Radio City Music Hall

1260 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10020

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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 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 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 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 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 on September 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm

When did the Hall get Dolby Stereo installed?

popcornfred on September 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm

New Show has website …not much info on it yet

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.

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 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 $$$.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

I just checked ticket prices — Zone A (up front) are only $651. each.

Put me down for two!

Vito on August 23, 2013 at 12:48 am

Thanks for the update rcdt55b please keep us informed. It’s comforting to think that with film pretty much toast that the Hall would find use for it. Not surprised projector#5 wont be put back since you still have 4

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 22, 2013 at 8:58 pm

The United States is not the world.

There is no online video market in China, India, Russia or any of the biggest movie-going markets in the world. Americans need to stop thinking this is 1949 and television is a problem. It’s just no longer about us.

StanleyNorton on August 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm

For me there was nothing grander than seeing a movie at Radio City with a stage show. In an earlier post I said it seemed movies were on their last legs IN THEATRES. Even Spielberg and Lucas admitted as much: “Mr. Lucas predicted that blockbusters would eventually become big-ticket events, like ballgames and Broadway plays, and that the rest of the movie business would migrate to online video — a trend that’s already begun to happen. Mr. Spielberg offered a more radical vision. At a time of ubiquitous screens — video, movie and computer — he predicted an end to on-screen entertainment. Instead, he said he thought we’d have a kind of enveloping, wraparound entertainment.” NYtimes

rcdt55b on August 22, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Projector 5 will not be going back into place. We still have 4 other good ones so I think we’re okay. They do show the booth on the tours but they stay outside the doorway of the booth. It’s funny hearing some of the tour guide talk about the booth and projection. Most of them are very accurate, but some of them have no idea what they’re talking about.

As far as future projection goes, there are no upcoming movies. We did however do some extensive film testing for the upcoming “spring” show. There is a very good chance that we will be using film for it. Digital projectors will also be used.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 22, 2013 at 8:22 am

I was watching “Born Yesterday” last night and Judy Holiday said while visiting the National Gallery that it was fancier than the Radio City Music Hall… I had to smile and think of you guys!

Vito on August 22, 2013 at 7:39 am

Your lips to Gods ears Bill

Mark/rcdt55b do they still have the tours and show the booth as part of that?

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on August 22, 2013 at 7:21 am

rcdt55b: I guess you can’t be more specific yet, but I hope you meant the Music Hall will soon be showing an actual movie again, and not just something projected for the Christmas show. Looking forward to the answer!

markp on August 22, 2013 at 6:42 am

Hi Vito. My wife will be going back to the hall to work on the Christmas show again this year. Sure wish someday I could get to see this booth, but I know it will probably never happen. My movie days were over as of May. Digital you know, put me out of work. It sounds as if those projectors at the hall might be getting a workout soon. Lets hope…..

Vito on August 22, 2013 at 1:16 am

Mark movies will never die just the film we used to project them.

rcdtrrb you made my day with that comment please please keep us informed on what is going on. Did you ever put that 5th projector back removed for the digital effect projector?

rcdt55b on August 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Hey Vito. Don’t worry about the old projectors. We don’t cover them anymore. In fact, we started fixing up the 2 that haven’t been used for a long time. Looks like we may be using them soon……..

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 21, 2013 at 7:28 am

Movies on their last legs? Haven’t we heard that before? With record grosses world wide, a misstep with American audiences this summer is hardly a tragedy. We are simply no longer the major market for the industry. And you couldn’t near the theatres on 42nd street this past weekend with mobs crowding into mediocre titles.

Vito on August 21, 2013 at 2:21 am

Very good point Stanley well said. Of course those of us who go way back miss the movies at the Hall but it’s just not possible anymore. When I think of those projectors all covered in plastic it can be sad to accept. But the Music Hall lives and that is the important thing

StanleyNorton on August 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Americas Got Talent has been a wonderful commercial for RCMH and what I think is so great is that Samuel Rothaphel’s original idea for this theatre has comes full circle. He designed the theatre as a “music hall” with acts of singers, choral groups, acrobats, dancers, comedians — and today that idea was fulfilled on the “Great Stage” with this TV show. Radio City Music Hall was never intended to be a movie theatre. And as you know Roxy’s “music hall” idea died without movies which were, at the time, the most popular entertainment of that day. So movies were put in with a stage show and it became the most successful theatre in history. Now, movies in theatres seem to be on their last legs and here is Radio City Music Hall doing what Roxy wanted it to be.