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"Interstellar" in 70MM at the Ziegfeld in New York

The 70mm Newsletter
Written and photographed by: Howard B. Haas, Philadelphia, USA Date: 11.11.2014
The crane is there to repair the exterior including the roof.

Saturday, November 8, 2014, I traveled to the Ziegfeld to see “Interstellar” in 70mm, not only because there's no Philadelphia movie theater that still shows movies in regular non-Imax 70mm but also because I really enjoy the Ziegfeld experience.

The Ziegfeld is a survivor of a spate of Manhattan movie theaters constructed after WW2 to provide a more modern going movie experience, but due to television, with fewer seats than Golden Age movie palaces. The Walter Reade chain opened the 1,131 seat single screen theater at 54th Street between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue, only a short walk away from the nearly 6000 seat Radio City Music Hall. The Ziegfeld was built next to the site of a prior Ziegfeld Theatre, an Art Deco masterpiece that lasted from 1927 to its 1966 demolition. The new Ziegfeld is now operated by Bow Tie Cinemas.
More in 70mm reading:

The Ziegfeld has closed

Dennis Furbush's Gallery: "Interstellar" in 70MM at the Ziegfeld in New York, November 2014

AFI's Spectacular 70MM Festival

"Interstellar" Goes IMAX 70MM and 5/70 MM

"Interstellar" Now Playing in 70MM

Elbeuf’s Grand Mercure Cinema, France’s only cinema theatre to be showing INTERSTELLAR in 70mm

Interstellar: La Magia Del 70mm Al Cinema Arcadia Di Melzo (Milano)

Internet link:

Bow Tie Cinemas

Blank white screen not meant to be seen by the public, but I was there before the preshow began

The current Ziegfeld's exterior is mostly plain, but people outside can see huge crystal chandeliers in the lobbies. The interior is ornate in a traditional sense, despite the 1969 origin. Fancy plasterwork, intricate metalwork, ancient wood and other elaborate decor greet moviegoers. A box office vestibule leads to a lobby that has an elephant statue and exhibits about Florenz Ziegfeld, the earlier theater, and display cases depicting the exotically dressed Ziegfeld Girls. After a staffer enthusiastically greets you and checks your ticket, you walk up the grand staircase, or more usually take the escalator up to the stair landing.
Grand drape seen from the Raised Rear seating

Then you enter the main foyer with the concession stand, restrooms, and a giant poster of “My Fair Lady” a movie which had its restored 70mm showing here in 1994. Next is the the huge auditorium whose “flat” (non curved) screen measures 52 feet wide for scope movies. Auditorium chairs have ends with an illuminated Z. Rather than a balcony, there's a stadium seated section at the auditorium's rear. I sit towards the rear of the orchestra seating, as the screen looks enormous there, but from the rear of that section, I can get a grasp of the whole screen at once in my field of vision.
Century 35/70 projector and platter holding Interstellar film

I first ventured to the Ziegfeld in 1995 to enjoy wide screen epics “Rob Roy” and “Braveheart” and have enjoyed many new movies and classics at the Ziegfeld since including in 2001 a new 35mm Roadshow print of “Funny Girl” (1968) a movie that originally had a 70 mm release. I've experienced at least one sold out reserved seat engagement, “The Thin Red Line” (1998) which I saw a few months after seeing another WW2 epic, “Saving Mr. Ryan” at the Ziegfeld. Here to see a science fiction movie that spared no expense in production, I remember that I saw here the 1927 classic “Metropolis” in 2002 and a few months later, a new sci-fi “Solaris.” Thankfully the Ziegfeld retained its Century 35/70mm projector after converting for new movies to what is now 4k digital projection. Two years ago, I enjoyed at the Ziegfeld the last 70mm feature, “The Master” which had incredible resolution on the big screen. The prior 70mm feature, “Hamlet” had been issued in 1996, and I enjoyed that epic at the nearby still single screen Paris Theater.

Interstellar film cans

Usually if I am going to travel from Philadelphia to see movies, I like those movies to be epic scaled and “Interstellar” did not disappoint me. After the preshow and trailers, though no longer used for daily movies, for these special 70mm screenings, both the Grand Drape curtain and the sheer Title Curtain opened to audience applause on a 70mm trailer of “Inherent Vice” and then in glorious 70mm resolution began “Interstellar.” Presented with booming 5.1 surround sound, the movie is an almost three hour spectacle of visual extravaganza, an intricate plot that makes you think, and an excellent score. Seeing “Interstellar” in 70mm resolution on the immense screen, hearing the powerful sound from throughout, while being in the cavernous Ziegfeld auditorium was a world away from seeing the movie in a typical multiplex auditorium. A few hundred other moviegoers were happy to enjoy the movie there at the 2:45 PM show.
Myself in the Lobby where there are exhibits of the previous Ziegfeld Theater that was nearby

“Interstellar” was also released by its British born director, Christopher Nolan, in 70mm Imax. I had seen in 70mm Imax, at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute, Nolan's last feature, “The Dark Knight Rises.” 70mm Imax has even more resolution but I prefer sitting further back from the screen in a regular non-Imax auditorium, and I was happy to once again have the Ziegfeld experience of being in an ornate movie theater with a crowd and with an enthusiastic staff.
Marquee lit at night.

Countless movie premieres and special events like Dr. Who screenings are hosted at the Ziegfeld. But, with more than 1100 seats, the Ziegfeld was designed for movies to be exclusively only there before opening wide, and in the multiplex era, the Ziegfeld's future is in grave doubt. The Ziegfeld is the last huge single screen movie theater still showing daily movies in New York City so I am happy to enjoy a movie there, and was doubly happy to see the 70mm epic “Interstellar” there.
• Go to Dennis Furbush's Gallery: "Interstellar" in 70MM at the Ziegfeld in New York, November 2014

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Updated 21-01-24