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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
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.
For years I have enjoyed all the comments from people who have intimate knowledge and information about RCMH. I have attended the theatre many, many times when it was operating as a movie theatre ( and for the last some 30 years as a concert venue and for the Christmas show). I have a very trivial question to ask. Why did they run a specially made trailer (rather than the studio trailer) to advertise the next feature to play? If I remember correctly it was a simple graphic presentation or scroll accompanied by the organ. Was it to personalize the information and to also say something about the next stage presentation? Just wondering. I mean it was not an introduction to a studio trailer (as most theatres did at the time) but and entity to itself.
The Atlantic Drive In opened around 1939 (not 1950 as indicated at the top of the page) and was Florida’s first drive in. I remember seeing a re-release of Gone With The Wind there sometime in the middle 40’s.
Jacksonville Florida also had Cinerama (3 projectors) at the Five Points Theatre.
I am surprised that even at some of today’s multiplexes they have masking that change — but they only widen.
To: Bob Furmanek
I grew up in the Florida Theatre, Jacksonville, Florida, a 2000
Seat movie palace which was the highlight of the town, always the best presentation and best movies.
I remember well the transition to CinemaScope and thought you might like to hear what it was like in a smaller city.
First of all I remember on lamp posts all over town they hung these banners: JACKSONVILLE WELCOMES CINEMASCOPE â€" THE MIRACLE YOU SEE WITHOUT GLASSES.
We were all very excited about this and I thought, as a 12 year old, that this would be 3D without glasses. So when I saw THE ROBE I was a little disappointed but got over it when I heard the voices move with the characters on the screen and then there was music from the back of the theatre.
As far as the masking. This theatre was very strict that never would the screen be seen without a picture or a curtain in front.
They did not have automatic masking. And, so when the ROBE
concluded, the curtain would close and I could see faintly through the curtain the stage hand (who was also the curtain puller) re-mask the screen for the News, cartoon, short subject and previews (with the curtain pulled between each segment). Then after the previews, the stage hand would re-mask for the
It was the first time I had ever witnessed an INTERMISSION since it was always continous except just before the feature there would be a short (30 seconds or so) music break and golden lights would turn on around the proscenium announcing the feature. Ah, the days of the past.
But then I remember that this remasking stopped and they showed everything on a CinemaScope screen. The Cartoons and such would be shown in the middle of the screen but with a lense that fit the dimensions of the smaller space in the middle perfectly. On both sides of the Cinemascope screen they projected some type of artistic design filling out the screen so that there was never any white screen. I guess this was there way of dealing with the lack of automatic masking.
The Normandy was a first class drive in with a great snack bar, outside seating and a playground. It also showed first run films from time to time.
We used to go to this drive in but it could never show wide screen because the screen building was too small. Also they built the screen facing west so the start time in the summer was always late, now a storage place.
It is the only “old” movie theatre operating in Jacksonville. 70 years in 2008. As a kid in the late forties and early fifties I used to live there. I remember seeing THE OUTLAW there in the 40’s (re-release I guess). I told my parents I was seeing something else at one of the downtown theatres. We all laughed when they installed Cinemascope because the theatre seemed so small — how can such a small theatre showCINEMASCOPE? I also saw NIAGARA there with Marilyn Monroe and it changed by social life forever. A friend’s mom took us to it saying she heard the scenics of the falls were beautiful.
I saw the first 3-D film here —“Bwana Devil” and the theatre was packed. I also saw “The THING"
which to me (at eleven) was so scary. To advertise the film I rmember they had a coffin outside the theatre with a voice coming from inside with screams saying the thing is coming.
The Empress was a strange little theatre with an ugly marquee and small interior, You entered the auditorium through a kind of tunnel which put you out in the middle of the theatre. The orchestra seating was in front of you and the semi-balcony was behind you. Actually it wasn’t a balcony but an elevated area. I remember you could always hear the projectionist changing reels. I saw a film there called the SECRET Lives behind theIRON CURTAIN.
The owner of the ST, Johns after its demoltion bought the RIVERSIDE THEATRE and renamed it the 5 POINTS. The St. John’s was the darkest theatre in town with a deco feeling to it. And showed mostly
Universal and Warner Bros films and RKO.
