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Other than a few architectural fragments, nothing of the Art-Deco landmark “Ziegfeld Theater” was believed to have been saved from it’s tragic demolition in 1966. That was until recently, when an immense mural called “The Joy of Life”, designed by the architect Joseph Urban for the theater, was discovered by New York City antiques dealer John Bermingham.
New York, NY (PRWEB) January 24, 2007 — In 1927, the Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld opened the Ziegfeld Theater on 6th Avenue and 54th Street and changed the face of theater for decades after. Home of the famed “Ziegfeld Follies”, the theater was an Art-Deco masterpiece created by Joseph Urban, an architect known for his fanciful and imaginative design and dÃ©cor. Situated well out of the theater district and featuring a unique “egg-shaped” auditorium, the Ziegfeld Theater was a landmark unto itself.
Despite public outcry at the time, the Ziegfeld Theater was demolished in 1966 to make way for an office tower that now occupies the spot. It was believed that other than a few architectural fragments, nothing remained of this lost landmark. That is, until now.
It’s a part of New York City history, theater history and design history, and it deserves to be seen and appreciated.
A rare piece of this lost American treasure has recently re-surfaced in the form of an immense section of the original painted mural “The Joy of Life” which somehow escaped the wrecking ball all those years back. The mural was painted in 1926 by Lillian Gaertner under the direction of Joseph Urban, who provided the original sketches and personally oversaw the work. Madame Gaertner had studied under the renowned Bauhaus designer Joseph Hoffman and worked with Urban on many of his theatrical projects. The recently re-discovered canvas, which originally graced the walls and ceiling of the main auditorium, measures 24 feet wide by 14 feet high and features fanciful and brightly colored depictions of characters from literature, history and mythology.
The mural is currently owned by Manhattan antiques dealer John Bermingham who located it in November 2006. Bermingham states that his interest in the work stemmed from his love for New York City history and the theater in particular. “It is a tragedy that a landmark such as the Ziegfeld Theater was allowed to be destroyed back then, before the awareness of the value of historical architecture and design. Today, thankfully, such a thing would never happen”. Bermingham added, “It is remarkable, however, that such a unique and important artifact as this mural has managed to survive and we should at least be grateful for that”. The outcry over the demolition of the Ziegfeld Theater and the original Penn Station are credited with prompting the landmark preservation movement championed by Jacqueline Onassis.
The mural will be on display at the New York Design Fair at the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street from February 8th through the 10th. “The biggest challenge we will face will be finding it an appropriate home, considering its size,” says Bermingham. “It would be great if it could remain intact, perhaps as part of a museum collection, or featured on the wall of some fantastic New York restaurant like the Picasso mural on display at the Four Seasons.” Bermingham adds, “It’s a part of New York City history, theater history and design history, and it deserves to be seen and appreciated.”
My link didn’t work. Try
I understand that former owneres Clear Channel turned Live Nation sold this theater to The MAMA Group www.mamagroup.www.m
for thirteen million pounds.
here’s links to a couple of those:
Castro in San Francisco:
Michigan theater in Ann Arbor:
MANY MANY MANY movies are available in 35 mm including many that you mention.
movie chain Clearview’s Chelsea 9 in New York City shows mainstream & arthouse films,
and was recently rated by a magazine as New York City’s best movie theater! (and that’s without stadium seating) Classics:
The Colonial in Phoenixville, PA, is a nonprofit single screener that shows arthouse films, has a Sunday afternoon classic program, and an annual Blob festival (as the Blob was filmed there in that town):
directly to the theater’s website
Nonprofit 3 screener that specializes in arthouse films, AFI Silver Spring, Maryland, /theaters/456/
with many classic films:
William, I hope you’ve seen that your very much appreciated architectural & design info has been incorporated into the text at the Ziegfeld description. Again, good research!
The Ziegfeld is splendid enough to be easily worth $11. I resent paying prices like that for small auditoriums with small screens in megaplexes, but not for the Ziegfeld! And, the Ziegfeld staff including those taking the tickets, try extra hard to welcome you.
