Best Buy Theater

1515 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Bway
Bway on October 3, 2005 at 7:01 am

Well, I visited the “Astor Plaza” Theater last night, although of course it is now the Nokia Theatre. (I know it may hurt, but I believe in keeping with the policy of this website, it may have to be changed above, and Unfortunately, “Astor Plaza” may now have to become the secondary name. Anyway, “closed/renovating” can also be changed to “open”.

Well, last night was the second night of the new theater. The new marquee was beautiful. My visit there was sort of bittersweet, as it’s a shame that it is no longer the Astor Plaza…but it is attractive. “Social Distortion” was the first band to open up the new Nokia Theatre, and that’s who I went to see. (they are also playing Tuesday and Wed of this week there).
The escalators look similar to the way it always was, but that’s where it ends. Everything is new, and nothing really remains of the old Astor Plaza. At the bottom of the escalators, is a bar area. Once inside the auditorium, it has been completely redone. The seats have been completely ripped out, and the front two tiers now has hardwood floors. This concert was general admission, so those two tiers are standing room, like most of this type of concerts are.
The rear back tier still has all the seats, but it was closed off from the first two tiers with thick blaock draperies.
The only thing I believe remains from the Astor Plaza are four huge round crystal chandeliers, and they were lit when we all came in, and during the breaks between the three bands that played there last night. They were out during the concert. There are also two VIP areas on either side of the stage, that are reached with two stairways on either side, from the second tier.
There is also another bar area down the hall, and a “concession area” selling stuff like chips and Snapple in another area. The hall is lined with attractive floral print carpet.
The place of course was fresh and brand new smelling, of course that was also muted a bit with the smell of alcohol. Strange seeing people walking around with alcohol and wave dancing in the middle of the Astor Plaza…
All told, again, it was sort of bittersweet being there last night, but must say the Nokia Theatre is attractive. At least it’s still some sort of theater, even if a concert venue. It’s better than being cut up into retail space. It’s in good hands, even if not the beloved Astor Plaza anymore.

BobT
BobT on August 10, 2005 at 3:14 pm

Now that was a great marquee. Not grand and splashy like the magnificent El Capitan, but you could see this sucker all way from 8th Avenue to across Times Square. Or if you wanted to know what was at The Astor Plaza, you could tune into “Good Morning America” and see it across the street. I’ll always miss this theatre. I even worked for the company that would do the marquee panels and one sheet/lobby card displays in the alley shared with The Minskoff (that’s the 45th Street marquee for “Saturday Night Fever” peaking out on the left side of the picture). I used to love hanging those on Friday mornings on a new playdate.

br91975
br91975 on August 9, 2005 at 8:49 am

More about the Nokia Theatre, from the venue’s website. What’s below is fairly redundant in comparison to the Billboard.com piece, but it does add a few new details and some additional information…

Nokia Theatre Times Square will bring entertainment’s hottest performers to New York’s most famous destination when the new 2100-capacity concert venue, developed and operated by AEG LIVE, officially opens this September. Nokia Theatre Times Square, located at 1515 Broadway, the corner of Broadway and 44th Street in the Viacom/MTV building, will be an innovative, multi-use theater that can be transformed to accommodate a wide array of events including concerts, live television and web broadcasts, live recordings, award shows and cocktail receptions. Currently undergoing a $21 million renovation in the former Loews Astor Plaza movie theatre, the theatre will have a capacity that ranges from 1500 â€" 2100 depending on the event. Tickets for upcoming shows at Nokia Theatre Times Square will be available at www.nokiatheatrenyc.com, through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at (212) 307-7171.

“As I consider myself a ‘programmer’ at heart, it’s hard to get excited about any venue, however, that all changed when I stood on the new stage at Nokia Theatre Times Square,” said Randy Phillips, President & CEO, AEG LIVE. “Our team of ‘industry experts’ has created a very special, unique, spectacular theatre and environment that the artists will clearly appreciate and fall in love with. It is truly the perfect marriage of brilliant talent, incredibly clear and balanced acoustics and unparalleled sightlines blended together in a completely consumer friendly and interactive environment at the “World’s best known address.”

