Roxy Theatre

153 W. 50th Street,
New York, NY 10020

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Vito on February 27, 2005 at 1:28 am

Warren, give em a second chance, overall it’s a good channel. Sometimes between movies you can catch some great trailers,shorts and ole Movietone news clips. Of course it can not compare to TCM, but those pre 60s Technicolor prints look fabulous. One thing I wish they would do, and that is show overtures, leaving in the original intermission with entrance and exit music. “South Pacific”, for example, is shown naked, while TCM recently showed it fully dressed.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 26, 2005 at 11:35 am

Thank God for that! I complained to FMC by e-mail, but they never gave me the courtesy of a reply.

Vito on February 26, 2005 at 11:02 am

Warren, that’s a special airing that only plays once in a while, most of the movies are not presented that way and when they are, the movie will also show soon before or after without that silly stuff.
FMC presents the movies with very good prints and usually letterbox.
It’s the second best movie channel on cable but lacks the charm and
movie knowledge of the incomparable Robert Osburne.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 26, 2005 at 5:52 am

The last time that I tried to watch a “letterbox” movie on FMC, “The Valley of the Dolls,” they kept flashing production information about the movie across the bottom of the screen! It became so annoying that I finally stopped watching after about ten minutes. Is this standard practice on TMC? I think it’s appalling. How can one concentrate on the movie with something like “Jackie Susann received $1 million for the screen rights” or the career hightlights of one of the stars suddenly popping up?

Vito on February 25, 2005 at 12:18 pm

Thanks Warren for the great post, I worked for 20th Century Fox during the 50s and attended every one of those movies. Now I watch them in letterbox on Fox movie channel.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 25, 2005 at 6:56 am

The Roxy followed “The Robe” with the CinemaScope “Beneath the 12 Mile Reef,” which opened December 16, 1953 and grossed only $88,000 in its first week (blamed on pre-Christmas shopping). In its second week (including the holidays), business surged to $102,500. At the same time, RCMH grossed $150,000 and $181,000 with its Christmas stage-and-screen show, which included Esther Williams' “Easy to Love.” The Roxy continued with a movie only until December, 1955. All of those movies were in CinemaScope, and all but two were from 20th Century-Fox. The titles and opening dates are:
“Hell and High Water,” February 1, 1954
“New Faces,” February 19
“Night People,” March 12
“Prince Valiant,” April 6
“River of No Return,” April 30
“Three Coins in the Fountain,” May 20
“Demetrius & the Gladiators,” June 18
“Broken Lance,” July 29
“The Egyptian,” August 24
“Woman’s World,” September 28
“Black Widow,” October 27
“Desiree,” November 17
“There’s No Business Like Show Business,” December 16
“The Racers,” February 4, 1955
Columbia’s “Three For The Show,” February 24
“Untamed,” March 11
“A Man Called Peter,” March 31
“Daddy Long Legs,” May 5
“Soldier of Fortune,” May 27
Disney’s “Lady and The Tramp,” June 23
“How To Be Very, Very Popular,” July 22
“The Virgin Queen,” August 5
“Love Is A Many Splendored Thing,” August 18
“The Left Hand of God,” September 21
“Seven Cities of Gold,” October 7
“The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing,” October 19
“The View From Pompey’s Head,” November 4
“Good Morning, Miss Dove,” November 23
“The Rains of Ranchipur” & resumption of stage shows, December 15

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 25, 2005 at 5:42 am

I don’t know the schedule of shows for “The Robe.” You’d have to look in the newspaper advertising for that period. But the movie alone ran two hours and 15 minutes, so a complete show was probably at least two and a half hours if they included a newsreel and short subject.

VincentParisi on February 25, 2005 at 5:19 am

Warren, How many times a day did the Robe play at the Roxy? Were there extra early morning perfs and what about midnight showings? At the Hall there were only 4 complete perfs a day.

To Paulb what films did you see at the Plaza? The Ziegfeld in NY is only 50 ft! But I seem to be the only one that finds that lame.

Vito on February 25, 2005 at 5:14 am

I would like to add my thoughts about CinemaScope screen size.
Let us not forget the main object of anarmorphic or large format photography, and that is to enable the director to photograph a larger area on a single frame. In my opnion, although screen size does enhance the viewing of the image,it may not be the most important aspect. I offer the example of watching a movie in a letterbox version, the screen need not be large to enjoy the advantage of a film shot in an anamorphic process.

