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Bob T…great story. Even I remember those boxes and I’m considerably younger than you. Around March or April of 1979, we were in Times Square during our spring/Easter break with my Mom. We eventually ended up in Times Square where we saw “The China Syndrome” at the Loews State (upstairs). But on the way, one theater (can’t remember which) had one of those boxes playing a continuous loop of a very so-so George Hamilton flick called “Love at First Bite”. It seemed like it was on the same side as the Loews State so it may well have been the Criterion or maybe the DeMille though I don’t know if it was still the DeMille in 1979. Anyone know?
Believe it or not, BoxOfficeBill, that 1976 show was also MY last Christmas show. Wasn’t the movie “The Slipper and the Rose” playing with it?
Funny but I remember the show still being very, very good. Hell, it was way better than the crapola show they put on now. On The Nativity scene still rocked then. I know this must be the same show because I clearly remember and can still picture the all skating routing as you mention. Even at a somewhat young age (10) I could tell it was done with a moving stage. But at the age and limited experience, the idean of a stage that moved was incredibly nifty.
Regarding Don K.’s comments above, it remains to be seen how home theater will impact movie going. I thought the way you did that it would end theater going entirely. BUT…I have noticed that the studios are beginning to release some of their bigger films in, of all places, IMAX theaters. Now, what’s going on with that?
Well, here’s my take: people can and will continue to go to theaters IF and only IF the movie is good and they can have a true movie going experience.
As for Bloomberg, he will go down in history as one of the most slyly destructive mayors this city has ever known. What he’s doing with his west side stadium is so ludicrous I haven’t a clue why there’s not more of a public outcry. Friday is literally D-Day for the stadium. I can be shot down then and I hope for the sake of New York City, it does. Somehow with his connections, I just don’t see it happening though.
That is a great ad but I wish I could see more of it clearly. I love looking at old newspapers.
Just a question…what movie is playing (in the ad…) at (I think) the Bergen Mall Cinema (theater?) It looks like a movie called “Shame” but I can’t find an entry in IMDB for it. Also, to think that the now lowly Bergen Mall hosted a fine arts theater back then!
William, yes…and I’ve asked before but I don’t think anyone knows or hasn’t answered. One is presently known as the Sage Theater (it’s clearly marked) and has the American Girl sign on it’s marquee. And the Lace “Gentleman’s Club” looks like it was in a theater but it’s occupying a basement space because when you go in, you go downstairs. Uh…I know this because…uh…friends have told me? Ok, ok…I was in it for a bachelor party!
Well, TJ…technically speaking, the Granddaddy of all movie palaces was located just off 7th on 50th Street, a mere 3 blocks north of the Mayfair/DeMille/Embassy.
Sorry, but it sounds like to me that digital film projection is the wave of the future. The only thing that’s preventing it’s total takeover is the fact that movie attendence is so down. What could possibly justify the cost to the theaters if the numbers are low? A few blockbusters that are truly worthy and attendence should go up. THEN digital will take over. But from looking at the slim pickings coming out this summer, I don’t see myself going much to the theater either.
Are most IMAX films digital?
It’s interesting that you cite “The Polar Express” (AWFUL, AWFUL movie…gave me the creeps!) But there was an interesting article in “Entertainment Weekly” about two weeks ago that stated that theater attendance is way, way off now. And the article pretty much came to the conclusion that we here already derived: movies today SUCK. So audiences are staying away. EXCEPT…for “The Polar Express” in IMAX which they said did very good business, better than it did in the conventional box megaplexes. So did the IMAX release of “Robots” (another dud). The article said that apparently audiences are willing to see a movie on a BIG screen.
So that’s ironic. Obviously it’s not just the terrible films but the way that these movies are being presented that is keeping audiences away. People WANT the big screens and such.
Realistically speaking, The Mayfair hasn’t got a chance. The only reason why it’s not gone yet is sheer luck. And the fact that a developer hasn’t been able to acquire enough land to build something of size. But it’s only a matter of time…
But you have to admit that it’s ironic while truly magnificent structures like The Capitol and Rivoli not to mention the Roxy are dust, this little guy is still standing. Yep, I’m a sentimentalist and for that reason alone, I’d like to see it stay. If I was a developer and had $$$ AND I still loved these old theaters, I would get engineers in to build a structure around and above The Mayfair then lovingly restore it. I would use the rents collected from the tenants in the building to subsidize any/all losses the theater might incur. It’s an awesome location too. Ah, well…
In my opinion, the only thing that can and will spell The Ziegfeld’s doom is if some developer for some reason or another decides to build a competing “palace” at a better site, say nearer or actually in Times Square. The Ziegfeld is kind of off the beaten path and let’s face it, it’s really not that nice from the outside, at least.
