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Bigjoe59, You need to purchase and read and memorize every word in “American Showman” by Ross Melnick, the story of Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel. In it you will see that the first years the theater concentrated on its lavish stage productions and booked often B product (but sometimes A move-overs from other first-run B'way houses)… mixed in with A. It wasn’t until after the British Gaumont relationship ended in the mid (during the Great Depression) to the late thirties that the theater then again played strictly A product mostly from TCF. The Roxy was strictly an A house until it closed.
The Roxy seating capacity was greatly reduced from 5,900 seats to less than 3,000 seats with the Loge completely closed because of poor sight lines. Only a portion of the orchestra and balcony was used with much of the proscenium and theater’s interior beauty and side walls covered up. The reserved seat engagement did poor business and did not encourage the production of another film in Cinemiracle.
During the first week only of the “All About Eve” patrons were not allowed to enter the auditorium during the film. There was a half hour break between shows with the stage show first and then the film. It was not a reserved seat engagement but patrons could purchase tickets in advance to specific shows. Patrons were not happy at that time to not be able to go in at any point. The policy did not work and the theater returned to its regular continuous shows policy. Business improved in the second week and the six week run was highly successful.
From the late 1930s and through the 1950s, The Roxy only booked A films. Exception was the Depression Era when the theater struggled to survive and booked B movies. B movies were often booked during the early years (1927 – 1932) when Roxy himself was managing director and wanted his elaborate stage shows to be the main attraction.
The last A film to play the Roxy and its last film (sans stage show) before demolition was “The Wind Cannot Read” with Dirk Bogard
As a Roxy usher in 1956 and 1957, I can tell you that there were no women ushers during that time. I recall a couple of women in uniforms who worked at the candy concession.
More pertinent info re above: British Gaumont helped to keep the Roxy going during the difficult years (1932 – 1937)by giving the Roxy exclusive first run rights to its releases, including “The 39 Steps.” …thus offering a buffer to the decision by the Hollywood studios to not let the Roxy have its A product because of its low admissions scale. The Roxy survived this, inlcuding the departure of Roxy himself (to run the RCMH and RKO Roxy (later to become the Center Theater), and more including Cinemascope without stage shows, Two-a-day with “Windjammer” and other policy changes that occurred during the managament of Roxy’s nephew Robert C. Rothafel who took charge during the 1950s.
There are many answers to Bigjoe’s question. The Roxy played only A films from the time it opened in 1927 until the Depression years between 1931 and 1937 (assuming that means films produced to be the top of a double feature in subsequent release). Between 1933 and 1937 the Roxy severely lowered its admission prices and economized on the stage shows. During that time, the major studios balked at having their major films play there. It was only after/when Twentieth Century Fox contracted with the Roxy to supply it with their major films did the 6,000 seat theater regain its status. Between 1937 and its closing, the Roxy was consistently an outlet for A films. Your rating of films is presumably based on the intention of the studio and not the quality of the film. This does not take into account the many modestly produced “sleepers” that needed critical approval to succeed and a Roxy premiere was a help.
BigJoe, My guess would be “The King and I” (9 weeks), “Bus Stop” (6 weeks), “Giant” (9 weeks) “Anastasia” (8 weeks) all in 1956. There were many A films after that but these had the longest runs and made the most money and were critically acclaimed. Next case.
That’s an easy one as anyone who knows and loves the Roxy will know. Stage shows were dropped when the house converted to Cinemascope. “The Robe” opened in mid September 1953 and played 13 weeks. It was only exclusive, however, in the Metropolitan area as it also opening gradually throughout the country in select theaters. It was following by “Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef” as the Christmas attraction. “The Robe” grossed $264,000 in its first week, the largest gross for one theater in one week anywhere in the world (seven shows a day)beginning at 9 AM. with a midnight show. Prices were Weekday $1.00;1.50; 2.00 weekdays; 1.50; 2.00 and 2.50 weekends. At the time the top price at other mainstem houses were $1.80 with a top of $1.50 at RCMH.(Previous record holder was “Forever Amber” which grossed $163,00 opening week and had a five-week run in 1947)
Bigjoe59, You’re question opens a can of worms as to what constitutes an A Level film. Among (of course debatable)the A level films that played the Roxy during its last year included “That Kind of Woman” (Loren and Hunter)“Lil Abner”, “This Earth is Mine” (Rock Hudson),“The Big Circus” (Victor Mature) and the last film “The Wind Cannot Read” with Dirk Bogarde….and to be factual as well as fair, the Roxy, except during the Depression Era, never played a B level film.
Adding to the great photo sent by Tinseltoes: “Ten Gentlemen from West Point” was a great hit for the Roxy beginning the post war boom of movie going along the stem. It ran an unprecedented four weeks in June beginning with an opening week gross of $55,000. The stage show featured the Stuart Morgan Dancers, ballet soloist Carol King, impressionist Cookie Bowers and the Gae Foster Roxyettes all of whom participated in a spectacular salute to the United Nations in which the entire company descended a huge stairway waving the flags of all nations. This, in the light of stiff competition from the Music Hall where “Mrs. Miniver” also opened ($100,000 opening)and was destined to run a record-breaking 11 weeks. That same week, “In This Our Life” broke the house record at the Strand. What a week! Wish I was there.
