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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.
They had a great old-fashioned marquee which was hit by a truck sometime after 1966, when the theater featured the exclusive area showing of “The Sound of Music” for most of that year. They replaced the marquee with a smaller, abstract red one that didn’t hold any letters – a big disappointment compared to the one they had.
My family moved to Rutherford when I was 8, and I spent an incredible amount of time in the Rivoli. The first time I ever went to a movie all by myself was there: “The Great Escape” in 1963. Nowadays my friends who have kids would never dream of sending an 8-year-old to the movies alone. I guess it is a much different world.
One of the highlights out of the hundreds of movies I saw there: “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964, with big speakers installed in the back of the theater for that engagement only, and the teenage girls in the audience screaming for The Beatles as if it were a live concert.
Thanks, Warren, for posting all the facts about it. I can still see that chandelier in my mind …
In 2000, I saw The Day the Earth Stood Still here, and Patricia Neal made a personal appearance. Her opening line was a classic: “Where the hell am I?” I guess Boonton is kind of off the beaten track even for New Jersey.
When The Exorcist first played New Jersey six months after it opened its exclusive runs in New York City, it played here. I think it was called Cinema 35 then. The line to get in was probably the biggest ever seen in Paramus up to that time, at least until Star Wars came to town.
Vito: thanks for always putting on the best possible show at the theaters you worked in. Wouldn’t it be great if today’s theater owners and projectionists showed the same kind of dedication that you did?
I agree with YankeeMike, especially if they pay tribute to the height of this theater’s glory days and show the original “Star Wars”.
Last Friday night I went to a fireworks display in Montclair. I took the train, and the station was a block away from the Bellevue. As I walked toward the theater on my way home, I imagined myself as one of Rod Serling’s characters in The Twilight Zone who gets transported back in time. Maybe when I approached the Bellevue, it would somehow be 1961 again and “West Side Story” would be playing in 70mm in its exclusive North Jersey engagement. Unfortunately, I did not go into the Twilight Zone and the marquee did not say “West Side Story” but “Harry Potter”, “The Terminal” and two others. OK, it didn’t happen this time, but maybe it will happen in the future, maybe when I visit the New York City block where the Loew’s Capitol once stood? :)
On Saturday morning I went to the Astor Plaza for what looks like the last time, to see Spider-Man 2. I sat in the balcony to get the full effect of that huge expanse of seats in front of me. And when the credits were over, I stayed to watch the curtains close on the last big single-theater screen in Times Square. It was as if the curtains were closing on a part of New York movie history. Now the Ziegfeld is literally the last of a dying breed, and more precious than ever.
Peter K.: I also saw “Fantasia” at Radio City Music Hall in May 1978. I remember the huge audience applauding at the end of each musical segment – what a wonderful sound that was.
I think the drive-in speaker survived intact, but the car window sure didn’t! Another memory of that movie: Joan Crawford got star billing, but I think she was in it for about 10 minutes total.
Talking about the Biograph and the Hollywood reminds me of the Elgin Cinema, which was down around 19th St. It wasn’t the cleanest theater and it always had a funny smell, but they sure showed some great classic movies. The first time I saw “The Birds” in a theater was there – same with “Nights of Cabiria”.