Imagine if someone were to build a theater the same size or even larger than the Ziegfeld in which to hold it’s premieres?
Since this scenario is highly unlikely, I think the place is safe because there really isn’t another place in Manhattan that can host a premiere AND play the movie. Yes, The Music Hall is better for premieres but it’s not playing the movies for more than one night.
I know some of you projectionists explained this once but I still don’t “get” how digital projection works. How is the image “shown”? There’s no film, right? I’m sorry but could someone either explain (simply…) or tell me about a website that could?
Also, about two years ago I read about another even more radical film medium wherein the movie would actually be “beamed” via satellite to theaters. If a movie proved to be a big enough draw (HA! Like with todays crap…) another theater in a multiplex could be instantly turned over to that film. The issue was how to prevent hackers from getting a hold of the signal and transmitting it to another area (theater, PC, etc.) Anyone aware of this?
Regarding the landmarks commission, as long as real estate values continue to escalate the way they are in the New York area, developers are going to cherish land above the structures sitting on them. If developers had their way, virtually every single structure in Times Square would be gone.
Rationally speaking, buildings are more than what they look like. They also represent a time and place. Ok, so the Mayfair/DeMille isn’t one of the greatest or most memorable places in Times Square. But for those of us who’ve seen those great photos, this place meant something to people.
Will the landmarks commission take this into consideration? What do YOU think?
I believe there’s an alley way behind the theater (behind where the screen would be…). It exits out onto 47th Street. You can actuall see the back of the theater from this exit area.
Oh, I thought Benjamin was asking where the fire escapes went for the building, not the theater. The building’s fire escapes are on the outside of the building that faces the auditorium.
Ooooooooo, “Days of Heaven”. In 70mm! Now THAT is something I’d gladly pay to see! That has got to be one of the MOST beautifully filmed movies of all time. Right up there with Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon”.
I would have to say that for now, The Ziegfeld is safe. Think about it: the land upon which is sits is mid street and sits between two A class office towers. The footprint isn’t really big enough to provide a developer with anything that they could build anything really dynamic. Just my opinion.
Add to the mix the (hopefully) anticipated outcry that would befall anyone even proposing this and I think it’s somewhat safe to assume it will be around for awhile.
But. You. Never. Know.
Benjamin: I can answer you question about the fire escapes. They are on the “inside” of the building. Well, what I mean is they are on the outside of the “inside” of the office building. The building wraps around the Mayfair like an L. The fire escapes (long, long, cool looking stairs…) are inside the L. I can see them clearly from my office. They start from the top floor of the building and run diagonally down toward the back of the part of the building that fronts onto 7th Ave. From there, it looks like some kind of “path” then runs away from the back of the building fronting 7th along the southside of the Mayfair’s auditorium to a small alleyway that exits onto 47th Street right across from the exit doors for the Palace. I saw this clearly yesterday when I checked it out.
I agree with most of your points. Without having seen the inside of the theater, I can say that the outside is nothing much. The only semi interesting aspect is the stonework above the marquee which is not greatly diminished by the billboard.
But the question is: what constitutes a landmark? Is it strictly the architectural value? That seems to be what the current Landmarks council thinks. But there has to be an effort to expand the definition of a landmark.
Maybe this is a stupid question, but is this Walter Reade group still around managing theaters? Or are they (he?) long gone?
Warren, regarding the Hollywood Theater (aka Mark Hellinger Theater), I didn’t know that this was designed by Lamb. Even from the outside, you can tell this baby’s beautiful. And HUGE. But I’ll argue that it doesn’t totally qualify as a total movie palace because it operated as a legit stage theater for years. So, if one uses the criteria of the last remaining movie “palace” that was strictly used for movies, would it be The Mayfair?
One other note about the Mark Hellinger theater…not sure if I read this here (and I apologize if I’m copying from someone else’s notes…) but I read that for years, producers thought this place was bad luck. It did not have any big hits, musical or straight for years and years. But when it finally did, it had one of the biggest of all time, “My Fair Lady”.
I see the Mark Hellinger every day and I have to say it looks very, very well maintained.
TJ: the Palace is directly south of the Mayfair/DeMille. It sits on the southeast corner of 47th and 7th whereas the building that the Mayfair sits in is on the northeast side.
