Ziegfeld Theatre

141 W. 54th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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Curtained screen

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Built just a few hundred feet from the original Ziegfeld Theatre, this ‘new’ Ziegfeld Theatre opened December 17, 1969 with a gala premiere of “Marooned” starring Gregory Peck. The movie house was one of the last big palaces built in the United States.

It was built from plans by the architectural firm of Emery Roth & Sons, with designs by Irving Gershon and interior design by John McNamara. The Ziegfeld Theatre was built for Walter Reade for his chain’s flagship, and was later operated by Cineplex Odeon from 1987, Clearview from 1998, and Bow Tie from June 2013.

The letter ‘Z’ appears on the door handles and in the terrazzo floor of the ticket lobby. The main lobby has an elephant sculpture, also some memorabilia of the prior Ziegfeld Theatre and of the Ziegfeld girls, a ticket taker who cheerily welcomes customers. There is a grand stairs of marble and ornate metalwork, and an escalator. Upstairs is a foyer panelled in wood in which displays busts of Florenz Ziegfeld and Fanny Brice. “Story of this Wood” plaques in the lobby and upstairs state that the wood changed colors from oak to rich charcoal by virtue of being in a peat bog for 4,000 years outside Cambridge, England. Doors lead to the concessions foyer which has elegant restrooms, a huge framed poster from the movie “My Fair Lady” since Clearview placed it there, a bust of Will Rogers, and the entryways to the auditorium.

The auditorium features 1,131 seats: 825 seats in the front section, 306 seats in the raised stadium section at the rear. There are two sets of curtains over the screen, one gold, the other closer to the screen is a sheer white curtain. The huge screen measures 52ft x 22.7ft. The Ziegfeld Theatre’s interior is decorated with sumptuous red carpeting, abundant gold trim, crystal chandeliers, and ornamentation that ranges from sconces to door handles and exit signs.

The longest movie run at the Ziegfeld Theatre was “Ryan’s Daughter” (1970) 33 weeks. “Ghandi” (1982) was shown for 31 weeks. There were probably more world premieres in recent decades at the Ziegfeld Theatre than any US movie theatre outside of Los Angeles, too many to list here except for some that had long runs at the Ziegfeld Theatre: “Cabaret” had its 1972 world premiere and ran for 26 weeks. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” had its 1977 world premier and ran for 23 weeks. “Apocalypse Now” had its world premier in 1979 and ran for 12 weeks. In 1988 “The Last Temptation of Christ” had its 1988 world premiere here and drew protests. The Ziegfeld Theatre was also a beloved showplace for classic screenings such as “Lawrence of Arabia”.

The Ziegfeld Theatre was, arguably, the last movie palace still showing films in Manhattan. Sadly, due to fewer premiers and with competition with multiplexes hosting the same movies, in January 2016 news was announced that the Ziegfeld Theatre would imminently close and after a renovation, reopen in 2017 as the Ziegfeld Ballroom, an event facility. The final movie to play the Ziegfeld Theatre was “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on January 28, 2016.

Recent comments (view all 4,476 comments)

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 30, 2017 at 1:02 am

Still hard to believe that the Ziegfeld is gone, along with almost all the other theaters vindanpar mentions (except Cinema I and II, I think). And in a city like New York. I wish NYC were more like Los Angeles in that regard.

HowardBHaas on June 30, 2017 at 5:15 am

Of course, I miss the Ziegfeld. In the Midtown area, there’s one other wonderful single theater still showing daily movies, the Paris, where I love to see movies. The marquee is always decorated with the movie title. There’s no multitude of black box auditoriums inside. There’s one wonderful auditorium with its balcony open, its curtains used, and 1st rate projection & surround sound. I hope people who miss moviegoing that’s not in a plex will attend the Paris!

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 30, 2017 at 11:38 am

The Ziegfeld we knew and loved is gone, but here’s what they’re calling “the next act”. They mention movie premieres, so there must be a screening room somewhere in the building. Opens in the fall. Hope I get to go inside someday, but right now I don’t see how. Maybe they’ll have an off-hours tour for the general public?

moviebuff82 on June 30, 2017 at 11:42 am

Sounds interesting. I wonder if they’ll have new projection and recliner seats?

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 30, 2017 at 1:01 pm

There’s a stage in the diagrams, which is probably where the screen will be, but it looks like the seating will be individual tables and chairs. I guess I should just be grateful they didn’t tear the place down.

HowardBHaas on June 30, 2017 at 3:53 pm

In those renderings, I don’t see anything from the Ziegfeld movie theater. Maybe the stairway is where it is, but nothing at all looks the same. Gutted. If it looks similar on the exterior, good! but we can forget about the interior.

markp on June 30, 2017 at 4:04 pm

I have to say the renderings have nothing of the old place left. I think its a real shame what its going to look like.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on July 1, 2017 at 7:02 am

By “movie premieres,” I think they mean catering facilities for parties following “premieres” held elsewhere.

vindanpar on July 1, 2017 at 1:57 pm

New Orleans' Whorehouse. Yes, exactly! That’s hilarious.

By the way I read somewhere in an interview with George Cukor probably sometime during the 70s and he couldn’t understand the love people had for the movie palaces. He thought they were pretty tacky!

moviebuff82 on July 2, 2017 at 7:57 am

Even though this theater wasn’t THX-certified like others, it had the best screen and sound system in the area.

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