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Longest run at the Astor Plaza: “Star Wars” – 65 weeks in 1977-78. “Grease” was supposed to open here but it had to change to the Loew’s State because of the ongoing popularity of “Star Wars”.
You can also get to the Lafayette by bus (Short Line) from Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan:
As big and beautiful as the Fox was, it was also the place where I had my worst-ever moviegoing experience. It was in 1975, the first week of “Jaws”, a matinee. The place was filled with kids who wouldn’t stop talking out loud – thousands of them. And apparently they’d all seen it already because anytime one of the big scenes came up they would announce it: “Watch this, his head’s gonna come out of that hole”, etc. It was so bad I had trouble following what was going on in the movie, and I left the theater feeling like I hadn’t even seen it. A happier Fox experience was the first time I ever took a bus away from my home town (Rutherford, NJ) by myself just to see a movie: “The French Connection”, 1971.
The Loew’s Jersey City shows classic movies about one weekend a month starting in September and ending in May (it has no air conditioning so it’s not open in summer). This year is their 75th anniversary, so I’m sure they’ll have something special planned when they reopen in the fall.
Thanks, Shade, for posting every detail (sad though they were) of the final night of the Astor Plaza. We can only hope that someday there will be a big single-screen theater in Times Square once again.
So much for my final trip to the Astor Plaza on closing day, August 5th. They closed yesterday. To all the Astor Plaza naysayers, I know it ain’t the Roxy and never came close, but I had so many good times there and I’m going to miss it.
“2001” had a fine presentation at the Astor Plaza, good and loud! The only thing they did wrong was leave out the intermission, but they played the overture over closed curtains, and there were no commercials or previews to spoil the show. It was like 1968 all over again. At the end of one show they left the theater lights off when the credits were over while the exit music played, so you had to find your way to the exit doors in the dark. Whether it was a mistake or not, I don’t know, but it was effective. One of the Friday night shows had a fairly big crowd with the center section almost completely full, amazing in spite of practically no advertising (one tiny ad in the New York Times was all I could find). It was total word of mouth, and the faithful fans came. I also saw it there on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve 2001, for obvious reasons.
The Spectacular Science Fiction film festival is coming! Get a load of this lineup:
If the picture won’t open, try this:
Go to Kubrick Media Mentions, then click on Pictures, then click on 2001 in 2001.
Another tribute to the Astor Plaza: I could be wrong, but I think the Astor Plaza has more comments on its page than any other theater in Cinema Treasures, even more than Radio City Music Hall! Here’s one more …
One Astor Plaza memory that just came to mind: during the first showing on the first day of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a small section of the ceiling fell in. No one was hurt, fortunately. I guess they had their great sound system turned up a little too loud :)
Thanks, Theatrefan, for posting Loews' farewell to the Astor Plaza. I guess it’s better than nothing, but instead of shilling for popcorn and plugging The Village it sure would’ve been nice to see Star Wars there one more time.
Here’s a picture of the last real glory days of the Astor Plaza, almost 3 years ago, when they showed their final 70mm film:
Pete, not only do you put on those great shows at the Lafayette in the present day, but you were also directly involved in one of my all-time best movie experiences from 22 years ago! My anticipation for “E.T.” was so high that I didn’t think “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” was ever going to end. And I’m sure I was being unfair to that movie. It was probably good. But “E.T.” was something else. I and my brother and my friends all came out of Cinema 46 with one of those great-movie highs that are all too rare these days, and we couldn’t wait to spread the word about the movie. But nobody seemed to care, or to get what we were talking about. Then, about two weeks later, the movie opened and the rest of the country caught up with us.
I saw Rocky III there in May 1982. I guess it was 70mm but the screen was too small for it to make the same big impact you’d get from something like Lawrence of Arabia. Another thing I remember about it was seeing the sneak preview of E.T. that same weekend at Cinema 46, a couple of weeks before it opened. I still have the “I SAW E.T.” button they gave out.
I saw Earthquake at the Cinema 46 also, and I also heard the test of the Sensurround system at the Ziegfeld in NYC before a showing of “2001” in 1974. The Sensurround speakers were set up the same way in both theaters. I think it made it scarier to actually see the speakers as well as to hear and feel them.
Does this theater appear in “Annie Hall”? There’s a scene where Diane Keaton meets her date in front of the Plaza Theater. It’s supposed to be some suburban theater in Wisconsin or somewhere, but I always thought it was filmed at the Plaza in New York. I don’t remember what the theater looked like now, and I had only been there once, for Fellini’s “Amarcord”.
I’ll take a guess and say “A Tale of Two Cities” (1935).
To Box Office Bill: Thanks a lot for sharing your memories of the Radio City stage shows. You really describe them well – you have a great memory. I’ve been to about 15 shows there but the only one I can remember featured a stand-up comic during the engagement of “2001” in 1975. One of his jokes was “I’m so old I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty”, and nobody laughed, out of the thousands of people that were there. I wish I could have seen some of the shows you talked about instead.
Was Citizen Kane ever shown at the Music Hall in 1941? I know it didn’t have a regular run there for the general public (although it was supposed to at one time), but I think I heard something about a special screening for RKO executives and/or theater owners.
I watched Midnight Cowboy last night, and there they were: the Astor and Victoria underneath the huge block-long billboard advertising Rex Harrison in Doctor Dolittle.
If I had access to the time machine, there are lots of trips I’d be making to the Music Hall: King Kong (1933), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), The Yearling (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), I Remember Mama (1948), The Nun’s Story and North by Northwest (both 1959) and, from Ron’s list, The Music Man (1962), To Kill a Mockingbird (1963) and Wait Until Dark (1967 – there must’ve been lots of screams echoing throughout the Hall at the end of that one).
Interesting that Days of Wine and Roses and To Kill a Mockingbird played back to back. If New Yorkers wanted to see some of the best screen performances from the year 1962 (besides Lawrence of Arabia), they had to go to the Music Hall in early 1963.
To add to Box Office Bill’s list, I believe that when It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World ended its year-long Cinerama run at the Warner, it moved to the Victoria, which is where I saw it. Don’t know if this was an exclusive engagement, though – it was probably part of what they called “Premiere Showcase” in those days.
Thanks so much Ron – what a great list and what great memories it triggered. Now I know for sure that the first film I saw at the Music Hall was Bon Voyage, when I always thought it was That Touch of Mink. I was 7 years old for both films. I also got to relive all the films I WANTED to see at the Music Hall but was too young to go see by myself.
Sorry to go off-Criterion for a minute, but here are pictures of the inside of the Hollywood Pacific theater:
To get back to the Criterion, I have good memories of seeing “Tora! Tora! Tora!” “Nicholas and Alexandra” and “Alien” there. And its marquee was always prominently featured on the annual TV coverage of New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
You can read about the Digital Symposium and see pictures of the theater interior here:
It was a pleasure to see the theater where “2001” played in Hollywood for well over a year.
I feel lucky that I got to see “Return of the Jedi” at the State-Lake on my only visit to Chicago in June 1983. I had no idea it had been torn down. The only sad thing about my visit was that there were only about 10 people in that huge theater, and the movie had just opened about a month before.