The last picture show to run at the Ziegfeld Theater, Manhattan’s sole remaining uniplex, is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, according to Cablevision, which has leased the theater from real estate giant Fisher Brothers. The 1,131-seat movie palace will close for an 18-month renovation and re-emerge as the Ziegfeld Ballroom, an events space, run by Core Ziegfeld LLC, which also manages the massive Gotham Hall.
Opened in 1969 and styled as a mod Art Deco mansion replete with curving staircase, masses of crystal chandeliers and swaths of red velvet, the Ziegfeld was the go-to choice for lavish premieres. It was named for the storied impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, whose Follies and larger-than-life extravaganzas led tony audiences from the Roaring Twenties through the Great Depression. With its giant screen and state-of-the-art sound, the movie house on West 54th Street near Sixth Avenue was the only place to experience such films as Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (attended by the late David Bowie and Monique Van Vooren, in photo) , the restored Lawrence Of Arabia and Lord Of The Rings. In recent years, the venue has been managed by the family-owned Bow Tie Cinemas, an upscale presenter whose theaters feature reserved seating and sell premium popcorn and other high-end goodies.
Cablevision said Wednesday that Fisher Brothers had notified the company it would not be renewing its lease. It’s been no secret that in recent years the venue has been losing money — as much as $1 million per year, according to reports — as viewing habits changed not only away from big screens to multi-plexes but to personal media. Cablevision executives appeared relieved to have the Ziegfeld taken off its hands.
“The owners of the Ziegfeld Theatre notified us that they have a new tenant for the location and, therefore, we will be exiting our lease in the coming weeks to accommodate the new tenant,” Cablevision officials said in a statement. “We wish the owners of the Ziegfeld the best of luck with the future of the establishment.”