A New York legend: The Radio City Music Hall


Since its opening in December of 1932, The Radio City Music Hall has welcomed more than 300 million visitors from around the world. They gathered to enjoy stage shows, movies, concerts and colourful special events. The venue was certified with an official landmark status in 1978 and underwent extensive restoration in 1999, costing over 70 million US-Dollars. Money well spent, as the measure brought back original authentic ambiance along with the glamour of the 1930’s – enhanced with contemporary technology. Radio City Music Hall is located at 1260 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) in the heart of the Rockefeller Center – the nation’s favorite Christmas destination.

Superlative upon superlative in NYC

To this day, the RCMH represents a tourism magnet of undiminished power. It is said to be the world’s largest indoor theatre (approx. 6,000 seats) with a marquee a full city-block long, to sport the world’s largest stage curtain (in gold), an auditorium measuring 160 feet from back to stage and a ceiling 84 feet high. The Hall contains more than 25,000 lights, but no columns to obstruct the view. Actors can enter via choral staircases rising up the sides and an intelligent floor layout guarantees, that ‘in Radio City Music Hall every seat is a good seat’.

To entertain the audience with the most spectacular effects, the stage consists of three sections mounted to hydraulic elevators. A fourth lift can even make the entire orchestra travel high or low! The “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ was custom-built for the theatre and its 4,178 pipes, some of which reach a height of impressive 32 feet, are accommodated in no less than eleven individual chambers. Original features still in place send fountains of water up or torrents of rain down. A mechanical system draws steam directly from a nearby generating plant to create the occasional fog or cloud for more drama.

And what has Mr. Rockefeller got to do with it?

Everything! Without his initiative and his generous funds, the RCMH would not exist. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. held a lease on a handsome property in midtown Manhattan. These were the times when the stock market crashed (1929) and when the world slumped into its worst-ever depression. The economy was weak, prospects dim – and the city’s plans to gentrify the neighbourhood had been abandoned for good.

A palace for the people

Despite New York being inundated with vacant rental space, Mr. Rockefeller would not be deterred. Instead, he had a complex of buildings constructed that followed the highest standards of architecture and design. He was convinced that commercial tenants would be attracted even during the severe lows of the prevailing depression. And he found himself strong partners: Rockefeller, the Radio Corporation of America and a Mr. ‘Roxy’ Rothafel joined forces and made their dream reality by creating a theatre ‘unmatched in the world’.

Their Radio City Music Hall offered high-quality entertainment at affordable prices for everyone to enjoy, and soon it developed into the favorite theatre for moviemakers and moviegoers alike. Only two weeks after its gala opening, it staged its first film premiere – The Bitter Tea of General Yen. King Kong, White Christmas, Mame, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Mary Poppins, 101 Dalmatians, The Lion King and countless others were to follow.

During the golden years, celebrities like Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Merle Oberon, Mary Pickford, Barbara Stanwyck, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Taylor, Cary Grant or Rosalind Russell stopped by to greet their fans and to be adored by them.

For decades, popular American entertainers performed on the Great Stage, being 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 or BB King. Today’s shows are starring Bette Middler, Stevie Wonder or Riverdance. Radio City has hosted the Grammy’s and the Tony’s, The MTV Video Music Awards, the ESPY Awards and TIME Magazine’s 75th year celebration – a distinguished visit from the President included.
RCMH offers many lavish spaces. See how The Grand Foyer could fit into your MICE plans:

Corporate Meetings, cocktail parties and receptions

The Grand Foyer, designed to usher its expectant audience into the Music Hall in style, features a 60-foot gold-leaf ceiling, dazzling chandeliers and exceptional artwork. It is spacious enough to accommodate a conference for 6,000, but also offers a magnificent backdrop for special events like benefit galas (approx. 600 guests, banquet: 350).

Hotels in the vicinity
Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, Crown Plaza and Carlton.

The Radio City Music Hall is managed by The Madison Square Garden Company.


Header photo by ©Clayton Cotterell, provided by NYC & Company.