Radio City Music Hall

1260 6th Avenue,
New York, NY 10020

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vindanpar on February 22, 2017 at 10:54 pm

The new ad of Odd Couple made me think of when I was a doorman there in ‘76 an usher supervisor who was working at the Roxy before he moved to the Music Hall when it opened told me there were as many patrons on the last day as there had been on the first 14 weeks before.

A ticket seller told me that it was the last film where the work was unrelenting. When I was there it seemed there were only a few hundred people there a performance and this was the Easter show. And a drearier Easter film the Music Hall never had had. And what was really sad was That’s Entertainment Part II was playing a few blocks north at the Ziegfeld when it would have been beautiful in widescreen and Technicolor on the large Music Hall screen and a real colorful holiday film.

Somebody brilliant at the Hall thought a dreary brown, green and gray revisionist telling of the Robin Hood story of Robin and Marian in sad tired middle age would appeal to the Music Hall audience looking for holiday entertainment. At long Last Love was a masterpiece in comparison. At least the photography was splendid. The best looking first run film I saw there in the 70s.

And the spring stage show after the Glory of Easter was in black and white! They were clearly intentionally driving the Hall into the ground.

rcdt55b on February 22, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Before I forget, here are the upcoming movies coming to Radio City…..

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert March 31st or April 1st

Tribeca Film Festival April 19th and April 29th

vindanpar on January 4, 2017 at 1:59 am

Concerning EdBlanks comment it was why I said I found it on Wikipedia because I know of their unreliability. But just because it is on there it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong either.

I also know that somebody like AlAlvarez knows how to find fairly arcane information concerning film distribution and can put the record straight.

I just hope the guy who booked a condemned rated film for a Christmas show wasn’t sacked. But then he was probably the same guy who booked the equally licentious and morally corrupting The Odd Couple 35 years later.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 2, 2017 at 6:03 pm

According to the ratings started in 1933 but were only available to Catholics who enquired at the time. According to the New York Times, the public postings of film ratings by the Catholic Legion of Decency started on December 16, 1934. (NYT, Dec 7, 1934). So, although it was not common knowledge, the film was already “Condemned” by the Legion when it showed at RCMH that Christmas, as it made their first “Condemned” listing in 1933.

edblank on January 2, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Al, “Flying Down to Rio” was rated A-3 several years ago. It was never rated before. Indeed, it was released three years before the Legion of Decency came into existence (1936).

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 2, 2017 at 4:53 pm

“Original Poster”. He was commenting on the ad in the photo section for “FLYING DOWN TO RIO” being a Christmas booking while condemned by the Legion of Decency.

edblank on January 2, 2017 at 4:48 pm

What is OP, Al?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 2, 2017 at 1:26 pm

The OP was about “FLYING DOWN TO RIO”. I took a quick look on IMDB and found a long thread on the many sexual double entendre comments in the film’s dialogue as well as a rather graphic see-through chorus line on an airplane wing.

edblank on January 2, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Anyone can post anything on Wikipedia, which is why in the newspaper business we were never allowed to quote or take any unverified information from there. The misinformation quotient makes it unreliable.

edblank on January 2, 2017 at 8:29 am

The only one of those movies that was “C” (condemned) was “Never on Sunday.” “Psycho” and “Some Like It Hot” were “B.” “Spartacus” was A-3. Most of the “Carry On” films were A’s rather than B’s. Although I have the original ratings book, this information is readily available on the Internet. I did monitor it closely as a kid as the ratings came out every two weeks as I recall.

edblank on January 1, 2017 at 2:09 pm

“The Last Temptation of Christ” also received an “O” rating, with this explanation: “Deeply flawed screen adaptation of the Nikos Kazantzakis novel probing the mystery of the human nature of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fails because of artistic inadequacy rather than anti-religious bias. Director Martin Scorsese’s wrong-headed insistence on gore and brutality, as well as a preoccupatiuon with sexual rather than spirtual love, is compounded by screenwriter Paul Schrader’s muddled script, shallow characterizations and flat dialogue delivered woodenly by William Dafoe in the title role. Excessively graphic violence, several sexually explicit scenes and some incidental nudity.” (O) ® ( 1988 )

