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 4,442 comments)

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 17, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Thanks, Michael. It was a great 46 year run, and we’re all grateful to you, Al Alvarez, Howard B. Haas and others for documenting it.

Movieholic
Movieholic on May 18, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Great job compiling this list too Michael Coate. Just a thought but would you be interested in doing one for the Loews 34th Street Showplace theater in Manhattan from 1987 to 1999 when it closed? If not, that’s okay, but thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. I’d do one myself but have no idea where to start. Another user named King Biscuit posted the bookings from the first five years, 1981-1986.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 18, 2016 at 3:18 pm

I wonder if the Showplace was significant enough to warrant a full list… The single-screens Ziegfeld and Astor Plaza often had exclusive engagements and very long bookings, while the Showplace (if I recall correctly) was more of a neighborhood house playing day-and-date with many other theaters

Movieholic
Movieholic on May 19, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Mike (saps) You’re probably right about the Loews 34th Street Showplace. For me, it would be fun to see the bookings since I went there more times than the Ziegfeld and Astor Plaza combined. If I can figure out how to do it myself I will.

Mark_L
Mark_L on May 20, 2016 at 8:01 am

For someone interested in researching NY theatres, if you get a subscription to the NY Times, you can get access to the TIMESMACHINE which gives access to all papers from the very first issue to 2002. They frequently have discount prices.

Casanoc
Casanoc on May 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Nothing makes me angrier that this theatre had to close.

Coate
Coate on May 21, 2016 at 10:24 pm

Movieholic…. I’m pleased you liked the Ziegfeld filmography and thanks for the suggestion. I’m afraid I have no interest, though, in putting together a similar filmography for the 34th Street Showplace. The best I could offer would be a list of the 70mm presentations that played there.

Movieholic
Movieholic on May 23, 2016 at 10:28 am

No problem. I may try to do it myself but thanks for posting the 70mm engagements.

celboy
celboy on July 11, 2016 at 1:09 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iafsHdTngyw

Spielberg like…….Why didn’t this come out 6 months ago?

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 14, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Hello-

i was a frequent patron at this theater starting with its debut film “Marooned”. to which in reference to Mikeoaklandpark’s post of 5/1116. from the very beginning this theater often closed for a week or two if no suitable film was available for a 1st run engagement but i never remember this theater ever showing films second run in the sense that they had exhausted their original engagement at other theaters.

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