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Radio City Music Hall

the largest indoor theater in the world

Radio City Music Hall, exterior
Radio City Music Hall, exterior

Radio City Music Hall is located at 1260 Sixth Avenue, New York City, within the complex commonly known as Rockefeller Center. The design of the auditorium insures that every one of its 5,933 seats provides an unobstructed view of the stage, meaning there is literally "no such thing as a bad seat at Radio City." The venue is also famous for being the home of the "Mighty Wurlitzer" pipe organ, which was built especially for the theater, as well as the world famous Radio City Rockettes.

interior of Radio City Music Hall
interior of Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall's Mighty Wurlitzer
Radio City Music Hall's Mighty Wurlitzer

History

Radio City was the brainchild of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who had originally intended to build a magnificent new home for the Metropolitan Opera on the site. But when the stock market crashed in 1929, Rockefeller had to come up with another way to use the tract of land in Midtown Manhattan he had recently acquired. Despite the terrible economic conditions of the day, Rockefeller decided to erect an entire complex of buildings that were so superior in design and construction that they would attract commercial tenants.

Radio City Music Hall was the first part of Rockefeller's ambitious project to be completed. To make it a reality, he entered into a commercial partnership with the Radio Corporation of America, which was already enjoying success with its NBC Radio network and RKO movie studio. The partnership then enlisted the aid of S.L. "Roxy" Rothafel, who had earned a reputation as a theatrical genius by employing an innovative combination of vaudeville, movies, and "razzle-dazzle" to revive struggling theaters across the country.

Radio City Rockettes
Radio City Rockettes

Radio City (as RCA head David Sarnoff dubbed it) opened its doors to the public on December 27, 1932; the program that night was a stage show featuring Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. Entertainers who have appeared on the massive Radio City stage since then include Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt, Bill Cosby, Liberace, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ann Margaret, Johnny Mathis, John Denver, The Count Basie Orchestra, Itzhak Perlman, Jose Carreras, Ray Charles, and BB King.

The first film to be shown at Radio City was The Bitter Tea of General Yen, which was screened two weeks after the grand opening. Over the years Radio City hosted more than 700 movie premiers, including King Kong, National Velvet, White Christmas, Breakfast at Tiffany's, To Kill a Mockingbird, Mary Poppins, 101 Dalmatians, and The Lion King.

After undergoing renovation in the late 1970's, Radio City reopened in 1980 with a focus on concerts and live stage shows. Although it no longer hosts movie premiers (nor any other movies for that matter), and the general public's entertainment tastes have changed dramatcially since its grand opening, Radio City Music Hall is still considered one of the greatest entertainment venues in the world.

The Official Radio City Music Hall site is at www.radiocity.com.

SEE ALSO
Ray Bolger
Liberace

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The Robinson Library >> Linguistics, Languages, and Literatures >> Dramatic Arts >> United States: Theaters, Theater Companies, Etc.

This page was last updated on 08/13/2017.