The “pledge” taken in Catholic churches annually for many years was a generalized agreement not to support “indecent” entertainment. It did not carry specific penalties for Catholics.

edblank on January 1, 2017 at 2:05 pm

“Rosemary’s Baby” received an “O” (morally offensive)rating from the National Catholic Officer of Motion Pictures, successor to the Legion of Decency. The “C” rating (condemned) had been discarded. Here’s the official explanation: “Modern-day horror story about a young husband (John Cassavetes) who turns his wife (Mia Farrow), body and soul, over to the next-door neighbors, a coven of witches (led by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) so she can become the mother of Satan Incarnate. Directed by Roman Polanski, the production values are topnotch and performances completely chilling, but the movie’s inverted Christian elements denigrate religious beliefs. Brief nudity. (O) ® ( 1968 )

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on January 1, 2017 at 10:58 am

I believe “Rosemary’s Baby” was also condemned.

In 1988 my dad went to a weekly Catholic Mass where he was asked to take a pledge that he would not go see Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ”. That immediately made him want to see it, which he did. And he liked it.

edblank on December 31, 2016 at 10:30 am

Not again! The Legion of Decency (LOD)is regularly cited for condemning (“C” rating) the most innocuous movies. Even the hallowed TCM runs documentaries in which some blithering idiot of another accuses the LOD of condemning some classic such as “Singin' in the Rain” or “Miracle on 34th Street” when in fact some were rated “B” (objectionable in part) for such reasons as “suggestive costuming and dance,” “reflects the acceptability of divorce” or “low moral tone.” There was no pressure on even Catholics to avoid such “B-rated” films. Period. The ratings were for Catholics and reflected the more stringent moral code of their era. It was extremely rare for a major American movie to carry a “C” rating. “Baby Doll” was one, “Kiss Me, Stupid” another. The National Catholic Office of Motion Pictures, a later identity for the LOD, rated “The Odd Couple” A-III for “some sexual references.”

vindanpar on December 30, 2016 at 10:46 am

According to Wikipedia the Music Hall’s first Christmas movie which was just posted by Comfortably Cool received a Condemned rating from the Catholic Legion of Decency.

I hope this was posted outside the Music Hall to warn parents who thought they were bringing their children to a holiday show for the entire family.

The Music Hall’s longest running film The Odd Couple also was condemned.

I have no idea what the people who chose films for the Hall were thinking.

vindanpar on December 23, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Comfortably Cool placing the Bells of St Mary program in the photo section made me think of Pacino and Keaton outside the Hall in The Godfather.

The displays in the vitrines outside the Music Hall which show the Rockette and ballet company figures behind the actors are the same ones that were used for the stage show with Scrooge. And I only saw this decades after The Godfather came out not having seen it originally.

I know, I know, who cares. Well it did bring back memories.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 9, 2016 at 8:39 am

Myron, both films opened at RCMH first run, but “premiered” elsewhere.

Myron on December 9, 2016 at 7:50 am

I am curious if these 2 feature films premiered at RCMH. Darling Lili with Julie Andrews and Interrupted Melody with Eleanor Parker. Thanks.

vindanpar on November 29, 2016 at 2:11 pm

No SITR was not surround but it had a clarity that was remarkable. Watch the scene when Kelly brings Reynolds into the empty studio. As he turns on each effect there is an instrumental cue. This came through beautifully at the Hall. Have never heard that again. Every time I’ve heard it since the sound is flat mono. Sad because those arrangers were brilliant and those charts(I think that’s what musicians call them) are now I believe buried under some highway in CA.