AlAlvarez, I beg to differ. The war and post-war years 1941 to 1950 were very successful years for the Roxy, with the grosses and attendance often on a par, sometimes surpassing, the Music Hall. A major factor in the disparity of grosses is that the Roxy maintained a children’s price, ranging over those years from.25 to .50 while there was only one price for all at the Hall. When it comes to business, the Paramount out-did all the main-stem houses and it had half the seating capacity. The Roxy had a great run with big name performers and a resident company for more than a decade.
Myron, The Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts would be a great repository for the Roxy Programs…as I would (love to have them)…or at least borrow them and then bring them personally to the library.
Hey Housechecker, Yes, indeed, before the Roxyettes (later known as “Blades and Belles”)skated on ice they could be seen not only on roller skates, but balancing and doing formations atop huge balls (an audience favorite). Yes, indeed, Merman sold tickets as a publicity stunt (fact checked from Variety)just for the opening hour.
Hey Tinseltoes, Good job but you might have mentioned that “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” was a major hit and ran an unprecedented six weeks (opening week $105,000)grossing $500,000 during that time. The 24 Roxyettes also did their famous roller skating routine which featured “the whip” requiring the last skater to catch up to the end of the ever spinning line. Next show was “A Royal Scandal” with Tallulah you know who…and a major bomb.
Just for a chuckle. A publicity stunt: Ethel Merman sold tickets in the box office on opening morning.
Myron, One of the many informed contributors to this site (wish I could remember who)regularly sent a year by year list of Roxy films and the accompanying stage show. But you have to go back through the archives for this. Also fun is going to the Lincoln Center Library and read all the Variety magazine issues on microfilm from 1927 to the Roxy’s demise. Another source on line is Billboard Magazine and search year by year. The info is out there…just search and ask.
Sorry ERD, but Oklahoma premiered at the Rivoli in Todd AO on reserved seats. Also interesting is that Carousel was never actually shown (although it was advertised) in the CinemaScope 55 process (more info on the Wide Screen Museum)
Dear Housechecker, If you were at the Roxy the summer of ‘56 then you may have been there for “The King and I” which is when I began and stayed for one year. If this is true then perhaps we may have met or at least stood together for inspection. More importantly, one of the contributors to this site is gathering information about the theater for a book on its operations. Are you a New York or vicinity resident? A reunion of “those still standing” would be wonderful but no one except you has yet responded. By the way, “The King and I” was the beginning of the Roxy’s short but great golden year of hits with crowds like the one in the lobby shown in the photo above for “But Stop,” “Giant,” and “Anastasia.” Does anyone know the date of the photo above????
“Rebecca” (March 28 – May 8)and “The Philadelphia Story” (Dec. 26 – Feb. 5) were the first films to run for six weeks in 1940. Up until then “Snow White…” held the record with five weeks in 1938. “The Philadelphia Story,” however, with its opening week gross of $130,000 did not break the one week gross of $134,800 set by “Top Hat” in 1934 and played 3 weeks.
Jay, The general rule to warrant a holdover during the 1950s was that $88,000 had to be reached by early Sunday evening. You didn’t have to be rocket scientist however to know from the opening day how long a film might play. As you know, a four or five week run was more typical, films opening during the summer tended to last longer and gross more.
Answer to EdBlank regarding grosses: Yes I have the exact figures of each week of every film from the day RCMH opened. As for Bambi, it’s gross(around $90,000 and $85,000(without consulting the archives)during the two weeks it played actually didn’t warrant a holdover. Perhaps it was the sadness of the story that kept parents from bringing children and also the fact that the Music Hall never had special prices for children. “Snow White…” was another story as it was so unique being the first full-length animated feature from Disney. It ran five weeks, as you know and grossed consistently over $100,000 over the entire run. It probably could have stayed longer, but the Hall was already backlogged with product. As you know, most films were booked for only one week with a possible one week holdover.
Just a little something to amuse Tinseltoes: As an usher during the 7 week run of “North By Northwest”, the staff would make bets on whether all the white lights would go on and twinkle during the “Serenade to the Stars” finale…more often than not two or three strands would fail to light up as the “queen of the night” (or whatever she was) ascended from the stage floor almost to the top of the proscenium,her gown of lights gradually unfolding to an enormous size as she was lifted higher and higher. “NBN” broke the non-holiday opening week gross with $195,000. Previous non-holiday record was “High Society” with $190,000 in 1956.
As a former Roxy usher 1956/1957, I was wondering if there is any interest in a reunion of ushers and/or staff who still might be around.
For most of you, this link won’t be news, but I thought I would just share a photo of myself (second left) as an RCMH in 1958 with a short article I wrote to accompany a review of “Zarkana” http://curtainup.com/zarkana.html
Enjoy. Also would like to initiate a possible reunion of staff prior to the Music Hall ending its regular stage and film policy. Anyone interested?