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 3,041 comments)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 22, 2015 at 12:14 am

I’m surprised to hear that Radio City presented a re-release as a regular presentation, and with a stage show no less…!

RobertEndres on December 22, 2015 at 5:02 am

Actually we did that on a few occasions. MGM wanted to premiere “The Wind and the Lion” there in 70mm, and as a warm up we did “Dr. Zhivago”, “Gone With The Wind” and “200l” in 70mm and the above mentioned “Singing In The Rain” all with the same (shortened) stage show. “Fantasia” was another re-issue as was “1776” which had played there in it’s original release. “The Sting” was another re-issue as mentioned above.

Even so, the re-issues were better than most of the first run films we played in those day. (“Matilda” anyone?) Universal was the only company that really tried to help us, actually four-walling the theatre for the run of “The Sting”, “Smokey and the Bandit” and “MacArthur”. They also picked up “Caravans”, the last movie we played in the movie/stage show format, so we’d have a Christmas attraction that year. As vindanpar points out above, those were pretty bleak days for the Hall.

Myron on December 22, 2015 at 6:22 am

I was horrified years ago when there was talk of demolishing the theatre. I spent much of my youth enjoying great films; mostly Audrey Hepburn, not to mention the stage extravaganzas!

vindanpar on December 22, 2015 at 6:46 am

And maybe Mr Endres is to modest to say but the presentation of SITR was so spectacular that Vincent Canby in that Sunday Times did a big piece on it(gilt edged he called it.) And you must understand this was in 75 when all the NY critics were droning on endlessly about the American New Wave in all their long essays. Very surprising.

I was there on a Saturday and had never seen the film before not even on TV. I was in shock(you know how us movie fans can be) and sat through it twice. I had never seen such colors before and there seemed to be enough inventiveness for 10 films.

It was one of my 3 greatest movie going experiences.

Also I don’t know if the sound had been put through some fake stereo or what but I have not heard since then Conrad Salinger’s orchestrations with such clarity. Especially in the sound stage sequence when Kelly starts turning on the effects for Reynolds. Listen to what Salinger is doing and imagine it in stereo. Magical. Who knows maybe it was stereo originally! The great score of Scaramouche was recorded in stereo(alas the tracks are lost) and that played at the Hall shortly after Rain the same year. Doubt though if it was presented that way. At this point who knows?

The Music Hall had a great stereo system and this was before Dolby. The analogue stereo was better. Warmer, richer and with greater depth. Not so hard and glassy. And there were no visible speakers!

The memory of the sound in the final musical sequence of Scrooge when all the groups converge still gives me chills. It made the final moments of Finney all the more moving. I was a boy but I was practically lifted out of my seat in exhilaration.

robboehm on December 22, 2015 at 11:33 am

Going the Music Hall in the day was THE theatrical experience. The lobby, the lounge and the huge auditorium. The organ, the orchestra on the risers, various stage effects. And all for peanuts. Now you spend $10 plus to sit in a space the size of your living room reclining in a chair similar to the one you have at home.

vindanpar on December 23, 2015 at 5:01 am

When I first started going to the Hall in ‘70 it was $1.75 before 12 weekday mornings and this was when they still had a ballet company, full symphony orchestra and 36 Rockettes. I believe a few months before it had been $1.50.

Of course the films at that point were very weak, things like Sunflower and Private Life of Sherlock Holmes which was so disastrous they had to pull it early and for the first time in Music Hall history and opened the Christmas show before Thanksgiving which at the time was considered too early.

The films only got worse but every once in a while though rarely they got a What’s Up Doc or Play It Again Sam.

Sill I got to see the spectacles Rhapsody in Blue and the Undersea Ballet which were great. Literally missed Bolero by days and though it had been done frequently in the past it was never done again much to my eternal chagrin. It was done again as part of a Encores spectacle but it was a completely new staging and new sets and costumes like the current Nativity. A completely different thing without the Leonidoff imprimatur and therefore not really the Music Hall at all.

Myron on December 25, 2015 at 4:44 am

I also saw Scrooge at Radio City & the sound indeed was awesome. I just had a traumatic incident in my life & seeing Scrooge relieved my depression. I think it was in Dec. 1970. The film never got the accolades it deserved. At leasr the song, Thank You Very Much, got an Oscar nomination!

vindanpar on December 28, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Just would like to clarify the fact that the score to Scaramouche was recorded in 3 track stereo and the film opened here in the summer of ‘52. Recording of the film started in October of '51. As I said would be interesting to know how it was presented.

BobbyS on January 21, 2016 at 9:20 pm

Wouldn’t you think Radio City would bring back those big classic beautiful films on that great screen once a month for one day with four showings…has to make more money than having dark days with nothing…popcorn alone might make it work with proper advertising. On the other hand unions in NY which are probably the highest in the nation might make it difficult. But they did it once. Mid-town is perfect with so many people in the area. I can’t wait to attend the new summer show this year. I don’t know much about it, but I hope it plays well into august and has huge crowds which might bring back the concept once again..

vindanpar on January 26, 2016 at 4:02 pm

For the Music Hall to show classic films it would need an endowment.

And if I were a David Koch I would be the one to give it.

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