RobertEndres on November 23, 2016 at 1:12 pm

“Scrooge” was a 70mm print and did indeed have full stereophonic sound. The surround channel was limited since the only speakers were along side the proscenium and in the two sets of grills in the ceiling that I mentioned above. The first run of “Sound of Music” was also 70mm without Dolby noise reduction, but with Dolby equalization to somewhat compensate for the acoustic properties of the Hall. 70mm magnetic tracks were wider than those for 35mm CinemaScope and the film moves faster through the projector by about 20' more per minute, thus they represented the highest quality possible in their day far better than 35mm optical tracks. Ray Dolby sought to bring that quality to 35mm optical tracks giving them wider, quieter frequency range. What you heard at the Hall really was good for its time even though financial constraints along with some other problems kept the Hall from having the best sound. I hope you got a chance to hear the “Lion King” during its premiere run at the Hall. With Disney’s help the Hall finally had the motion-picture sound system it needed. The 70mm print carried Dolby SR encoded analogue tracks while the main sound came from a 35mm digital print interlocked to the 70mm projector. The Dolby tech configured the system so that if the 35mm digital tracks being played should fail the system would automatically revert to the 70mm SR mag tracks. We switched back and forth between the two several times during the tech rehearsals with Disney’s tech people in the house and no one was able to hear the difference. (Had it been a picture with loud explosions and crashing effects the digital track would have had a little more dynamic headroom.)

“Singing in the Rain” was a standard 35mm mono optical print, but the Center channel speakers were classic RCA speakers that flew with the picture sheet and really were good for their day. Any surround effect you heard was from the house acoustics which did create an echo which could be troubling depending on where you were seated, but I’m glad it worked for you. It was also one of the first pictures we ran with xenon lamps replacing the carbon arc lamps that had been in use since ‘40’s. Thus the Technicolor really did pop on the relatively small 1.37:1 aspect ratio picture.

vindanpar on November 23, 2016 at 11:49 am

And The Sting was another great presentation!

That Joplin music never sounded so good.

If I had a hat I’d eat it.

vindanpar on November 23, 2016 at 11:41 am

If you remember the final production number of Scrooge there are various groups that converge and I remember distinctly that it was surround sound. It was simply unexpected and thrilling. It was not slap which is a very different thing. I remember being gobsmacked. Like when I saw MFL at the Warner Cinerama and there were carriage wheels and horses hoofs sounds at the back of the theater.

We forget how sophisticated and detailed film theatrical presentations once were. Like when the lights were dimming for Airport at the Hall and flight announcements were being made(shades of the police calls of Mad World.)

And that SOM presentation at the Music Hall was one of the best film presentations I’ve seen. If that was you R Endres that was astonishing. Gorgeous perfect 70mm print and great sound. If that was Dolby processed sound giving a greater dynamic range to the original tracks looks like I might have to rethink my feelings about Dolby. Singing In the Rain also had spectacular sound(and Technicolor to burn the eyes). Those Salinger arrangements have never sounded so good. Maybe that was handled the same way?

RobertEndres on November 23, 2016 at 5:28 am

Re: “Scrooge” – if you heard sound from the back it was because the Hall had a really bad echo from the wall above the 3rd Mezzanine. You could hear it in the center of the Orchestra but not under any of the Mezzanines. There had been acoustic material to absorb the slap behind the walls, but with age it had crumbled and fallen out of place. We screened every print before we played an incoming attraction. Sitting in the center of the Orchestra at the producer’s table I could turn my head at right angles to the screen and have two soundtracks coming at me one from the front and one from the slap from the back wall. An acoustic engineer we hired to do an analysis said the sound from the wall above the 3rd Mezz (which was curved and focused it) was actually louder in the dialogue frequency range than that from the screen, and added, “Why haven’t you fixed that?” The answer was, we had no money to. Dolby processors have always included 3rd octave equalization and it did help flatten out the room response. The 1999 refurbishment may have helped more.

In regard to “The Black Cauldron” – yes the sound was bad for a couple of reasons. Walter Murch, one of Hollywood’s classic sound men, directed “Return to Oz” which preceded “Cauldron”. He mixed it in the 70mm Dolby format which he had used for “Apocolypse Now” with three stage channels and left and right surround channels. “Cauldron” was mixed for five channels behind the screen and a mono surround channel. To get more bass response, Murch personally raised the low frequency EQ to maximum level since we didn’t have sub-woofers at the time. When we got to “Cauldron” the orchestra members were complaining about the bass level while waiting to come up on the pit elevator before the stage show. It was then that we discovered what Murch had done. In addition, the sound was designed to pan across five channels behind the screen and there were only three so the sound dipped as it went across.

