Ziegfeld Theatre

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

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Bow-Tie Cinemas, Cineplex Odeon, Clearview Cinemas, Walter Reade Theatres

Architects: John J. McNamara

Firms: Emery Roth & Sons

Functions: Ballroom, Banquet Hall, Special Events

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News About This Theater

Curtained screen

Built just a few hundred feet from the site of original Ziegfeld Theatre (demolished in 1966), 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. “Gandhi” (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 premiere and ran for 23 weeks. “Apocalypse Now” had its world premiere 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 4,519 comments)

curmudgeon
curmudgeon on May 28, 2021 at 7:17 am

Hi bigjoe59, you win. Thought I was doing well with 108 programmes. Another loss in the cinema-going experience that I guess we’ll never see again.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 2, 2021 at 12:12 pm

Hello-

the cut of Cleopatra which played here in 1971 must have been a very cut version. the general release print which played neighborhood theaters around NYC was 3hrs. 15mins.. I saw it the Valentine Theater in the Bronx which played Fox’s big films. for this 1971 re-release was even shorter since performances were very 3hrs. mins..

vindanpar
vindanpar on August 2, 2021 at 3:39 pm

I thought the 2013 full 4 hour cut for the anniversary(the current version?) which played in theaters was the film as premiered in ‘63 at the Rivoli. As far as I know it’s the longest Hollywood studio released film.

vindanpar
vindanpar on August 2, 2021 at 4:57 pm

Where and when was the showing of the Rivoli print in Asbury Park?

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 3, 2021 at 2:35 pm

Hello-

to vindanpar- you are quite correct. Cleopatra’s roadshow cut at its World Premiere at the Rivoli June 12, 1963 was 4hrs. which is the same cut beautifully restored on the 2013 blu-ray disc set. the point I was making is simple. I had thought the 3hr. 15min. cut which played neighborhood theaters around NYC was the shortest cut of the film that ever played theaters. but the cut used for its 1971 reissue at this theater was even shorter. I wonder if Dorothy Spencer supervised all the various edits of the film?

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 3, 2021 at 3:23 pm

Hello-

to CCMPI- thanks for your reply. as I mentioned the cut which played neighborhood theaters around NYC was 3hrs. 15mins. but the cut used for its reissue at this theater in 1971 was even shorter based on the screening times mentioned in the ad. why reissue the film in a much shorter cut? the ad is slightly deceiving in that it makes it appear you’ll be seeing the same print that played the Rivoli.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 26, 2021 at 12:29 pm

Hello-

to Bill H.-

recently we were discussing our movie souvenir program/ brochure collections. in my collection 14 of the souvenir programs/brochures are hardcover- Around the World in 80 Days South Pacific Windjammer Ben-Hur The Alamo Spartacus King of Kings El Cid The Wonderful World pf the Brothers Grimm Mutiny on the Bounty How the West Was Won My Fair lady The Greatest Story Ever Told Hawaii

did you ever come across others that were hardcover?

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on August 26, 2021 at 1:27 pm

I have the hardcovers of Ben-Hur, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and My Fair Lady.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 28, 2021 at 12:59 pm

Hello-

to Bill H.- thanks for your reply. I was just wondering if you’ve ever come across any movie souvenir programs that were hardcover other than the 14 I mentioned.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on August 28, 2021 at 1:01 pm

Hi Bigjoe. Unfortunately I never did.

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