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 3,086 comments)

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on September 3, 2016 at 10:39 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 11:32 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 3:53 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 10:28 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.

RobertEndres on September 26, 2016 at 12:23 pm

At one point we were trying to get all of the nitrate film which had been stored in a nitrate safety room in the Hall out of the building. Since it would be dangerous to just throw it out, I asked the Sherman-Grinberg stock footage library which had the rights to the RKO newsreel footage of the Hall if they would take the film to add to their archive. They accepted. In going through the footage I came across a reel marked “Breen”. I thought it might be something in regards to the Breen behind the Motion-Picture Code who also had ties to Rockefeller Center. The archivist at Grinberg played it and told me it was Bobby Breen singing. I suspect it was a protection track in case Breen’s voice gave out from doing multiple shows during the Christmas run. It may well have been the “Cantique de Noel” referred to in the above post.

rcdt55b on September 26, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Is it safe to assume that there is no nitrate film left in the film “safe” in the closet at the end of the hall? I was going to go through all the film in there this season.

RobertEndres on September 26, 2016 at 1:14 pm

As far as I know all of the nitrate is out of the Hall. There’s a room on the North side of the theatre that was specifically designed as a vault, with a room between it and the corridor. It’s next to what used to be the costume sewing room. It wasn’t cooled, and my boss discovered it when they were using the second room as an echo chamber when Plaza Sound had the recording studio there. He moved all of the film to the Projection office where it sat behind the desk to the discomfort of the City Inspectors since one of the cans on top of the stack had a big red “nitrate” label on it. The collection moved around. To get it out of the sight of the inspectors, for a time it was stored behind the screen in Preview A. We finally made a deal with the Museum of Modern Art to take the RKO newsreel footage of the Hall in return for striking acetate prints for the Hall from the nitrate footage. The rest of the nitrate (some of which did go into the garbage) went to Sherman-Grinberg.

vindanpar on October 9, 2016 at 2:24 pm

NYer posted the opening day ad of the B&B ‘71 Christmas show. As you can see the secular part had a circus theme.

My memory is that they had made holes in the first arch so that they could suspend the trapezes. Therefore the act took place in the auditorium itself.

I don’t remember exactly but I think the orchestra went down and stagehands put a net over the pit.

This scared the devil out of me as I was very young and had somebody been flung and not taken hold it looked like they could have gone any which way including the stage or choral stairs or audience.

I endured this twice and it was terrific but it made me very nervous.

It’s also unfortunate the film was heavily cut before release to the Hall. I’ve never seen the restored cut.

moviebuff82 on October 9, 2016 at 6:28 pm

same here. Disney should reissue the movie in its unaltered version.

vindanpar on October 15, 2016 at 6:44 am

They sure dumped Balalaika fast.

I think they did the same thing with No No Nanette the following year. Pulling it fast for The Philadelphia Story.

I remember when Mr Billion was the Easter show (what were they thinking?)and replaced it with some Disney pony movie(what were they thinking?)

I don’t think it did any better.

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