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I’m wondering if they didn’t digitally insert a balcony that was no longer there. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
I really miss the Commodore.
Just saw the thoroughly traumatizing “Time of the Wolf” there a few days ago. Whew, it’s not exactly the feel-good movie of the year but it is high quality, and it reaches you and shakes you up badly, which is its intention. The theatre I saw it in was quite small with a smallish screen but that somehow felt kind of like a full-sized one in an odd way. I like this theatre and I’m quite glad it that it continues to be open. I’m making a point of returning to see “Bukowski” the day after tomorrow if they’re still running it.
The prescient (but later imprisoned) William Fox was disturbed about the coming onslaught of television as far back as the late 20s, and made the first wide-screen film in ‘29, John Wayne’s first film as a leading man, “The Big Trail,” directed by Raoul Walsh and featuring Tyrone Power, Sr. in a truly great and unique performance. The whole movie was shot on location all over the west and is a rich treasure, but the Depression prevented theatres from switching over to wide screens at the time and the movie flopped, flushing Wayne into the ghetto of cheapie westerns for a decade, until he was rescued by “Stagecoach” in '39. I wonder what Fox would think of the awful television news service that bears his name today.
Don’t miss the Byrd’s official website. It is just incredible.
My hands-down favorite experience at that theatre was seeing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” there. Went back the next day and saw it a couple more times, I was so impressed.
It would have to be a film I’m not the slightest bit interested in seeing.
I think I saw the last film shown at this theatre, or one of them, which was a distressingly mild Albert Brooks comedy called “The Muse.” The theatre was excellent, but the seats and carpets were astonishingly threadbare given the theatre’s superb location, and now that I’ve read about the 25-year lease expiring, I finally understand why. Reminds me of Hong Kong being turned over to mainland China, although instead of a single hundred-year lease, it had successive 25-year ones. I was fascinated to learn on this site that the theatre started as a “newsreel house” (something I never even suspected existed; sort of the 1930s version of CNN, I guess). I don’t quite understand why the theatre wasn’t more successful toward the end, since the attendance seemed fairly sparse to me, given its wet-dream of a location smack in the very middle of Rockefeller Center. I miss the place, and resent the Nautica store every time I see it, which is several times a week.
This a sensational site, and the easiest website to operate and make comments with that I’ve seen on the internet. The website itself is a treasure. Thanks so much for putting it together.
I’m making a point of checking this theatre out. Warren, what other bargains do you know of in the NYC area? I’m familiar with Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, which is $5 until 5PM on weekdays and all day Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I’m curious to learn of others.
Saw George Carlin’s HBO special back around ‘98 or so there, and it was his pinnacle, at least so far. His anti-religiosity and excoriation of the worship of children in this society were (and are) electrifying. Carlin usually does his HBO shows at the Beacon. His 2001 show wasn’t remotely as good as the one before, or the one before that, but perhaps 9/11 occurring shortly before had something to do with that.
What was the name of that movie theatre that was in Radio City’s building but around the corner, and smaller? I saw its last film, an Albert Brooks movie several years ago, and it’s now a retail store. It’s astonishing that a movie theatre at that superb location couldn’t flourish. The chairs were threadbare and the concession stand only sold one relatively small and non-buttered container of popcorn, oddly, but when you stepped outside, you were right in the middle of the Rockefeller Center complex. Sensational location.
The interior of the Ziegfeld and its lobby are featured in the last scenes of Woody Allen’s “Celebrity” back in ‘98, one of the most underrated movies I can think of. (Allen’s masterpieces weren’t the comparatively tame “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” back in '77 and '79, they were the incendiary “Deconsructing Harry” and “Celebrity” twenty years later.) Oddly, though, the movie didn’t run at the Ziegfeld (which would have been a truly bizarre experience); the Brad Pitt flop “Meet Joe Black” ran there at the time instead.
Yeah, two dollars now probably isn’t that much different from a dollar back then. The Byrd Theatre’s official website is the largest and most ornate and informative of any theatre’s that I’ve ever seen on the internet. It’s so large and complex, covering every single detail of the theatre that anyone could possibly think of, that it has to be seen to be believed. After a couple of hours on that site, I couldn’t believe how much I’d learned about the Byrd, a place I went to for years.
It’s a shame the theatre isn’t here in New York City, where it could serve a more discerning population and wouldn’t more or less go to waste.
The more I think about it, the more I think what little we can see of the interior of that theatre is the Commodore.
If digital technology doesn’t improve immensely from the loathsome picture it features now, we’ll never see anything again.
That Murnau show is going to be really something. I noticed that “The Last Laugh” was photographed by Karl Freund, later director of “The Mummy” and the camera man for “I Love Lucy.” I think his work on that TV series played as large a part in its success as anything else, including the writers and cast; that show shimmers and sparkles and glows. It’s so beautiful to look at, which immediately stops you from channel surfing when you happen across it. I saw a crossover “Make Room For Daddy” at the Museum of Televsion with Lucy and Ricky Ricardo visiting, not lit and photographed by Freund, and all the luminescent magic was missing from the look of the film.
