an eye.)
After all this was close to half the price of a top ticket to Dolly of Fiddler at the time and when you consider that tickets to musicals are $110 today it makes sense.
But then most seats in the orchestra today are premium prices which range from $250 to $500.
So if you wanted to sell a premium seat to a road show film this would cost you over $100. After all premium seating is simply legalized scalping.
$12.50 at the Ziegfeld in today’s loony pricing scheme when you come down to it is dirt cheap.

Vito on November 22, 2005 at 6:36 am

Ed, I second that, both screenigs I attended of The Producers had audiences going wild. Rent is another holiday must see. Going to see King Kong in two weeks, all three hours of it, hopefully it won’t be dissapointing. With Harry Potter raking in over 100 mill last weekend, my industry friends are telling me the holiday movie season is off to a great start. By the way, did you get a chance to meet Mel Brooks at one of the Producers screenings? he attended both of the ones I attended and was very gracious and a real cut up.

Edward Havens
Edward Havens on November 22, 2005 at 4:29 am

Well, I’ve seen Rent and The Producers, and both films are extremely entertaining. The Ziegfeld will be a glorious place to experience both.

chconnol on November 22, 2005 at 2:47 am

“The Producers” looks terrible and so does “Rent”. With a past loaded with great musicals, why the HELL can’t someone get it right? The arguement is that todays “kids” won’t believe the musical the way it used to be presented. WRONG. Kids by the millions watch non stop musicals all day on MTV and it’s various channels.

Pauline Kael once said in the late 60’s that the time then was ripe to create more musicals with the present (then) rock stars like Janis Joplin. That’s what made the musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s successful: they were populated with the top recording artists of the day (Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Crosby et. al.). That’s what the studios could do: setup a musical with one or many of today’s contemporary recording artists. This would probably not appeal to some of the older generation on this site (sorry…I do NOT mean this at all as an insult but it’s the truth…you’re not going to see or even want to see the likes of Britney Spears, Sheryl Crowe or a Justin Timberlake crooning a 50s ditty).

The studios lack the creative nerve to do something like this. If someone took the dare to create a really good musical, it would be a blockbuster. Christ, look at “Purple Rain” back in 1984. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea but it was pretty good.

Forrest136 on November 21, 2005 at 10:57 pm

HA! 12.50 will be here to stay in Manhattan! Another sneaky trick to raise prices and eventually chase more people away!