The iconic movie palace the Ziegfeld movie theater is closing. And I must say, I bummed. The Ziegfeld, opened in 1969, is Manhattan’s last remaining large single-screen showplace used exclusively for movies with 1,300 seats (there is only one other remaining single-screen movie venue in the borough, the 571-seat gem, The Paris). Revered by cinema buffs, The Ziegfeld has been losing over $1 million annually and it is a business, after all. But there’s good news too, it will be reborn as an event space.
The new Ziegfeld Ballroom will be a mecca for all sorts of events, and will open in the fall 2017 after a two-year renovation. (Please don’t mess it up TOO much.) The ballroom is to be run by most of the partners who operate Gotham Hall, the event venue inside a landmarked former bank at Broadway and West 36th Street.
The ballroom’s art deco design will also pay homage to the Ziefeld’s predecessor on Seventh Avenue, which was opened by showman Florenz Ziegfeld, which was torn down for the office building adjoining the newer theater. The Ziegfeld’s landlord, the Fisher Brothers real-estate company, on Wednesday notified the cinema’s leaseholder, Cablevision, that they had a new tenant.
World renowned for the quality of its sound and projection — and for an ornate design that evoked the long-gone ’20s movie palaces that once lined Broadway and Seventh Avenue — the Ziegfeld was for decades one of the country’s best-known movie venues, largely because it hosted countless glitzy movie premieres. But changes in moviegoing habits and studios cutting back on lavish premieres losses mounted and the Ziegfeld’s fate was pretty much sealed sealed. The movie theater is expected to close within a few weeks and it is currently showing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’ve already seen it but I’ll go again, to say goodbye to the old Ziegfeld.
But Manhattan is constantly renewing and reinventing itself, so there’s a new theater opening, not another Hollywood blockbuster joint but perhaps something more culturally important. Metrograph is the city’s new two-screen indie movie house, is officially opening at 7 Ludlow Street on Friday, February 19. It is the first new indie cinema opening in a decade and it will be hosting several retrospectives and special programs throughout March and April. Metrograph founder and New York-based director Alexander Olch says,
“Growing up in Manhattan, I fell in love with movies in theaters which are now sadly gone, like The Beekman and The Plaza. To bring glamour, excitement, and prestige back to the exhibition experience has been my longstanding goal.”