It’s quite a hybrid, all right, and it is fantasitc that they used the old theatre for the lobby instead of tearing it down. It is beautiful, and kind of dreamlike and surreal to have those escalators zigzagging through it, now that you’ve all mentioned it. You can’t stand in line there without gawking at the ceiling and scratching your head over its wonderful flamboyance. In a more sensible world, of course Vincent’s suggestions about preserving the old theatres intact would be the obvious choice, but as we know, there’s not much that’s sensible in this irrational world beyond flailing around trying to stay afloat. At least it’s not as bad as China, where almost every single thing that is old is being destroyed and replaced with truly obnoxious buildings. Oh, how their future generations will loathe them for it.
Wait a minute. For some reason I thought it faced the NEXT STREET OVER, I guess on 43rd Street, and there was nothing behind it for the time being on 42nd Street, so they could build the rails and roll it back and across the street. At least that what it looked like was happening to me to judge from the photographs. I’m under the impression that it was indeed one street over. I could’ve watched it, but I forgot about it that day, so I’m not really 100% sure, though. Oops. After spending ten minutes surfing the net, I finally called the theatre and, incredibly, got someone on the line that seemed to know. You’re right, it was on the same side of the same block and they just moved it down 180 feet. I could’ve sworn from looking at the pictures that it was across the street with nothing behind it to get in its way, but I was wrong. I hate being wrong, but it happens so seldom, of course…
So they’re turning it into an enormous rock concert venue? As someone noted a moment ago, I guess that means they’ll be more or less keeping it as a theatre, which is very good news and almost a happy ending (almost). If the bands are good enough and some of the ticket prices are low and accessible, it might not be a complete disaster after all. I wouldn’t think that much renovation would be necessary, but I guess it’s mostly a matter of muffling the din. Despite their similarities in size, this theatre has a totally different feel from the Ziegfeld, strangely. Has anyone done any speculating about why it is that theatres, that are essentially the same sort of thing, can feel so utterly different from theatre to theatre, even when their sizes are almost identical? The pitch of the seats and the method of entry and the lobby and everything else has an enormous cumulative effect.
The article in today’s NY Times is excellent, by the way, so be sure to check the link a few entries back.
Both the Selma and Watts were in ‘65, which means I was being optimistic by a year or two, since it took a while for these changes to filter through the average small southern city.
Another story from a very different but surprisingly recent time: when the local black high school wanted to post their sports scores in the newspaper, or when a black family wanted to run an obituary for a deceased member in the newspaper, they had to run it in the form of a paid advertisement. Otherwise, the newspaper wouldn’t carry them.
This is terrible, the loss of that huge screen and comfortable theatre. By current standards, it is a treasure. I wish I’d read all this before seeing Spider-Man 2. Maybe I’ll go see it again. If I don’t, I’ll regret it. My two favorite Astor Plaza experiences: the magnificently restored “Wizard of Oz” back around ‘97 or so (I’d never seen color like that on film) and the breath-taking “Apocalypse Now Redux,” another one of the best-looking films I’ve ever seen.
Like so very many New York theatres, I imagine the Angelika is a refurbished closed subway terminal, I don’t know. The criticisms are true, but it remains an institution that everyone attends from time to time, partly because of the ideal location between SoHo and both Villages. And you never know who you’ll bump into there, you really don’t.
Yes, they moved the building over on rails from one street over. Fantastic. They have a series of pictures of this somewhere inside the place, and they should run a short film of it before every show, or incorporate it into the introductory film to the feature (what a great idea). I agree that moving it over and converting it this way was a splendid idea, and it’s incredible that they actually did it. The lobby is extremely impressive. I was there when it opened and saw “Citizen Kane,” and I remember they were running “Twentieth Century” with Carole Lombard in one theatre, but no one would pay the ten bucks for films from the 30s, or at least not enough people to make it feasible, apparently. That’s unfortunate but I guess Times Square real estate is expensive. Much as I loved the old 80s Times Square freak show, it only seems natural that people can step out of the bus station and see actual movies. This place is a real asset, and it has so many screens that it’s usually the last theatre in which you can catch a film before it disappears. It’s weird that as you come out of the theatre you pass through a food court that could be anywhere in the country and doesn’t feel like New York at all. I do recommend the view from the top balcony overlooking Times Square, though. This is actually a great theatre, awesome by dint of its 25 screens.
Never knew this was a movie theatre. I’ve only seen live shows there, like Steven Wright back in the eighties. I think Janeane Garofalo played there about a year ago, although I’d long since moved out of town.
I haven’t lived in Richmond for years, thankfully (it’s a dreadfully boring place), but I was just astonished to read this stunning news on this website. I used to go to this theatre all the time, and it was always doing quite well back then. I had forgotten how big the place was and I can’t quite visualize those huge theatres downstairs any more. It used to be a circus getting out of that parking lot on a crowded weekend day, which was a drawback if you weren’t on a date. I imagine the Kroger Grocery Store they put there will be as large as a medium-sized city and open twenty-four hours a day, but it’s very sad to think of that huge (if utilitarian) theatre disappearing.