PAULB on February 25, 2005 at 5:05 am

Regarding CINERAMA and Cinemascope screen widths, here in Sydney Australia we had the 1300 seat single level PLAZA. The Cinerama screen installed there in 1958 was a wall-to wall head swivelling 91ft wide. It closed in 1977.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 25, 2005 at 4:50 am

On 12/31/04, I did the Roxy an injustice by claiming that the Music Hall always out-grossed it. There were times when the reverse was true, most notably in September, 1953, when the Roxy set a “world’s record” with an opening week’s gross of $264,500 for the CinemaScoped “The Robe” (sans stage show). In the same period, RCMH, then in its fourth week of “Roman Holiday” (with stage show) grossed $122,000, according to the boxoffice reports in Variety. Furthermore,“The Robe” ran 13.5 weeks at the Roxy and grossed a total of $1.63 million, both claimed as “all-time highs” for any large, mainstream movie theatre.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 24, 2005 at 2:26 pm

The last “combo” show at the Roxy before it switched to movies only with the September, 1953 introduction of CinemaScope was “Mister Scoutmaster” (incongrously starring the homosexual Clifton Webb in the title role!) and the Ice Colorama stage revue, “Dude Ranch Round-Up.” After an unprofitable first week, the Roxy dropped the stage show for the second and final week, and replaced it with the first NYC showing of “Vicki.” The double feature of “Mister Scoutmaster” & “Vicki” may have been the Roxy’s first. The only other that I know of is the reissued “On the Waterfront” & “The Caine Mutiny,” which was the Roxy’s next-to-last booking before it closed forever in 1960.

veyoung52 on February 24, 2005 at 2:00 pm

It’s all dependent on the size of the auditorium. Both the Roxy’s and the RCMH’s original CinemaScope screen were larger than the Broadway’s original Cinerama screen. However, the effect was much more startling at the Broadway. There are pictures of both the original CinemaScope and Todd-AO screens at the Rivoli on the American WideScreen Museum site.

VincentParisi on February 24, 2005 at 12:34 pm

When I saw 7 Brides at the Hall in the late 70’s it seemed larger than the Panavision or 70mm screen there. It was huge. I can’t even begin to imagine what 90 to 100 ft Cinerama screens were like. Now I’m beginning to think that the 60ft Todd AO screen at the Rivoli was on the small side.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 24, 2005 at 12:07 pm

In his 9/17/53 NYT review of “The Robe,” Bosley Crowther said that the Roxy’s CinemaScope screen measured 68 feet wide by 24 feet high. Four months later, in his review of “Knights of the Round Table” at Radio City Music Hall, Crowther reported RCMH’s CinemaScope screen as 70 feet wide by 28 feet high, so it was just slightly larger than the Roxy’s.

VincentParisi on February 23, 2005 at 6:34 am

So what was the size of the Roxy screen from 27 til 53? Then what was the size of the Cinemascope screen that people were overwhelmed by?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 23, 2005 at 6:12 am

According to a New York Times article when the Roxy first opened, situating the projection booth in the first balcony permitted a “throw” of only 104 feet to the screen. If, as in most theatres, the booth had been placed at the back of the last row of top balcony seats, the Roxy’s “throw” would have been 204 feet…Also, the Roxy’s stage level was one floor below that of the street, which meant that people in orchestra seats did not have to look up at the stage but straight in front of them.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 14, 2005 at 9:29 am

When the Roxy celebrated its 25th anniversary in March, 1952, it was reported that attendance since opening day had amounted to 107,067,319, and that 749 movie/stage shows had been presented. The average yearly attendance was 4,282,692, or roughly 82,359 per week or 11,766 daily. That quarter of a century, of course, included the depths of the Depression and the heights of the WWII period, so the averages may seem extreme if applied to specific years.

VincentParisi on February 14, 2005 at 5:01 am

Concerning Veyoungs comment I believe it was Harry and Walter go to New York that put Radio City on showcase in ‘76. You would think they could have gotten better movies if they were so flexible.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 13, 2005 at 6:17 am

Movie theatres with balconies often had a segregated section at the front called the “loge” where seats were bigger and wider spaced. Loge tickets were always priced higher than general admission, from maybe 25 to 50 cents or even $1, depending upon time of day. I think that until the 1930s, loges were also the only places where patrons were permitted to smoke in many theatres, which was another justification for the higher price. Eventually, smoking was also permitted in all upstairs seating. I think the opening of RCMH broke that barrier. You could smoke in any of the RCMH mezzanines. Right after that, the Roxy, Capitol, Paramount, Strand, etcetera, also permitted upstairs smoking everywhere…In the “old days,” movie theatres, regardless of rank, always had a sliding scale of admission prices. From opening until 5 or 6PM, it would be cheaper than in the evening. Weekday performances were cheaper than those on weekends. On Saturday night, and all of Sunday and holidays, the highest prices prevailed. Children under 12 usually paid half the adult price. There were no discounts for seniors.

Benjamin on February 12, 2005 at 5:56 pm

Warren: interesting point! But, just to illustrate the complexity of the “problem” when one tries to do valid cost comparisons, I would think that the ticket prices for the first run road shows would also vary by location. And since BoxOfficeBill’s original comment was about the price of standing room — which also depends upon one’s location — the comparison between these three still holds.

But, as you point out, it is important to remember that Radio City Music Hall (and I’m guessing, the Roxy too) also offered many, many seats (in fact, the vast majority of seats) at a lower price, one that should also be brought into the “equation” — as they are comparable to the seats offered at first run non roadshow theaters and at neighborhood movie houses.