David Rockwell, the award winning architect and designer, and the Rockwell Group are the architects and designers of Nokia Theatre Times Square. It is a theatre that was designed to be user-friendly and give both the fans and artists an overall superior event and concert experience. The auditorium will feature two VIP mezzanines with lounge seating, a state of the art in-house lighting system and an in-house sound system by JBL. Backstage there will be luxury dressing room suites with full bathrooms including showers, flat-screen TV’s and wireless Internet capabilities for band and crew. There will also be a Green room that will be able to seat 30 band, crew and VIP’s, a warming pantry that will tailor to the artists specific catering and cooking needs.

The Nokia Theatre Times Square marquee is an 85 foot long LED, high definition screen, capable of displaying both live and digital video. It is one of the largest marquees on Broadway, directly connected to the MTV marquee and is manufactured by Mitsubishi. It will have interactive text messaging capabilities with the fans and live events will be able to be broadcast live from the stage directly to the marquee in real time. Distributed throughout the venue will be five media panels that will terminate at the marquee, allowing electronic media outlets to plug directly into the marquee to access live footage from inside the theatre. The theatre is also wired directly to the MTV studios.

Included in the theatre will be the Nokia Lounge which will provide a relaxing atmosphere where guests and fans will have the opportunity to charge their wireless phones, get hands-on experience with new Nokia products and services, download mobile content like games, videos and ring tones and enter promotions among other activities. In addition, Studio Red, a division of Rockwell Group, have created a three dimensional connection between great entertainment and the Nokia Mobile experience with the Nokia Lounge, Vision Wall and equalizer.

The Nokia Theatre Times Square is a further expansion of the existing relationship between Nokia and AEG. The partnership already encompasses Nokia Theatre Los Angeles, a recently announced 7,000-seat theater in an AEG -developed sports & entertainment district in downtown Los Angeles, Club Nokia a 2,500 concert venue, also in the district and Nokia Theatre at Grand Prairie (Texas), a 6,000 seat theatre.

br91975
br91975 on August 9, 2005 at 8:43 am

From Billboard.com…

Nokia Comes To Broadway

August 03, 2005, 12:00 PM ET

Nokia Theatre Times Square To Open In Sept.
By Ray Waddell, Nashville

The 2,100-capacity Nokia Theatre Times Square, AEG’s newest concert venue, will open in September. Tickets for many shows are already set to go on sale Aug. 12.

The venue is being developed and operated by AEG subsidiary AEG Live, who spent nearly $21 million renovating the old Loews Theatre at 1515 Broadway in Times Square.

The debut lineup includes Social Distortion (Oct. 1-5), Nickel Creek (Oct. 7), Steve Winwood (Oct. 10), Danzig (Oct. 17), Norm MacDonald (Oct. 20), Les Claypool (Oct. 21), Rusted Root (Oct. 22), Slipknot (Oct. 30-Nov. 1), Hanson (Nov. 2), Switchfoot (Nov. 3), Simple Plan (Nov. 8-9), Bauhaus (Nov. 11-12), Pat Green/Dierks Bentley/Cross Canadian Ragweed (Nov. 14), Coheed and Cambria (Nov. 16-17), Guster (Nov. 18-19), the Meters (Nov. 25), Donovan (Dec. 1), Rick Springfield (Dec. 2), and Brad Paisley with Sara Evans and Sugarland (Dec. 7).

In an earlier interview, AEG CEO Tim Leiweke told Billboard.biz building such theaters was a high priority “simply because if you look at the music business, there aren’t a lot of new artists that can fill up an arena. Realistically, some of the best music today is [by] people like Norah Jones or Alicia Keys that are more suited for the intimacy of a 6,000- to 7,000-seat theater. So we are clearly focused on trying to build these, and that’s going to continue to be a high priority for our company.”

