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Radio City Music Hall
Radio City, Showplace of the Nation
Radio City Music Hall Factbook.jpg
Front facade of the Radio City Music Hall
Coordinates 40°45′35″N 73°58′45″W / 40.75972°N 73.97917°W / 40.75972; -73.97917
Type Indoor theatre
Opened December 27, 1932
Location 1260 Sixth Avenue (aka Avenue of the Americas)
New York City
Owner Tishman Speyer Properties[1]
Seating type Reserved
Capacity 5,933 / 6,015

Radio City Music Hall is an entertainment venue located in New York City's Rockefeller Center. Its nickname is the Showplace of the Nation, and it was for a time the leading tourist destination in the city. Its interior was declared a city landmark in 1978.

Contents

History

The 12-acre (49,000 m²) complex in midtown Manhattan known as Rockefeller Center was developed between 1929 and 1940 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., on land leased from Columbia University. The Radio City Music Hall was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone and interior designer Donald Deskey in the Art Deco style. Rockefeller initially planned a new home for the Metropolitan Opera on the site, but after the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the plans changed and the opera company withdrew from the project.

Its originally planned name was "International Music Hall." The names "Radio City" and "Radio City Music Hall" derive from one of the complex's first tenants, the Radio Corporation of America. Radio City Music Hall was a project of Rockefeller; Samuel Roxy Rothafel, who previously opened the Roxy Theatre in 1927; and RCA chairman David Sarnoff. RCA had developed numerous studios for NBC at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, just to the south of the Music Hall, and the radio-TV complex that lent the Music Hall its name is still known as the NBC Radio City Studios.

The Music Hall opened to the public on December 27, 1932 with a lavish stage show featuring Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. The opening was meant to be a return to high-class variety entertainment. The new format was not a success. The program was very long and individual acts were lost in the cavernous hall. On January 11, 1933, the Music Hall converted to the then familiar format of a feature film with a spectacular stage show which Rothafel had perfected at the Roxy Theatre. The first film was shown on the giant screen was Frank Capra's The Bitter Tea of General Yen starring Barbara Stanwyck and the Music Hall became the premiere showcase for films from the RKO-Radio Studio. The film plus stage spectacle format continued at the Music Hall until 1979 with four complete performances presented every day.

Radio City has 5,933 seats for spectators; it became the largest movie theater in the world at the time of its opening. Designed by Edward Durell Stone, the interior of the theater, with decor by Donald Deskey, incorporates glass, aluminum, chrome, and geometric ornamentation. Deskey rejected the Rococo embellishment generally used for theaters at that time in favor of a contemporary Art Deco style, borrowed heavily from a European Modern aesthetic style, of which he was the foremost exponent at the time.

The Great Stage, measuring 66.5 feet (20 m) deep and 144 feet (44 m) wide, resembles a setting sun. Its system of elevators was so advanced that the U.S. Navy incorporated identical hydraulics in constructing World War II aircraft carriers; according to Radio City lore, during the war, government agents guarded the basement to assure the Navy's technological advantage.

The Music Hall's "Mighty Wurlitzer" pipe organ is the largest theater pipe organ built for a movie theater: Twin identical consoles flank both sides of the Great Stage, 144 feet (44 m) apart; its 4,410 pipes are installed in chambers on either side of the proscenium's arch. Installed in 1932, the instrument was the largest produced by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Company of North Tonawanda, New York; it was built as a serious concert instrument rather than to accompany silent movies, capable of playing many styles of music including classical organ literature. A rebuild of the historic organ was undertaken that was completed in time for the theater's restoration in 1999. A smaller Wurlitzer organ was installed in the theater's radio studios, but was put into storage when the studio was converted into office space.

Radio City Music Hall procenium LC-G612- 19401.jpg

By the 1970s, changes in film distribution made it difficult for Radio City to secure exclusive bookings of many films; furthermore, the theater preferred to show only G-rated movies, which became increasingly less common as the decade wore on[citation needed]. Regular film showings at Radio City ended in 1979. Plans were made to convert the theater into office space, but a combination of preservation and commercial interests resulted in the preservation of Radio City and in 1980, after a renovation, it reopened to the public.

Radio City Music Hall is currently leased to and managed by Cablevision, through its subsidiary Madison Square Garden, L.P. [2] Movie premieres and feature runs have occasionally taken place there but the focus of the theater is now on concerts and live stage shows.

Attractions

Radio City's marquee promoting the Christmas Spectacular in December 2007.
  • The Music Hall Christmas show, a New York Christmas tradition since 1933, has been revived as an all live spectacular show featuring the women's precision dance team known as The Rockettes and is performed every year during the holidays. Additional companies of Rockettes now also tour every holiday season, bringing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular to theaters around the country.
See main article: Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

References

Further reading

  • Okrent, Daniel. Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center, New York: Viking Press, 2003.
  • Roussel, Christine. The Art of Rockefeller Center, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.

External links

Preceded by
Shrine Auditorium
Shrine Auditorium
Shrine Auditorium
Shrine Auditorium
Madison Square Garden
Host of the
Grammy Awards

1981
1988
1991
1994
1998
Succeeded by
Shrine Auditorium
Shrine Auditorium
Shrine Auditorium
Shrine Auditorium
Shrine Auditorium
Preceded by
Gershwin Theatre
Host of the
Tony Awards

2000–Present
Succeeded by
current







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