For four decades, the Ziegfeld Theatre loomed large as the grandest stage to launch a movie in New York with its 1,131 seats. Its closure last month has sent studios into a tailspin.
“It’s a disaster,” says events host Peggy Siegal, who notes a Gotham screen shortage with the shuttering of the Academy Theater Lighthouse International last summer and a planned renovation of MoMA’s red carpet space. “The studios are going to have to go to public theaters. It’s not going to feel the same.”
Take the Feb. 9 world premiere of Paramount’s “Zoolander 2,” an event that almost assuredly would have unfolded at the Ziegfeld. Instead, guests made their way uptown to Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, where New York Film Festival screenings take place, often without food. And a source estimates that the cost of renting Alice Tully Hall — with its roughly 1,000 seats — is much higher than that of the Ziegfeld, putting it out of reach of most budgets.
The Feb. 3 premiere of “How to Be Single” was held at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, which has the vibe of a college lecture hall. New Line had to ship in its own projection equipment, as well as candy and water, for the picture.
When the Ziegfeld closed, its owners cited the pinched economics of the theater business. But just as the way people are watching movies is changing in a streaming world, so too is the old-fashioned practice of splurging for a one-night party. Ten years ago, movie premieres were still lavish affairs. But studios have been cutting back. With major summer tentpoles on the way, can the biggest city in America find a screen worthy of Hollywood’s glitz and glamour?