Bill Huelbig: Thanks for the very interesting ad you posted. Now I seem to remember that the neat-o logo for The DeMille was used for other Walter Reade theaters like the Baronet and the Coronet. Anyone else know what I’m talking about? I remember reading the New York Post as a kid and seeing the adds with the same kind of lettering used for other theaters, even The Ziegfeld. Was that theater owned at one time by Walter Reade?
BUT…please note that your posting contains something EVEN more interesting. To the left of the ad, there is the last parts of some kind of article about a play and such. The last part has a heading called ROUNDUP. I had to print it out to read it and here is what is says:
“West Side Story” will be revived at the New York State Theater starting June 24…The City Planning Commission cleared the way for the construction of theaters in the office buildings planned for the site of the former Astor Hotel and the site where the Capitol Theater now stands. The commission’s action will be final unless the Board of Estimate disapproves whithin 60 days."
I’m sorry but that’s really eerie. So, the city got the go ahead to knock down the majestic Capitol because someone who designed the building that would replace it agreed that they would put in a theater which would become the Uris and now is called The Gershwin.
Yeah, the razing of 1600 Broadway, while sad (it was a pretty historic building considering the businesses that once occupied it…) was awesome to behold. They did a pretty neat job of getting it down. I’m no engineer but 701 7th looks kind of complicated. It goes midblock and it’s like a maze of buildings in there. Wish you could see it. 1600 was completely a stand alone structure like The Rivoli was.
Ok…I’m getting a tad obsessive about this now but if you want to see what this building looks like today (actually, about two years ago…) go to this website: http://www.walter-samuels.com/commer_set.shtml
Scroll down about ¾ and look for the entry for 701 7th Ave. I wrote the address wrong above. The building is managed by a company called Walter & Samuels. It says the square footage for the theater is 50,000 and there are 1,140 seats. Interesting…
TJ: hard to describe…the building into which the Mayfair sits kind of wraps around the auditorium (L shaped) so the southside of the auditorium isn’t exposed at all to 47th. The theater looks actually nestled into the structure. Very unusual, at least in my very limited architectural experience.
Warren: I went by the Mayfair today (always wonder if I see someone gazing at it also is it someone from this site!) and I found (I think) that the Mayfair is part of the building known as 701 West 47th Street. The entrance is on 47th across from the exits for the Palace. There are about six tenants in the building..one is a record company. I could not get into the very small lobby but it looks decently maintained. Any buyer of the building wishing to demolish it would have to deal with each tenant and their various lease options. Also, just buying this building would not (IMO) give a builder enough of a footprint upon which to build anything prominent like what was built on the site of the State. I’m sure there are builders who could but space in Times Square is not exactly tight right now.
Again, this could keep the old Mayfair up for who knows how long?
The office building is the original building that was built along with the Mayfair. It’s actually an astonishingly thin building. From what I can see, the part of the building that faces 7th Avenue is really, really, thin. I have no idea how many feet across but trust me, it’s small. The building does not cover the Mayfair/DeMille auditorium at all. You can clearly see the roof and such. From here, there does not appear to be any damage to the roof and the a/c units are still intact but look battered. I believe the office building is occupied but I cannot imagine who the tenants are. Perhaps I’ll take a walk today and find out. I’ve been curious myself…
DennisZ: thanks for the shot of the DeMille. Very interesting. The theater looks very, very low key then. Who ever took the photo obviously was taking a picture specifically of the DeMille because it’s so clearly centered in the photo.
Benjamin: you make points that I agree with and have stated previously. The only reason why I even became aware of this theater is because my office building looks directly down onto it. I remember being in someone’s office and I realized that the structure I was staring at was a theater. Being interested in that stuff, I checked out the front and saw the marquee. This site helped me to find out all about it. The marquee that now stands for the theater hardly makes anyone take notice of it at all.
Yeah, I agree that it’s kind of fallen through the cracks. It will be interesting to see what might happen to it. Would preservationists go for it? Maybe. Wouldn’t it be so ironic that a theater that was forgotten gets resurrected simply because it’s the last movie theater from a bygone age that’s still standing? I think we’d all agree that if we could’ve save one Times Square theater, we would probably pick one of the “others” (Capitol, Rivoli, Strand, Criterion, etc.) and NOT The Mayfair. But it’s still standing so that means something. That is what I said in my E-Mail to Christopher Gray of the NY Times.