Radio City Music Hall

1260 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10020

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Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on October 18, 2013 at 11:21 am

Marilyn Monroe’s first and only film to open at RCMH was “The Prince and the Showgirl,” which had its world premiere there on June 13th, 1957. I’ve posted two images in the Photos Section.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on October 4, 2013 at 8:23 am

More details on the 90-minute stage spectacular “Heart and Lights,” starring the Rockettes, have become available. The show will open officially next April 3rd, with previews starting March 27th. Here’s a link: Heartandlights

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on October 4, 2013 at 8:16 am

In the Photos Section, I’ve posted an ad for the world premiere engagement of William Wyler’s B&W “Roman Holiday,” which opened on August 27th, 1953. After seeing her very first Hollywood film open at the “Showplace of the Nation,” Audrey Hepburn went on to win the 1953 “Best Actress” Academy Award for her performance.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 26, 2013 at 5:15 am

Ray Dolby was included in the In Memorium section of this year’s Emmy awards show.

Vito
Vito on September 26, 2013 at 4:15 am

May I assume that now that those TV people have left the presidium has now been returned to original glory and all the work been completed on the removal of that desecration.? Yes I know a lot of folks thought it looked great for a national audience but I say humbug, if you want that go to Vegas and stop messing with the great stage.

Vito
Vito on September 21, 2013 at 2:14 am

Rob, Thanks for the heartwarming Ray Dolby tribute, he changed and greatly enhanced the way we hear recorded sound. During the sixties and most of the seventies 35mm sound had for the most part gone mono optical a full decade and a half of almost nonexistent stereo sound in the theatres. Then came Dolby and a breath of fresh air had been pumped into the theatres again, finally stereo sound was back bigger and better than ever. It also, thanks in many ways to George Lucas, revitalized 70mm which had all but disappeared. Yup movie sound had gotten pretty dull there for quite a while but Mr. Dolby forever changed that what a joy it has to be to have known both Ray and Ioan Allen both of whom brilliantly improved recorded sound.

I am glad you mentioned the confusion caused by magnetic prints being sent to theatres that could not play them, another great innovation in those times was of course mag/optical prints which to some degree solved that problem. I say some degree cause there was still the issue with one of the mag tracks overlapping slightly onto the optical track area but we lived with that

RobertEndres
RobertEndres on September 20, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Thanks Vito. I always enjoy reading yours as well. The topic of Dolby at Radio City is of special interest to me. As a matter of “full disclosure” I should mention that when I left Radio City it was to go to work for Dolby Laboratories in their first New York screening room where I still put in a 40 hour week. In a sense I’ve been involved with Dolby in one way or another for about 40 years now, so I remember all of the years Vito refers to vividly. (Actually, longer than that, since as student working for my University TV station, I got a chance to run the Ampex 1000 videotape machine which was given to educational stations as a way to distribute programming before satellites were available. It was the first succesful broadcast videotape recorder, and one of the engineers who designed it was a young man named Ray Dolby.)

I met Ioan Allen (who really got Dolby involved in cinema) on his first trip to New York to promote Dolby technolgy to dealer technicians from the Eastern half of the country in 1974. Later two of the projectionists who were on the crew at Radio City became Dolby employees, one as a Vice President and the other as a head techncian in the Dolby NY office. Through them I met Ray Dolby, and gave him and his son tours of Radio City.

That is the reason I’m posting this. There was only one company in the country that I would leave my “dream job” at Radio City for and it was Dolby. Ray Dolby’s death last week really saddened us all. He was a quiet, self-effacing man who accomplished something even 20th Century Fox couldn’t achieve with their 4-track magnetic CinemaScope stereo — he made movie stereo a practical technology for theatres everywhere. Vito mentioned the problem of dual inventory optical prints when Dolby started, but that was nothing compared to the problems that arose from having mag track prints sent to theatres which couldn’t play them and optical prints sent to theatres that had full stereo capability. Ray and Ioan came up with a track that could be played on any optical reproducer. It might not sound as good running as undecoded Dolby A noise reduction — but it would play. In addition, by employing the stereo matrrix it was possible to achieve a pretty good stereo surround experience from the two optical mono tracks used in the RCA 35mm system. Once you did that, you also had the capability to have a left, center, right, surround experience from any two track stereo source which could include VHS tapes, laserdiscs and broadcast TV. It was inevitable that movie sound would go multi-channel someday, but Dolby’s contribution brought the revolution about earlier than anyone else could.