Designer David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group are the architects and designers of Nokia Theatre Times Square. The auditorium will feature two VIP mezzanines with lounge seating, a state of the art in-house lighting system and an in-house sound system by JBL. Backstage there will be luxury dressing room suites with full bathrooms including showers, flat-screen TV’s and wireless Internet capabilities for band and crew. There will also be a green room that will be able to seat 30 band, crew and VIP’s, a warming pantry that will tailor to the artists specific catering and cooking needs.

The Nokia Theatre Times Square marquee is an 85 foot long LED, high definition screen, capable of displaying both live and digital video. It is one of the largest marquees on Broadway, directly connected to the MTV marquee and is manufactured by Mitsubishi. It will have interactive text messaging capabilities with the fans and live events will be able to be broadcast live from the stage directly to the marquee in real time.

Distributed throughout the venue will be five media panels that will terminate at the marquee, allowing electronic media outlets to plug directly into the marquee to access live footage from inside the theatre. The theatre is also wired directly to the MTV studios.

The Nokia Theatre Times Square is a further expansion of the existing relationship between Nokia and AEG. The partnership already encompasses Nokia Theatre Los Angeles, a recently announced 7,000-seat theater in an AEG -developed sports & entertainment district in downtown Los Angeles, Club Nokia a 2,500 concert venue, also in the district on downtown L.A., and Nokia Theatre at Grand Prairie (Texas), a 6,000 seat theatre.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on July 20, 2005 at 11:33 am

According to the renderings on the site listed above by br91975, they have built balconies along the side walls of the auditorium. Also in the description it states the theatre will have a capacity of 2100, but they omit the word ‘seats’. Another of the renderings shows the orchestra and the audience appears to be standing. Apparently the space will have the ability to be reconfigured for different functions, i.e., concert hall, banquet hall, etc. It is interesting that the architect of the Nokia Theatre is David Rockwell/Rockwell Group, a firm Loews engaged on a number of their newer plexes.

br91975
br91975 on July 20, 2005 at 7:15 am

The website for the Nokia Theatre is up-and-running @ http://www.nokiatheatrenyc.com/; there isn’t much to look at as of now, save for one sketch prominently featuring the new marquee (which, in reality, is still largely covered by scaffolding), and another partial one of the auditorium.

moviesmovies
moviesmovies on July 14, 2005 at 10:51 pm

Saw Ken Russell’s ‘Altered States’ here.

RobertR
RobertR on July 5, 2005 at 7:07 pm

Here is the ad for the film everyone remembers the Astor Plaza for
View link

br91975
br91975 on July 5, 2005 at 3:14 pm

…and it’s, at least in part (from what I saw a couple of weeks ago), a marquee of the LED variety.

William
William on July 5, 2005 at 2:40 pm

Well the new marquee for the Nokia Theatre is up and running now.

jph
jph on June 18, 2005 at 7:54 am

The scaffolding over the theatre says that the Nokia is “coming fall 2005.” Any word on a date?

Coate
Coate on June 18, 2005 at 6:01 am

The Astor Plaza was among the theatres included in the original limited-market launch of “Star Wars.” Opening-day gross at Astor Plaza was $20,322.

Source: Daily Variety (5/27/77).

br91975
br91975 on June 8, 2005 at 11:17 am

Any word, William, on how the increase in seating capacity is being facilitated?

William
William on June 8, 2005 at 10:47 am

Just alittle information on the new theatre the former screen area has been moved forward 50 feet into the old front rows of the theatre to make a stage area and back stage areas now.
It’s coming along.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 25, 2005 at 10:13 pm

Here’s a page from Variety dated June 1, 1977, reporting the astronomical first week’s box office grosses for “Star Wars” at the Astor Plaza:

View link

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 25, 2005 at 10:35 am

On this day 28 years ago, “Star Wars” opened at the Astor Plaza. Today I’m wearing my “May the Force Be With You” button which was given out to all patrons that night. Tonight I’ll be wearing it to the Ziegfeld where Episode III is now playing, but I’ll pass by the Astor Plaza site on my way home for old times' sake.

