Radio City Music Hall

1260 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10020

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Radio City Music Hall

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One of the greatest Art Deco style structures ever built, Radio City Music Hall is one of the most well known landmarks of New York City. Opened on December 27, 1932, with a variety show, it screened its first film Barbara Stanwyck in “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” on January 11, 1933. The proscenium is 100 feet wide, the stage 66 feet deep. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer organ, which has twin 4 manual consoles and 58 ranks. The organ was opened by organists Dick Leibert and Dr. C.A.J. Parmentier.

Showing a mixture of movies and stage shows in the program for 45 years, the format was ended on April 25, 1979 with Kathleen Quinlan in “The Promise”. Thereafter the programming changed to concerts, stage shows and special events.

Reborn after a $70 million renovation in 1999, Radio City has been restored to all of its original opulence.

Recent comments (view all 3,080 comments)

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 2, 2016 at 11:24 am

I only found out about it earlier this week from markp’s comment above, on August 29th. It was a coincidence that it was scheduled so soon after Gene Wilder died.

Mel talked about meeting Gene backstage at a Broadway play Anne Bancroft was starring in, and that Gene was also in. They hit it off right away. Mel was grateful to Gene for stepping into the role of Jim in Blazing Saddles at the very last minute after Gig Young came to the set drunk on the first day of shooting. He said Gene was a comedy genius.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 2, 2016 at 11:33 am

One of the best moments of the Mel Brooks appearance for me was when he talked about how he and Anne Bancroft loved going to see movies at Radio City Music Hall. He said they went so many times. He couldn’t believe he was now standing on the great stage.

markp on September 2, 2016 at 1:35 pm

I thought his funniest story was the one about him and the late Bill Cullen.

rcdt55b on September 2, 2016 at 4:37 pm

I can’t believe how packed it was. Throughout the day, they kept releasing more and more seats. They even seat people behind the projectors in the first mezz.

My biggest complaint was the non use of ANY masking. How do you not mask the image on ANY side?????

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 2, 2016 at 6:43 pm

Early tomorrow morning at 6:15am TCM is running this theater’s opening attraction The Bitter Tea of General Yen. By coincidence or design at 4am they are showing Marooned, the opening attraction of the Ziegfeld…

markp on September 2, 2016 at 7:12 pm

rcdt55b, that was a complaint of mine when the movie started. The image wasn’t touching the bottom masking and from my seat on the stage left side there was a motor chain bag hanging in the image upper right. The movie looked fantastic. I was under the balcony. I was gonna ask if they shot it to the screen from the booth or in the seating area. You answered my question. Also I was curious, and you certainly do not have to answer, but was it a digital ingest, or……

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on September 3, 2016 at 7:39 am

In the Photos Section, I uploaded a poster and details for the Mel Brooks event back on August 10th, so Cinema Treasures did provide members with advance notice of the event.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 3, 2016 at 8:32 am

I’m glad you’re here, CC. Your collection is amazing and I am pleased that your are sharing it.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 4, 2016 at 12:53 am

Here’s an excerpt from the NYTimes' review of this theater’s first “pictorial attraction:”

Radio City Music Hall yesterday became a motion picture theatre, with the Columbia film “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” as its first offering. The RKO Roxy, the smaller theatre in Radio City, continues to exhibit the screen version of Philip Barry’s play, “The Animal Kingdom.”

It gladdened the hearts of the management to observe the imposing throngs at the doors of the Music Hall for its initial performance as a cinema. Most of the lower-priced seats were filled before 1 o'clock in the afternoon, and later there were lines of persons in the grand foyer and along the Fiftieth Street side of the house awaiting admission. Even the loge chairs were well patronized.

The acoustics of the great auditorium are suited admirably to the showing of talking pictures. The projection booths were installed during the construction of the theatre, but the screen, one 70 by 40 feet, was installed after it was decided to run it as a motion picture theatre.

In addition to the feature film, the program is as follows:

Excerpts from “Faust,” with Alida Vane, Aroldo Lindi and Max Ratjmiroff.

“The Sunburst,” with the Radio City Roxyettes.

“Spanish Twist,” a pictorial cartoon.

“The Story of the Walts,” with Patricia Bowman, Gomez and Winona, the ballet corps and choral ensemble.

The Tuskegee Singers.

Ray Bolger.

“Marche Militaire,” by Franz Schubert, with the ballet corps and the Roxyettes.

An organ recital.

This stage show evidently pleased the audience, but it cannot be said to be very different from other exhibitions of singing and dancing offered by Mr. Rothafel. One might also say that it would be materially helped by more humor and fewer exhibitions of dancing.

The screen attraction, “The Bitter Tea of General Yen,” is a handsomely mounted affair with conspicuously good portrayals by Nils Asther and Walter Connolly. It is a melodrama of China that has certain aspects of Edith M. Hull’s “The Sheik.” It is a story that is scarcely plausible but which has the saving grace of being fairly entertaining. Certain characters are called upon to be exceptionally credulous at times and those who can overlook this and other shortcomings will probably find the tale of missionaries, romance and civil war in China diverting.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on September 26, 2016 at 7:28 am

In remembrance of the legendary child star and singer Bobby Breen, who died last week at age 87, I’m posting an ad for a unique achievement at Radio City Music Hall. Back in December, 1936, Breen dominated the Christmas holiday show, with his movie “Rainbow on the River” on screen, and with the boy soprano himself performing in the stage show. Costumed as a young shepherd in the “Nativity” pageant, Breen sang “Cantique de Noel,” accompanied by the Music Hall’s resident chorus and symphony orchestra.

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