Radio City Music Hall, one of the world’s most celebrated and architecturally significant entertainment venues, opened in the heart of midtown Manhattan amid great fanfare on this day in history, Dec. 27, 1932.
“Described as ‘the hottest ticket in town,’ more than 100,000 people requested admission (to opening night), but only 6,200 could be obliged,” writes the website of the Radio City Rockettes, the iconic high-kicking dance troupe that performs at the theater.
“Radio City quickly became the favorite first-run theater for moviemakers and moviegoers alike. Before long, a first showing at the Music Hall virtually guaranteed a successful run in theaters around the country.”
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Landmark American films including “White Christmas,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” — starring former Radio City usher Gregory Peck — are among the 700 movies that premiered at the theater over the decades.
The venue is better known today as the home of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the high-kicking Rockettes and a long list of iconic live performances throughout the year.
It’s also the home of a long list of superlatives.
“Radio City Music Hall is the largest indoor theater in the world. Its marquee is a full city-block long,” boasts Madison Square Garden Entertainment, which purchased the venue in 2021.
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“The stage is considered by technical experts to be the most perfectly equipped in the world. It is comprised of three sections mounted on hydraulic-powered elevators. They make it possible to create dynamic sets and achieve spectacular effects in staging.”
More than 300 million people have witnessed performances at the theater in the 90 years since it opened, according to MSG Entertainment.
Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular, a holiday highlight for millions of New Yorkers and tourists over the decades, was embroiled in controversy this month.
A mother escorting her daughter’s Girl Scout troop to the Christmas show was booted out of the theater.
Facial recognition technology identified her as an attorney working for a law firm embroiled in a dispute with Madison Square Garden Entertainment.
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Radio City Music Hall’s facade, with its signature glowing neon signage, makes it one of the nation’s most recognizable urban and entertainment landmarks.
It elicits “oohs” and “aahs” from countless tourists and selfie-takers each day.
“The interior of Radio City Music Hall is of unique importance to the history of American architecture.”
Radio City Music Hall is part of the larger Rockefeller Center development between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, which began in 1931 and was completed in 1939.
It was a landmark achievement of urban renewal during the height of the Great Depression, remaking a seedy area of Manhattan once known as the “speakeasy belt.”
Radio City was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone and interior designer Donald Deskey.
Movie theater expert Samuel Lionel “Roxy” Rothafel serves as an adviser.
The Rockettes were known as the Roxyettes in Rothafel’s honor from 1932 to 1934.
“The public areas of the music hall feature murals, sculpture and other work by prominent artists of the time. These interiors are considered some of the most impressive in the history of modern theater design, with no equal in America in terms of scale or variety of architectural, artistic and decorative elements,” says the New York Preservation Archive Project.
“As one of the principal achievements of the Art Deco style and as one of the finest theater designs in the country, the interior of Radio City Music Hall is of unique importance to the history of American architecture.”
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