As to the curtain, sounds like the main one is broken, but I’d guess it will be repaired no later than the next film premiere.
When I go to LA, I want to see movies in the flagship screens like the Cinerama Dome so I haven’t seen a movie in one of the smaller auditoriums in that megaplex. I hear the quality is very, very good. When I poked my head in a few for a few seconds, they looked like any other megaplex auditorium- not like the main Dome auditorium which is huge and special.
Warren, thanks for the very interesting information as to the Ziegfeld’s origins! I would also bet Clearview is leasing, not owning.
I posted something on the Odeon West End page some time ago. I’ve read on the Internet that Odeon West End to be demolished for a hotel. Cinema preservationists suggested they’d like to keep the facade, but I haven’t read that has been determined yet.
Thanks for finding that wonderful photo of the dazzling marquee (your first ecoustics link above).
As to utube, I hope more people can film (and post on utube or somewhere) vintage movie theater auditoriums while they are still here. The Odeon West End is slated for replacement, and I’d love to see a short film of the 2 auditoriums & the foyer section with the photos of people throughout the years who have visited.
I found in the past, sometimes there’s a substitute projectionist who doesn’t use curtain. I would anticipate that the management might respect the curtain, because they would use it for movie premieres & they know regular audience attends because they like the Ziegfeld as a flagship house. For sure, they got plenty of feedback regarding the classics.
I recall when visiting with Theatre Historical Society of America in 2003, being told that it was used for film festivals. I’m not sure if 35 mm projectors are in the booth, or need be rented.
when Ziegfeld doesn’t have an exclusive, they don’t seem to have crowds, at least not during weekend afternoons, and they sure don’t sell out! they need all the audience they can get.
There are patrons like myself who will travel to the Ziegfeld partly because it gives a more traditional presentation such as the curtain closing! If ticket buyers like the curtain, please ask the staff to reinstate it! (assuming it wasn’t one projectionist, or temp broken). Remind them there’s plenty of modern stadium seated auditoriums around if they don’t want to go that extra step.
When I saw La Vie En Rose a month ago, which is still playing, the Paris leaflet stated Coming Soon: Close Encounters of the Third Kind-30th Anniv engagement- 2 WEEKS ONLY!, and Youth Without Youth, Francis Ford Coppola’s first film in ten years, an extraordinary love story wrapped in a grand mystery.
Below posted on another theater page about this theater (in reply to a comment about the other theater) I hope Steve doesn’t mind my copying it here, as screen sizes are often important to moviegoers:
Theatre 1 there is 50-feet wide with theatres 10 and 11 coming in at 40 feet or thereabouts. Theatres 5 and 6 are the next largest and I don’t recall them hitting 40 feet but they might….yes I helped install that one and serviced it for the first couple of years.
posted by Steve Guttag on Jul 23, 2007 at 3:39am
1950 photo, exterior:
The Grand auditorium sits 360+.
This seems to be an ad for leasing space in this one:
photo of lobby:
Photo of grand lobby:
Opened by Crown, later acquired by Bow Tie.
The 35 feet wide estimate is consistent with my memories of filmgoing there 1985 to 1987.
Auditorium which I photographed in 2004 by which time the curtain wasn’t being used:
another view of the exterior from 2004 (same visit as the photo that I posted above)
Steve, by now you must think I’m hallucinating exteriors and curtains. However, I’ve not actually been to the Fairfax Square, so I didn’t realize there isn’t an exterior. I am, however, thinking about the Fine Arts curtain….where I did see movies.
Regal’s press release stated the theater takes up 63,000 square feet, and one side of the mall. There are 2600 total seats, with 12 auditoriums of 209 seats and two of 300 seats (which would total more so some auditoriums might be smaller). There are 3 hallways of theaters, with the larger theaters along the center hallway. One projectionist can operate all 14 auditoriums. The concession stand has 10 cashier stations. A party room flanks the entrance.