br91975
br91975 on May 17, 2005 at 10:35 am

Some remembrances of the Astor Plaza – and some movie theatres of Times Square past and present, along with a few inaccuracies (the Crowne Plaza, which is one block north, being noted as having replaced the Warner Twin/Strand; the current Roxy Delicatessen is actually located a couple of doors down on Broadway between 46th/47th from the one located in the former lobby of the since-demolished Movieland): http://www.awfulagent.com/misc/astor.html The flaws in the piece notwithstanding, it’s a nice overall tribute.

br91975
br91975 on April 25, 2005 at 2:12 pm

Given how Loews operates its theatres, that wouldn’t have been a shock… ;–)

jbels
jbels on April 25, 2005 at 2:05 pm

Managed to get into one of the early shows of Titanic during the first day of its run. After that, it was a very tough ticket at this theatre, as they could only show a few a day with its running length. Also saw an early show of Bringing Out The Dead, and there were only a handful of people for that. When the film flips upside down (intentionally) I thought there was something wrong with the projection

ErikH
ErikH on April 15, 2005 at 7:34 am

I also caught “Eyes Wide Shut” at the Astor Plaza. I went to a screening during the opening weekend, before the bad word of mouth had begun to circulate. The Times Square crowd was clearly expecting something of a more titillating nature—-starting at about the 30 minute mark, people in the audience began yelling at the screen (“What the *&# is this?” etc.). One of my more memorable moviegoing experiences.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on April 15, 2005 at 4:22 am

Ahh – the old bathroom question – Theatres designed by office building architects have that problem – they don’t recognize there is a different usage pattern in a theatre and use the standard office building formula for determining the configuration of the restrooms. If the client isn’t on the ball, or doesn’t consider the ‘facilities’ a priority (or if the client isn’t the operator of the theatre), you end up with what the Astor and Ziegfeld had/has. The old time architects like Lamb, Eberson, the Rapp brothers, specialized in theatres and understood these things – those old palaces always had plenty of potties.

hardbop
hardbop on April 14, 2005 at 11:43 am

I patronized the Astor Plaza and remember catching Coppolla’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” here and remember people clapping after the movie.

Also, Warner Brothers quietly released (dumped) Kubrick’s 2001 into theatres in 2001 (I heard they were contractually obligated to re-release it in ‘01) and I caught it here. That was a treat to see it in a “movie palace” or what passed for a movie place in NYC in '01.

And when they re-released Friedkin’s director’s cut of “The Exorcist” it played at the Astor Plaza.

I also caught Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” here the day it opened.

Also caught “Platoon” here the day after it opened to Canby’s rave review in the Times. I remember going to the first show on Saturday and then there was a huge crowd in the lobby waiting to get into the second show. A real vibe in the theatre that day.

One problem with the Astor Plaza (and the Ziegfeld)is the fact that there was only one bathroom in a theatre of that size. What were they thinking when they designed these theatres?

Theatrefan
Theatrefan on April 6, 2005 at 6:07 am

In the Star Wars Trilogy Bonus Material DVD, there is a documentary called: “The Force is With Them – The Legacy of Star Wars. In this documentary is a shot of the Loews Astor Plaza Marquee with a huge line of people waiting to see the first Star Wars film. The Marquee shows the name "LOEWS” all in caps on top, with the original Star Wars logo underneath. It must have been an awesome experience for the folks waiting on this line in 1977. It’s a shame we won’t have the same pleasure of seeing Episode III Revenge of the Sith at the Loews Astor Plaza.

Vito
Vito on March 28, 2005 at 7:08 am

dave, that was the practice for a long time. Films were rarely shot in 65/70mm, the cost was just too much. However a 70mm blow up is still better than no 70mm at all, I suppose.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on March 28, 2005 at 6:56 am

70mm was worth going out of your way to see only if the film was actually shot in 70mm. In the mid-80s we played a couple of films at Cinema I, the titles of which escape me at this moment, that although we had a 70mm print, it was shot in 35mm. The studios objective was to take advantage of the 6-track mag soundtrack in the pre-digital days. The projected image of this type of print was, to me anyway, always a little grainy.