Ziegfeld Theatre

141 West 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 4,428 comments)

HowardBHaas on March 14, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Loews Lincoln Sq shows 70mm IMAX, but haven’t been showing regular 70mm to my knowledge. In addition to Village East, Walter Reade Theatre has had classic 70mm festivals. And, City Cinemas 1,2,3 has shown new 70 mm, soon the Batman vs Superman.

John Fink
John Fink on March 14, 2016 at 5:02 pm

I saw an advance screening of Hateful Eight at Cinema 1,2,3 and in 70MM and the presentation was flawless including proper masking (something lacking in standard multiplexes). Too bad they didn’t show it during the general release.

I believe the Zig’s equipment was donated to FSLC and installed at Walter Reade which is a nice screening room so they definitely have 70MM (IMHO – digital or film FSLC constantly has the best presentation in town – Loews Lincoln Center has the same crappy presentation all AMCs do with Real D filters left on for 2D).

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 14, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Loews Lincoln Center has the same crappy presentation all AMCs do with Real D filters left on for 2D).

What do you mean by this? How can a patron look out for this happening?

BobbyS on March 16, 2016 at 12:02 am

In Chicago, the Music Box Theater just finished a 70 mm week of ten days. They put up a large temp screen wall to wall in front of the stage. with special sound. Saw “Cleopatra” &“Lawrence of Arabia”“2001”..So beautiful & clear and bright colors. This is their 3rd year and first with new sceen. Puts Dlp or Dcp digital to shame. Go to their website to see if they still have the booklet to view. Radio City should show these films as a special event. Our theater was full! Oh, It was beautifully masked. AMC ruined Loews when they bought it.

Giles on March 16, 2016 at 6:56 am

it helps tremendously BobbyS, that 70mm can also sound great with the five channels of sound behind the screen – something that DCP applications has yet to achieve, Dolby Atmos can do it, but no one has hard encoded five front sound since the release of 8-channel SDDS movies.

moviebuff82 on March 16, 2016 at 11:26 am

Which Sony stopped doing in 2007. Surf’s Up was the last movie to feature 8 channel SDDS according to Wikipedia. Giles, most theaters that were equipped with 8 channel recievers replaced them with Dolby Digital surround ex, 7.1, and atmos. Atmos and home is similar to what SDDS would’ve been at home. Sony never developed a home version of SDDS for media consumption yet the movies that were mixed for SDDS also were mixed for dolby digital and dts and pcm.

cmbussmann on March 17, 2016 at 11:41 am

I read that the audio system from the Ziegfeld ended up at the newly opened Metrograph!


HowardBHaas on March 19, 2016 at 10:32 am

yesterday (Friday) the exterior looked the same except the movie poster cases & movie poster area of the marquee had been boarded over. And, you couldn’t see in from the outside. Workers were entering into a door on the fountain pool side, where paper notices stated Notice of Asbestos Abatement, which likely means gutting is going on inside. I posted 3 photos, one of the marquee side, and 2 of the fountain pool side including the notice.

Coate on April 27, 2016 at 9:26 am

I guess no one remembers that I posted a chronological Ziegfeld bookings list several years ago which included many of the details recently discussed here (i.e. bookings during a newspaper strike period, the Kirk Douglas retrospective, presentation formats, corrected opening dates, etc.). But I guess it’s easy to overlook it when there’s 176 pages of comments! Or, maybe it’s being purposely ignored as with many of my contributions made on this website. :–( Anyway, my list, which was intended to expand upon the list initially posted a couple years earlier by Al Alvarez (the one everyone keeps referring to), was posted a decade at a time during April 2008 and currently appears on comment pages 66 & 68. It only covered the 1969-99 period, though, and, unfortunately, since the website redesign, the formatting and layout of the listing is a bit wonky and some of it amounts to a bunch of coding gibberish. So…I guess my point to this comment is that maybe I ought to consider reaching out to Al Alvarez and see if maybe we can blend our work together and put together a definitive list.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 27, 2016 at 10:07 am

How about reposting it now? So we don’t have to dig through the archives….

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