Farewell to the Ziegfeld, one of many final film palaces
Final Thursday, New York Metropolis’s majestic Ziegfeld Theater took its remaining bow with a screening of Star Wars: The Pressure Awakens. It was, in some ways, a tragic finish for Manhattan’s final single-display theater. After forty seven years in enterprise, we discovered with little warning on January twentieth that it will be shut down by the top of the month. The constructing will bear a two-yr renovation and be become the Ziegfeld Ballroom, a gala occasion area. The Ziegfeld’s remaining screening was booked with out a lot fanfare, however that did not cease a whole lot of New Yorkers from braving the chilly for one final present. Engadget’s Kris Naudus and Devindra Hardawar have been there to mirror on the lack of yet one more previous-faculty theater.
The primary time I ever visited the Ziegfeld, I did not acknowledge it as an anomaly or a relic. However why would I? I am a Brooklyn child: It was the primary theater I had ever visited in Manhattan. It was massive. It was grand. However I assume I assumed that was simply the best way every little thing within the metropolis was. I used to be so naïve.
However, in a much bigger context, I am speaking about 1997 right here: The multiplex explosion was nonetheless a relatively current factor. In truth, on the time the one one I might ever been to was the UA Sheepshead Bay, which opened ten years prior. Film theaters in New York have been nonetheless fairly straightforward to seek out, interval — even with so many shutting (or turning into porn theaters) down through the onerous occasions of the ’70s and ’80s. However my associates had picked the Ziegfeld because the place to see the Star Wars particular editions, so I joined them.
I did not understand it on the time, however watching Coraline on the Ziegfeld in early 2009 just about satisfied me that I needed to reside in New York Metropolis. Between its ornate decor (chandeliers! pink velvet curtains!), monumental display and large sense of group, it was in contrast to any cinema I might visited earlier than. The Ziegfeld wasn’t only a movie show; it was a full-fledged film palace, the kind of factor I might solely dream about rising up in Hartford. Positive, you needed to wait out within the chilly in your screening, and the seats weren’t precisely snug, however it was a singular expertise.
Ha, I noticed Coraline there too!
It is humorous how we take into consideration the Ziegfeld as a “basic movie show,” principally due to its affiliation with the unique Ziegfeld Theatre — a Broadway venue that is in all probability greatest recognized for its eponymous Follies. The present Ziegfeld changed that theater. Wanting again, that was an odd determination. A whole lot of previous theaters shut down beginning within the late ’60s, and right here they’re, opening a basic-type film palace within the coronary heart of Manhattan! Nevertheless, the Ziegfeld finally did not want that borrowed historical past as a result of over the previous few many years it is amassed its personal set of tales and, as you talked about, group.
A number of the individuals we noticed on the ultimate screening final week are individuals I first met ready outdoors to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace again in 1999. A few of these individuals have fallen in love and had youngsters and brought these youngsters to see films there. (I as soon as dated a man I met on the Ziegfeld — it did not work out. He was there on Thursday too.) And, oh yeah, the notorious Triumph the Insult Comedian Canine Star Struggles sketch was filmed outdoors.
Whereas I used to be ready in line, I met a man who noticed Jaws on the Ziegfeld as a child. Its closure breaks my coronary heart, however I can not think about the sense of loss that he — otherwise you, Kris — are feeling.
In some ways, cinemas just like the Ziegfeld are precisely what we’d like right now: a premium expertise that is value leaving your sofa and regardless of the heck is streaming on Netflix. However I assume the comfort of multiplexes is a much bigger draw to New Yorkers, somewhat than trekking out to 54th road.
I can not assist however consider the methods Comcast (which owns the Ziegfeld) and Bow Tie Cinemas (which operated it) might have saved the cinema. It was capable of survive up to now by internet hosting gala premiere occasions for movies and TV exhibits, however maybe there have been different specialised screenings they might have pursued. Or perhaps there might have been a concerted effort to run it as a non-revenue, just like the Movie Discussion board and Brooklyn Academy of Music. (Individuals within the know say it will have been too costly to function, even when that change have been made.) What the Ziegfeld actually wanted was extra butts in its seats, and maybe it might have managed that with a extra numerous screening schedule, extra screening occasions and a few facility updates (the flat seats within the orchestra degree actually make you miss stadium seating).
I really like the Ziegfeld, however in some methods I used to be complicit in its dying. How typically did I actually go there through the years? I noticed six out of seven Star Wars movies there and lots of different issues since my first go to to the theater virtually 19 years in the past, however the final time I used to be there was in October to see The Martian. Earlier than that? I can not keep in mind offhand; it was the primary time I might visited in 2015, that is for positive.
Like many, I discovered it simpler to hit up different theaters as a result of that they had higher schedules, a extra handy location and, yeah, a greater number of films. Have you learnt what was enjoying there proper earlier than Star Wars: Episode I premiered? Pushing Tin. I hardly noticed anybody strolling into the theater earlier than Might nineteenth in 1999.
We lament the passing of previous-guard establishments, however typically our nostalgia blinds us to their faults. Multiplexes have been a revelation once they began to unfold throughout the nation. On the buyer finish it meant extra decisions, which in flip advantages the business by permitting a extra numerous slate of movies to be launched. I might name the AMC Empire on forty second Road a terrific instance of this: It screens loads of huge studio releases, but in addition loads of indie fare. Proper now the Empire is enjoying Star Wars and The Revenant, however I might additionally catch Lazer Staff and Ip Man three there if I needed to.
So although it breaks my coronary heart to see the Ziegfeld shut, it has been within the playing cards an extended, very long time. However what galls me is that whereas the constructing will stay, it is going to not be used as a theater of any type. As an alternative we’re getting one other occasions corridor, which I am positive will host loads of events and company occasions and different issues the place the general public is not essentially welcome. At the very least the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, an previous “Loew’s Marvel Theater” from 1929 which reopened early final yr, is used as a efficiency venue. Similar with the Astor Plaza in Occasions Sq., which at present operates because the PlayStation Theater.
I can not assist however really feel the conversion of the Ziegfeld into a personal occasions area is a part of an growing development in New York towards transitory area utilization: unoccupied pieds-à-terre and Airbnb models. Nobody needs to place down roots anymore, as a result of extra money may be made in a rental financial system. However for a metropolis to thrive it wants the continuity that lengthy-time period residents and companies convey. And it wants public areas for tradition to thrive. That is what finally destroys me about dropping our final nice film palace.
I am additionally responsible of not visiting the Ziegfeld almost sufficient — regardless that I find yourself seeing dozens of theatrical releases yearly for my movie podcast, the /Filmcast. However as I sat in a decent seat with a tall dude obscuring my view of The Pressure Awakens, I used to be shortly reminded of why I find yourself going elsewhere more often than not.
Nonetheless, it was shifting to see the Ziegfeld’s group come collectively for one final present. The theater ended up giving everybody free popcorn, soda and water (as a result of what else are they going to do with all that stuff?). The viewers cheered all through the movie; it was, in any case, the second or third viewing for many of us. Not a soul left their seats when the credit rolled on The Pressure Awakens. And when the lights got here up, everybody rushed to take photographs, as in the event that they have been making an attempt to seize the essence of the Ziegfeld on Instagram.