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 4,453 comments)

hdtv267
hdtv267 on September 3, 2016 at 7:10 am

I highly doubt anyone at Turner Classic Movies has that much free time.

But it would be an interesting series for them. Showing a truly classic theatre, illustrating the history and then showing that feature.

BobbyS
BobbyS on September 3, 2016 at 9:47 am

That is a wonderful idea! What is more important than the films themselves is the movie palaces that showed them. I am hoping that TCM will do an east coast version of their west coast yearly film festival. Maybe the Kings,Beacon,Radio City,175th etc. They rent the screens & projectors sometimes. Wouldn’t that be a thrill!!

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 3, 2016 at 12:28 pm

TCM did have an annual screening of classic movies for the rest of the country to coincide with their big festival, called The Road to Hollywood. Sadly, I don’t think they do it anymore. I was lucky enough to see All About Eve, To Kill a Mockingbird and Cabaret at the Ziegfeld, complete with Robert Osborne hosting special guests (Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Spike Lee), and all for free admission. Needless to say, all shows were filled to capacity.

I also saw The Birds in Huntington, Long Island, NY: Tippi Hedren on stage interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz in another sold-out show. Just the other night, Blazing Saddles with a live appearance by Mel Brooks sold out the almost 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall. The audience for classic movies on the big screen is out there, and waiting for more events like these.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 3, 2016 at 12:36 pm

On the way to Radio City for Blazing Saddles on Thursday night, I passed by the Ziegfeld. Construction was still going on with whatever they’re turning the theater into, but it did still say Ziegfeld Theatre on the outside of the building, high up on the brick wall, and the marquee is still up. Maybe they’re going to keep them?

FAShaffi
FAShaffi on September 3, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Bill, I really do hope that they keep the marquee and sign up when the new place opens, the building is a piece of history and touched so many lives

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 3, 2016 at 10:55 pm

Opening paragraph of the NYTimes' review of Marooned:

IT seems fitting that a handsome, professional and future-minded space drama in fine color, like “Marooned,” should open a new jewel box of a theater, the Ziegfeld.

cmbussmann
cmbussmann on September 6, 2016 at 9:44 am

Not a day goes by where I don’t miss the Ziegfeld.

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on September 6, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Oh how i could visit the ziegfeld like my dad did back when big movies came out. It was very expensive when it first opened and it still was until they closed it down. No more Bow Tie cinemas in Manhattan anymore that are still called Bow Tie. That’s the state of moviegoing. There are other Bow Ties around the four boroughs and in NJ. I’d like to see the new management keep the famous Ziegfeld script and add in the ballroom name. I think it will get more crowded with all the extra space once it opens next year.

hdtv267
hdtv267 on September 6, 2016 at 2:57 pm

of course Bow Tie cinemas are going to be called bow-tie? what are they supposed to be called? Windsor Knot?

I’m sure the new ownership will do a tribute to this amazing venue, which I actually set foot in an enjoyed many films in, both good or bad.

When I care that much about a place or a movie, I support it at the box office, spending the money, not posting inane, annoying speculative drivel on a message board, the theme of which has long outlived it’s usefulness #jokesover

markp
markp on September 6, 2016 at 5:14 pm

I am so happy that I got to see the last 70MM film projected there “Interstellar”. The picture and sound was amazing. It is a shame this place couldn’t hang on.

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