I think working here during Ray’s involvement with the company can only be compared to working for Disney when Walt was alive. I can remember sitting in a staff meeting in our screening room when we heard a quiet, “May I come in?” It was Ray who had come in unannounced, and then enchanted us all with stories about the early days of the company.

I hope you’ll forgive me for rambling on, but I did want a great man — and nice guy — remembered on this site.

Vito
Vito on September 20, 2013 at 11:30 am

Thanks Bill I appreciate that, sometimes I worry that my posts are too boring or long in the tooth. In the days when I still attended union meetings I would enjoy entertaining the youngins with stories about the good ole days of projection, or at least I hope they were entertained. As to REndres I cannot compare my humble posts to the magnificent ones he provides which are always interesting and technically educational. In spite of all my years in the business I still managed to learn something new reading Robs posts.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 20, 2013 at 8:29 am

A post from Vito or RobEndres can never be too long. Great to hear from you both again!

Vito
Vito on September 20, 2013 at 8:19 am

Correction, Please substitute the word Photocell with Solar Cell in my post. PHOTOCELL!!! my goodness now that’s really showing my age.

NewYorker64
NewYorker64 on September 20, 2013 at 8:00 am

Thanks for the clarification, RobertEndres!

Vito
Vito on September 20, 2013 at 2:59 am

Thanks Mark perhaps someone will, let us know when all of that awful set is completely gone and the stage is once again back to its glory.

REndres fun reading about the early Dolby years at RCMH it was quite a time to be sure, we were all excited about the new sound with so little stereo available since the early 60s when Mag sound began to wane, There was confusion about the early prints as the exchanges did not seem to care which prints they sent to the theatres similarly to the way mag/optical prints were sent to theatres with optical capabilities only and optical prints were sent to theaters with magnetic installations it was a mess back then and continued in the early days of Dolby SVA prints. At the start there were two versions of the prints; optical mono and optical stereo and all too often film exchanges would send out the wrong versions to some of the theatres. Of course I am sure more care was taken to send proper prints to first run B’way houses but not to the neighborhoods. We would also occasionally get mixed prints with some reels stereo and some mono (that was annoying) It was made worse by the studios who did not id the prints clearly; in some cases the only way to tell a mono from a stereo print was to check the modulation on the track itself to see which type of track it was, there was not even lab markings in the leaders to identify mono or stereo which was simply ridicules. Eventually the prints were labeled properly but not until about a year of confusion. Soon as more theatres installed Dolby they stopped making optical mono all together producing only optical stereo prints and life got easier for us. The fear of course was the notion that SVA prints did not play well with mono only photocells all of which changed when newer technology improved photocells and ultimately eliminated exciter lamps. But in the early years of what is now antiquated sound reproduction of Solar cells and exciter lamps things were difficult for us in the booth with respect to stereo optical. This may sound all very odd to those working RCMH were I am sure the proper version of those early SVA prints were sent. Or where they?? Of course the madness continued as more and more Dolby wana bees sprung out; we had DTS (which Spielberg loved) then there was Sony SDDS adding to the confusion or what I called madness. The studios final got it right with all four tracks, Dolby stereo, Dolby Digital, DTS, and Sony SDDS) married onto one print so that whichever system you had could play just about any print. Having all four stereo tracks on one print made life a whole lot easier, just as long as you had the film path lied up properly to avoid the DTS control track, which was located right alongside the SVA track, from being picked up causing buzzing. Yeah, that wasn’t too irritating. But it was the fun and excitement of being a projectionist back then. Was it not? In the 50s we had a new picture format born every year and in the 70s it was a new sound format, now a day’s sound on film has been replaced by digital files provided by a computerized server producing sound digitally. In the good ole days we were kept on our toes something the kids today don’t have with Digital, Kinda feel bad for don’t you Rob?.

My apologies to those who may have found this post a bit rambling or inappropriate to be made here. I just thought it fit in to the Music Halls into to optical stereo.

RobertEndres
RobertEndres on September 19, 2013 at 5:52 am

Re: Radio City and Dolby Stereo. Radio City was actually an experimental site for Dolby cinema sound as far back as 1974 when I started there as Head Projectionist. Repesentatives from the Dolby N.Y. office were looking for a large theatre to try out Dolby encoded 35mm soundtracks and Radio City is a “large” theatre! At that time there was only Dolby mono encoding featuring 2 units, one which decoded Dolby Type “A” optical tracks and one which provided 3rd Octave equalization to “tune” the room. The first Dolby encoded stereo film we played was “The Little Prince” which was the 1974 Christma feature. There were no stereo optical tracks at that time, but we had a 3 track magnetic print with Dolby A encoding.