We did upgrade the stage channels on the left and right of center, and the black boxes you saw on the Choral Stairs were the speakers we had removed from behind the screen, placed on the stairs to fulfill Murch and Disney’s requirements to play the picture.

If you liked the “SOM” sound, remember it was processed through Dolby processers and that Dolby noise reduction extended the frequency range and signal to noise levels of soundtracks beyond what they were capable of previously. It’s also possible (I don’t remember) that since the “SOM” print was a Bob Harris restoration the tracks could well have been Dolby A encoded to extend the range and signal to noise ratio. Also remember a lot depends on the acoustics of the theatre you’re listening in, and the film mix itself. Radio City was designed to be a vaudeville house and was never intended to be a movie theatre (the New Roxy/Center Theatre down the street a block was to fill that role.) As such, being such a large house it had acoustical problems that weren’t unique to the Hall. Modern technology has helped overcome those problems.

vindanpar on November 23, 2016 at 4:32 am

There was definitely sound coming from the back rear of the orchestra for Scrooge. The sound of the choruses came from all around. Due to the darkness maybe there were boxes there that weren’t too noticeable. Also the spectral clanging of the chains of Marley’s ghost caused a child nearby to cry and people laughed. Not out of malice but because it was so effective.

Also the organ during the SOM wedding was rich and thundering. I could have sworn the Music Hall organ was being played.

The first time I saw large black boxes on the choral stairs was during The Black Cauldron.(I think that was the name of the movie.)Was that ever a big intense loud noisy ordeal. Purely headache inducing. An usher told me it was frightening the children. And far worse than any other Disney cartoon which sequences served a purpose and had some sort of catharsis.

And no Dolby was not an improvement over the gorgeous warm 6 track analogue I heard not only at the Music Hall but also at the Warner and the Rivoli. It did not shout at you but was warm rich and transparent.

You’ve got to remember people’s ears have been severely diminished in their capacity to hear nuance due to decades of damaging loud music in bars, discos, clubs and rock concerts. I understand MP3s are no help though I’ve never heard one.

I’m sure those old 6 track soundtracks simply through age have been lost forever. The most recent restoration of the My Fair Lady soundtrack was worse than the first one in the 90s despite their boasting of going back to the masters. But I concede that also could have been the fault of the multiplex where I saw it.

I only wish there was a theater left in the east that could do justice to these films in terms even of screen size. If I were a billionaire I’d buy the Bellevue which still stands as a multiplex in Montclair and restore it to its Todd AO glory. What a great theater that was.

RobertEndres on November 21, 2016 at 11:54 am

Actually there were surround speakers going back to at least the installation of 70mm and quite possibly to the four track 35mm mag days. They’re possibly still there. They’re in the ceiling and just outside of the proscenium. There were two sets of two speaker groups one on the left and one the right side of the house. The “rays”, the slits extending from the proscenium like the rays of the sun are backed with plaster bubbles so that the four color light strips can reflect off the surface and backlight the rays. The sound crew mounted one set of “surround” speakers just off the proscenium about where the P.A. speakers were stage left and right. The other set were mounted on the back of one of the “bubbles” out around E cove. The sound crew snuck up into the ceiling under cover of darkness and cut a hole or holes in the plaster of the bubble and mounted a couple of 12 or 15" speakers directly to the bubble. While the effect was pretty much lost under the mezzanines, the main part of the orchestra and the 3rd Mezz. did get some coverage. In the case of “The Slipper and the Rose” which is the story of Cinderella, the clock tolling at Midnight sounded pretty good coming from overhead. If they weren’t removed during the renovation in 1999 you can still see them if you go out on the catwalk to D cove.