I’m assuming (but am not really sure) that first run, non roadshow Times Sq. theaters and neighborhood theaters, like the Valencia, had a single price policy for seats throughout the theater (depending, of course, on the time of day). So at the Valencia, for instance, a seat cost at a particular time of day cost the same price whether you sat in the orchestra, the loge or the balcony (which allowed, I believe, smoking).

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 12, 2005 at 6:38 am

Some of the admission prices cited for RCMH are misleading. The high end was for reserved seats in the first mezzanine, which held only about 900 seats. The remaining 5,100 seats were “general admission” and priced probably for at least $1 less than that, no matter where you sat.

veyoung52 on February 11, 2005 at 9:00 pm

Why do i seem to remember that it all started to go way downhill when Universal-International booked a film into the Hall (I think “Swashbuckler” was the feature) and also opened it simultaneously in the boroughs, or at least, Long Island? RCMH no longer was “exclusive.” Someone pls enlighten me on this.

Benjamin on February 11, 2005 at 6:02 pm

BoxOfficeBill: Thanks for all that terrific pricing info. With regards to the 1956 prices, I assume “Around the World in 80 Days” at the Rivoli was a “hard ticket” roadshow engagement. If so, then it would seem that for all three years, 1956, 1960 and 1964, roadshows had the highest “top” tickets ($3.50, $3.50, and $5.50); Radio City Music Hall, or the Roxy, had the second highest priced top tickets ($2.50, $2.75 and $2.75) and first run, non-roadshow theaters had the third highest priced top tickets ($2.00, $2.00 and $2.00). I assume the neighborhood theater prices I remember from around 1960 (which I’m guessing were top priced tickets for a neighborhood theater like the Valencia, Alden or Merrick), $1.00 for adults and $.50 for children, would then have been the fourth highest priced ticket.

I think I now see your point about standing room ($2.00, in the evening) being equivalent to the price of a movie — a first run, non roadshow movie in Times Sq. ($2.00 in the evening). That is a bargain, especially when you consider that standing room is right on the orchestra level, right behind the last row of seats where, in 1960, people were paying around $9.00 (for Friday or Saturday evenings).

Although it’s possible, I tend to doubt that I ever received a questionnaire from you as I think that would have been a “big thing” to a kid like me, and I don’t remember something like that happening. Actually this is the first I ever recall hearing about such a polling project — sounds interesting.

And thanks for the info on “El Cid”! I vaguely recall seeing it with my class in the springtime (which is also a “natural” time for a class trip of that sort). In any case, “spring of 1962” makes it a grade school trip, instead of a junior high trip as I had thought — pretty “neat” for a grade school trip!

I looked up the McCourt book and hope to at least take a look at those pages when I get the chance.

BoxOfficeBill on January 28, 2005 at 12:56 pm

Benjamin— You were an active theater-goer in ’61, the year most of those plays opened (perhaps I foisted a Playbill questionnaire upon you at one time?). For standee prices, the years I referred to were ‘56-’64, when I patrolled the terrain on active duty (so-to-speak). And during this time, expenses remained agreeably constant. I would think of the estimates you cite as those at neighborhood movie houses.

Variety lists the following scale [the first figure represents morning or matinee prices; the second, evening prices] for first-run houses in Dec. ’56: the Roxy, $1.25-$2.50 for “Anastasia” with stage show; the Astor, $.75-$2.00 for “The Mountain”; the Rivoli, $1.25-$3.50 for “Around the World etc.” roadshow. In Dec. ‘60 prices held steady: RCMH, $.90-$2.75 for “The Sundowners” (the Roxy had closed the previous Spring; prices for “Li’l Abner,” its final Christmas show, were $.90-$2.50); at the Astor, $.75-$2.00 for “Inherit the Wind”; at the Rivoli, $1.50-$3.50 for “The Alamo” roadshow. In Dec. ’64 tickets went for $.95-$2.75 at RCMH for “Charade”; $1.25-$2.00 at the Astor for “Lillies of the Field”; and $2.50-$5.50 at the Rivoli for “Cleopatra” roadshow. I could be mistaken, but I remember standee prices as likewise stable (my tight, tight budget made me acutely aware of these costs).

I know of no public or parochial schools that made live theater so lavishly available to young students. That proved wonderful for you! And I know of no special deals for school-groups at the Roxy or elsewhere. I do recall that some Catholic elementary schools arranged upper-grade outings (at regular prices paid by interested students) to Christmas and Easter shows at RCMH. I also recall that at RCMH, regardless of the season, you’d always see habit-clad nuns attending morning performances; because of their obstructive wimples, they sat self-effacingly in the rear orchestra rows. Perhaps the Chancery at nearby St. Patrick’s had struck a deal for clergy prices (doable as long as the picture got a General Patronage nod from the Legion of Decency, no?). “El Cid” opened at the Warner on 14 Dec. ’61. James McCourt writes of standees celebrating the Roxy in “Mawrdew Czgowchwz” (first ed., p. 23; 2nd ed., p. 17). I lack the grace of commitment.