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Photographer's Note

The 12 acre (49,000 mイ) complex in midtown Manhattan known as Rockefeller Center was developed between 1929 and 1940 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., on land leased from Columbia University. Rockefeller initially planned a new home for the Metropolitan Opera on the site, but after the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the plans changed and the opera company withdrew from the project.

The names "Radio City" and "Radio City Music Hall" derive from one of the complex's first tenants, the Radio Corporation of America. Radio City Music Hall was a project of Rockefeller; Samuel Roxy Rothafel, who previously opened the Roxy Theatre in 1927; and RCA chairman David Sarnoff. RCA had developed numerous studios for NBC at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, just to the south of the Music Hall, and the radio-TV complex that lent the Music Hall its name is still known as the NBC Radio City Studios.

The Music Hall opened to the public on December 27, 1932 with an awesome stage show featuring Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. The opening was meant to be a return to high-class variety entertainment. The new variety format was not a success. The program was very long and individual acts were lost in the cavernous hall. On January 11, 1933, the Music Hall converted to the then familiar format of a feature film with a spectacular stage show which Rothafel had perfected at the Roxy Theatre. The first film was shown on the giant screen was Frank Capra's The Bitter Tea of General Yen starring Barbara Stanwyck and the Music Hall became the premiere showcase for films from the RKO-Radio Studio. The film plus stage spectacle format continued at the Music Hall until 1979 with four complete performances presented every day.

Radio City has 5,933 seats for spectators; it became the largest movie theater in the world at the time of its opening. Designed by Edward Durell Stone, the interior of the theater, with decor by Donald Deskey, incorporates glass, aluminum, chrome, and geometric ornamentation. Deskey rejected the Rococo embellishment generally used for theaters at that time in favor of a contemporary Art Deco style, borrowed heavily from a European Modern aesthetic style, of which he was the foremost exponent at the time.

The Great Stage, measuring 66.5 feet (20 m) deep and 144 feet (44 m) wide, resembles a setting sun. Its system of elevators was so advanced that the U.S. Navy incorporated identical hydraulics in constructing World War II aircraft carriers; according to Radio City lore, during the war, government agents guarded the basement to assure the Navy's technological advantage.

The Music Hall's "Mighty Wurlitzer" pipe organ is the largest theater pipe organ built for a movie theater: Twin identical consoles flank both sides of the Great Stage, 144 feet (44 m) apart; its 4,410 pipes are installed in chambers on either side of the proscenium's arch. Installed in 1932, the instrument was the largest produced by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Company of North Tonawanda, New York; it was built as a serious concert instrument rather than to accompany silent movies, capable of playing many styles of music including classical organ literature. A rebuild of the historic organ was undertaken that was completed in time for the theater's restoration in 1999. A smaller Wurlitzer organ was installed in the theater's radio studios, but was put into storage when the studio was converted into office space.

By the 1970s, changes in film distribution made it difficult for Radio City to secure exclusive bookings of many films; furthermore, the theater preferred to show only G-rated movies, which became increasingly less common as the decade wore on[citation needed]. Regular film showings at Radio City ended in 1979. Plans were made to convert the theater into office space, but a combination of preservation and commercial interests resulted in the preservation of Radio City and in 1980, after a renovation, it reopened to the public.

Radio City Music Hall is currently leased to and managed by Cablevision. Movie premieres and feature runs have occasionally taken place there but the focus of the theater is now on concerts and live stage shows.
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Additional Photos by miguel vinagre (mvinagre) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 87 W: 2 N: 49] (853)
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