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According to an item (about the indoor Japanese garden created underneath the balcony) in The New Yorker, Aug 11, 1962 p.16, the Capitol’s conversion to Cinerama involved reducing its seating capacity from a previous 3,662 to 1,552.
Interesting! Thanks guys
Is the El Capitan’s Wurlitzer still played at performances? When I was in LA I very much wanted he whole El Capitan experience, but no organ (and no live stage act). When I asked the staff they didn’t seem to know when it was played. Disappointing. Beautiful theatre and great place to see a movie, though.
For what it’s worth, wasn’t the Capitol’s seating capacity more like 1200 in 1968? (This from a guy (me) who was never even in the city when the Capitol existed, let alone inside, or even walked by it.)
What vindanpar says is true. Even if somehow the Roxy had survived and continued as a first-run theatre, it would soon have been divided into two and later 3 or more screens/theaters. The only midtown movie palace to avoid this fate was Radio City and that was because of its special status as the centerpiece of Rockefeller Center. Well, the much smaller Rivoli also remained a single screen venue, showing mostly long-run roadshow attractions.
You can find this on Wikipedia or many other sources, but just quickly: A so-called A movie was one with a large budget, major stars and directors, top original story or book adaptation. It was released to the top theatres owned by the studios across the country, then it went to the small towns and finally the second-run neighborhood theatres and drive-ins before winding up their- run.
An A movie could be anything from a routine programmer on a tight budget but still with excellent acting and production to an all-out massive epic.
The B movie usually had a small budget, limited production values, very good but lesser known actors and directors. They were made quickly and cheaply to fill out the programs at theatres. They would most often be released as the second feature on a double bill along with an A movie at major chain theatres but also might be the main attraction at second-run and rural theatres.
That’s just the major and minor films made by the major studios. Over time the B movie on the lower half of a double feature replaced most (but not all) of the short subjects that had been popular earlier in the studio era. Newsreels and cartoons were the exceptions and continued into the early 60s.
We actually had this exact discussion before. Scroll up to the comments from November 2014. (Geez I thought it was a few months ago.) The Wind Cannot Read which was the last movie at the Roxy was a relatively obscure British film, but not a B movie. The last few weeks, once the Roxy was officially slated to close, it showed a revival double bill and this British film. Prior to that it showed strictly first-run major studio releases, as Simon explained. Cheers.
Well of course the Capitol was for the middle class. The whole idea of the movie palace was to recreate an ambience of aristocratic refinement for working and middle class audiences. Some theatres may have been nicer than others but every movie theatre on Broadway (and elsewhere) was for the hoi polloi. The only real upper class moviegoing experience was that at a screening room in a private home or estate! The superior feeling that a loge seat at the Roxy or Criterion provided was just one more piece of the marketing genius of the movie moguls.
Notice that the photo of the entrance at the bottom of the page includes a banner promoting the Capitol’s closing night live gala show on 9/16/1968. It was hosted by Johnny Carson and featured Bob Hope and many other personalities from the Capitol’s heyday!
Here we go!
I think in the early 1960s when the theatre was renovated and redecorated (and the escalator installed in the lobby) the rear sections of the balcony were walled off, probably bringing the seating capacity into the 3000s. When the theatre was renovated again a few years later for Cinerama, the seats were removed from the rear orchestra under the balcony and actually replaced with a decorative Japanese-style garden and the front rows were also removed to accommodate the giant screen (never saw this but I remember reading about it and saw photos!). From this time until it closed the Capitol probably had about 1500 seats that were in use. I don’t know if the balcony was used at all at that time, maybe one of the CT members that post here would remember?
I think you’re probably right, Scott.
The rendering pictured in this recent article doesn’t seem to show a full-on restoration. More of an up to date renovation with the remaining parts of the original decor preserved and restored. Plus the organ will remain part of the new theater. But, it’s not much to go on. It’s anyone’s guess what the finished product will look like. Either way, it’s almost unbelievable that the renovation is even happening. Hats off to LIU and all involved.
Thanks. I’ll start looking around. I’m so jealous that you saw the original Follies! That’s awesome.
I’d love to read more about Sondheim and the Roxy. Can you tell me where his comments can be found? Thanks!
Also CT’s listings are often under the current or most recent name rather than the original name when a theatre has gone under different names. Can be confusing.
Agreed. Google is much more efficient and faster than CT’s own search engine.
Well, you know, “Barry Lyndon” – attracts a rough crowd.
And by problem I don’t mean him, I mean a top-down management problem that would result in one of their staff thinking it was okay to go off on a customer like that. And on a public forum. That’s one customer probably lost forever, plus everyone he tells his story to, and potentially anyone else who reads this blog.
Fun to visit this movie that was beautifully restored by Disney. But very (very!) disappointed to find that the organ is only played on the weekend. Maybe everyone knows this but me, but it’s not mentioned anywhere on the website or ticket schedule.
Is “closed” the right designation for this theatre? Surely its active use as a church means it’s “open”, just not as an entertainment venue.
Featured in Season 2 Episode 5 of the Netflix/Judd Apatow series “Love”. How great that this cool neighborhood theatre is still going!
In May 2016 Billboard reported that renovations would get underway in 2017 with a reopening projected sometime in 2019.
This article from a few days ago refers to the Paramoun project as something imminent:
Of course that is how it would have been intended to be lit originally. An array of colors, with no white bulbs, amber being the brightest, displayed from recessed coves giving a luminous, atmospheric, and slightly mysterious glow to the auditorium. Dazzling and brilliant probably wasn’t what the original designers had in mind.
Gosh I think I saw all of those films first run. But not in NY.