We added three more units to play back 6 track 70mm magnetic tracks, primarily for the 3rd octave equalizaation capabilities.

We added a Dolby CP-100 processor for a picture that preceeded “Star Wars” since Fox wanted to try out stereo optical prints before they released “Star Wars”. The picture was a dud, but the equipment stayed.We never paid for it, but felt we were justified in keeping it since we did provide a crew for testing when Dolby needed it.

We finally ended up buying a complete Dolby installation (with Disney’s help) for the premiere of “The Lion King” which involved a complete re-do of the motion-picture sound system and the inclusion of on the wall surround speakers. “Lion King” only required three stage channels snce it was 1.85 aspect ratio, but we later added two more stage channels so we could play “classic” 70mm prints which had 5 channels behind the screen and a mono surround channel. We also needed the extra channels because our 35mm 1.85 picture is smaller than our 70mm 1.85 picture and the screen masking was not acoustically transparent. We also added more surround speakers at that time.

Since then the Hall has added a Dolby SA-10 unit which splits the surround array into left, center and right groups for use in the stage show mix.

The recent obit of Ray Dolby in the New York Times features a picture of him in the Music Hall booth looking at a soundrack on a piece of 35mm film That picture was taken during the premiere engagement of “The Lion King” one of the few times when we used platters at the Hall, with the 70mm picture locked to a 35mm print for Dolby Digital sound.

markp
markp on September 19, 2013 at 4:40 am

It will be in a few days Vito. As I did not have the pleasure of working it last year in Newark, NJ, I do know from the stagehands who did, that it takes about a week to get everything back to “normal.” Aside from getting the set out of there, they also have to reinstall seats and return the building to the condition in which they found it, meaning any damage done to walls, etc must also be repaired. By the time the Christmas show starts AGT will be long forgotten, thank goodness.

NewYorker64
NewYorker64 on September 19, 2013 at 3:56 am

i believe that Dolby sound, along with High Definition video broadcast) was installed during the last renovation.

Vito
Vito on September 19, 2013 at 1:55 am

Now that AGT is over may I assume the massive set they used is gone and the stage is once again “Great”

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on September 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm

When did the Hall get Dolby Stereo installed?

popcornfred
popcornfred on September 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm

New Show has website …not much info on it yet

http://www.heartandlights.com/

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 13, 2013 at 11:13 am

I guess everybody wanted to see Liz and Dick. It’s a common misconception that “Cleopatra” was a flop, but it was actually the biggest-grossing movie of its year. It just cost so much that it didn’t show a profit until its network TV sale, several years later.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on September 13, 2013 at 7:33 am

In the first week of “The V.I.P.s,” RCMH grossed $192,193 (equivalent to about $1,467,174 today). 130,856 tickets were sold (an average of 18,694 per day). The New York Times reported that it was the highest gross for an autumn opening week in RCMH’s history.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on September 13, 2013 at 7:04 am

Next Thursday (9/19) will mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of RCMH’s premiere engagement of MGM’s “The V.I.P.s,” Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s first film together since their intimate romance began during the making of “Cleopatra.” With an original script by the eminent playwright Terence Rattigan, the Panavision-MetroColor drama was a sort of “Grand Hotel,” set in the passenger lounges at London Airport. A glittering supporting cast included Louis Jourdan, Margaret Rutherford, Maggie Smith, Elsa Martinelli, Rod Taylor, and Orson Welles. Russell Markert’s stage revue, “Far East, Far West,” included RCMH’s annual “Kol Nidrei” pageant in honor of Jewish holy days.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on September 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm

A “teaser” ad in yesterday’s New York Times said that full details of the March 2014 presentation will be announced on September 29th (apparently in the NYT on that date, which is a Sunday).

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 9, 2013 at 11:22 am

The Hall’s own website does have a dedicated page for the new show – which the site page seems to refer to as the “Spring Show.” Right now, there’s little more than a form for one to leave their email address and cell phone, to be notified at some future date, once details regarding the show are made public. I presume we’ll find out ticket prices at that time.

I agree with NewYorker64, that the prices will likely be less than those for the Christmas Spectacular, but I’m not sure the difference will be quite as significant as 30-40%.

NewYorker64
NewYorker64 on September 9, 2013 at 10:14 am

LOL. That site is a ticket brokerage, so they’re a bit inflated… just a bit(!). I suspect actual prices direct through RCMH will be 30%-40% off the Christmas show $$$.