There was always a double feature. Alot of Cowboys (Gene Autry, Roy Rogers). It was owned by the Florida State Theatres (which used to be Publix / Paramount) which also owned theFLORIDA,PALACE,ARCADE,IMPERIAL,CAPITOL, BRENTWOOD,EMPRESS and I think the FAIRFAX, also the SAN MARCO and the EDGEWOOD — all In Jacksonville
I went to the Casino once in the early 50’s when I was about 12.. It wasn’t air conditoned and I remember big fans in the ceiling and sunlite coming under the exit doors. I saw a double feature Bela Lugosi. It was across from the bus station and probably had a lot of transients. To me it was always strange and my mother said there were rats in the theatre.
Please forgive me for asking such trivial questions but I hope someone can answe rsince I practically grew up in old movie palaces and memorized the whole program. Especially the way the curtains opened and closed. In my 2000 seat beautfiul theatre the curtains closed and opened between
every segment of the program with different lights illuminating the curtain. The technique at this theatre was to let the picture appear on the curtain and then the curtain would open with the lights
slowly dimming. On closing— the curtain would close during the last few moments of the picture. When I visited the Roxy— in its last breath— I remember the picture ending in darkness, the curtain would close (in darkness) and then the lights would come up on the curtain. Then just before the curtain would reopen, the lights on the curtain would dim completely, the curtain would open (in darkness) and the picture would appear.
This kind of goes along with Rothapfel’s respect for the presentation of the motion picture, that nothing would interfere with it, that it would be presented like a “gem”.
Also, I read in Hall’s book that at the opening of the Roxy, the screen was floating with some kind of
soft back lit and not the hard edged black masking which was a departure for Rothapfel since he
introduced the black masking technique. Any comments.
I have seen many many Christmas Shows at Radio City beginning back in 1950 or so. I have just seen the 2006 show and I think the addition of the LED Wall is spectacular and is seamlessly incorporated into the design of the show. They use it creatively and is not obtrusive. I applaud them for constantly updating the show but still keeping a traditional overall feel. This is a new age— the age of the Cirque du Soleil spectacle — and so the Music Hall must keep up — at least in a technical sense. What the Music Hall has to watch is that children are not that impressed with this kind of show now —certainly not like I was— and I thought it was magic and still do. I am an older dad with three young children (twins at 12 years and one at 10). I’ve taken them to see the Christmas Show maybe five times in their short lives and this year I must sadly report I went alone. They said very kindly and thoughfully that they would go if I really wanted them to but that they had seen it and weren’t that interested . I didn’t press it because I wanted to get an expensive seat and could save the money. And maybe five times is abit much. I am not sure that they will want to take their children.
So the Music Hall has to be constantly updating and the trick is to keep it pure, contemporary and traditional all at the same time.
Of course, I really like it the really old way. A 42minute stage show and a great Movie.
I remember going to the Arcade alot during the late forties and fifties. i remember seeing vaudeville
shows in the early 50’s along with double feature films. Also I went to see On the Waterfront as a
First Run. When the theatre became the Center — the first film was BEN HUR.
I believe RC would have died for a Martin and Lewis picture but the Paramount was still going strong at the time and had them as a live act.
Abbot and Costello were maybe a little too crude (although I was crazy for them) for Radio City. But they did have the Andrew Sisters in a lot of their films and also Dick Powell and
Carmen Miranda which gave them so called class so it wasn’t all 3 Stooges stuff. Abbot and Costello were also big box-office in the early and middle forties. How many early Universal pictures ever played RC anyway?
Regarding calling Jim Dolan (516) 803-1002 about the lack of a live orchestra for the Xmas Show – I did call and was very polite but firm. I am afraid that there will not be enough protest and another great tradition will
disappear. Its too damn bad that the NY press can’t get on their case.
I am an older dad with young children (eleven and nine years) and definitely a Music Hall Groupie. Since their birth we have seen the Christmas Show three times at Radio City and one time in, of all places, Myrtle Beach, SC. One of boys when he saw the Wooden Soldiers number remarked that there were not very many soldiers this time and of course the Myrtle Beach Theatre could not accomodate the full line of Rocketts.
I have also seen the Christmas Show in Chicago and just last year at the FOX Theatre in St. Louis. I can tell you that they all pale in comparison to seeing the show at RCMH. For one thing the backdrops and scenics are all static and none have the Great Hydraulic Stage elevators.
But the one thing that I really missed was the live orchestra which none of theatres offered.
If they do away with the live orchestra at RCMH I predict that the Christmas Show will not last another three or four years and it certainly won’t last at current ticket prices.
I have tickets for this year and will ask for a refund if there is indeed canned music.
It will ruin the show and the current owners should not treat this as a trivial matter.
They should not underestimate the intricate part the live orchestra plays at RCMH.
In fact, when I saw the show at The Fox in St. Louis a couple of people around me remarked that they were disappointed that a live orchestra was not present. They wanted their children to experience that element.
One of my great experiences at Radio City was seeing the 50th Anniversary showing of Gone With The Wind. I thought that I would be the only fanatic in the crowd but, as it turned out, there were
some 6000 New York fanatics. We all knew the film so well and reacted to every moment.
At Scarlet’s oath the whole audience cheered. It was amazing.
In answer to the above post I remember seeing a RCMH Ad in the late 50’s – early 60’s showing a price of 90 cents before 10:30 AM. And here are a few insignificant memories of my own about RCMH.
As a six year old in 1947 my family drove up from Florida for a NEW YORK CITY VACATION.
It was the beginning of my love for NYC with the Empire State Building and the RCA building where
a tour of the radio studios ended with a display of, oh my GOD, TELEVISION. But it was e RADIO
CITY MUSIC HALL that impressed me the most. A STAGE SHOW and a MOVIE. I thought I had gone to heaven and I remember especially all the curtain maneuvers (not just the GRAND DRAPE) but all the runners. Its been 58 years ago but the split timing of the show is still with me. The Rocketts would all be dancing and singing or whatever for the big finale and the curtain would close and then
immediately open and there was the Movie., How did they do that so quickly was my thought.
I also remember that well into the 50’s (when I was in high school and in New York again) I attended a RCMH show and remember the newreel contained just ONE news event (about 45 seconds with the intro and close). The Coming Attraction trailer as mentioned above was very impressive because it was custom made (like a formal invitation) and accompanied by the organ playing subdued music. I remember the Grand Curtain dropping down and wondering whether the preview would run out before the curtain completed its drop since it takes some time for the curtain to complete its
I was lucky to see (probably around 1960) or so the Underwater Mermaid Sequence which was fantastic.
Around 1970 I was with a friend who was well versed in the ARTS and MUSIC and who had never been to RCMH. We attended the 3:43 or something like that and the movie was almost over. The curtain closed and immediately this giant Symphonic orchestra rose up playing all the while. I remember him laughing at the audacity of the presentation (I mean the orchestra was actually playing as it rose and this was not just some small band but a damn symphonic orchestra. He just couldn’t believe it. But he was impressed and enjoyed the entertainment value of the show if not the
sophistication he was used too.
The last film I saw and it must have been in the middle or late 70’s was MAME with Lucille Ball. I sat in the upper balcony. stan
The Florida Theatre has never seated more than 2000 . It is Moorish but not atmospheric,
This is reference to some of the posts a couple of months ago.
Around 1959 or 60 I went to the Roxy (while on Xmas vacation from college) and I remember there being an ice show. I can’t even remember the movie. Also, I was sitting in the front orchestra and remember hearing the projectionists talking very loudly with alot of noise. It was very annoying so I turned around and saw that the projection booth was right above me carved out into the mezzanine. I don’t know if there was a booth in the balcony but I kind of doubt it.
Also I believe the music accompanying the CinemaScope extension was used early on when 20th Century Fox first came on the scene. First there was the drum intro segue into that musical conclusion. It was shortened to just the drum roll a few years later. I think Newman also composed the Selznick Logo music which to me is the second best Movie logo of all time, the first being the incomprable MGM Lion. It is always a thrill to see this “live” kinetic logo.
Too bad MGM is really on its last legs. stan at