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The Ziegfeld and Sound

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Paul Margulies, Prague Date: 09.02.2016
Howard B. Haas image of the front on January 22, 2016.

Years ago, the Ziegfeld actually had a sound board and operator who sat at the back of the orchestra section, who would constantly monitor and adjust the sound levels as the screening progressed. The last time I remember seeing this was during one of the premiere roadshow screenings of Apocalypse Now.

Speaking of sound -
In later years, the theater was, unfortunately, owned and operated by the mediocre Cineplex Odeon chain. I was assigned by Theater Alignment Program to report on the screening of Independence Day. As I sat in the sold-out show, it was apparent that the film was running in mono sound, rather than the Dolby Digital as advertised. When the screening was finished and I was sitting writing up my notes to phone in to TAP, I was approached by a “suit” who wanted to know what I was writing. When I showed him the report, and he asked how things were, I pointed out the massive water stain on the screen and the fact that the sound was not in 5.1.

He took me up the projection booth, showed me that the “DTS disks were spinning” (his words). The projectionist asked me if I thought they should switch to Dolby Digital for the next show, but the “suit” refused even thought the marquee out front advertised Dolby. So, they start the next show, the sound is mono and I call in the report to TAP. Later that day, the studio sends a rep to view the film, confronts the same “suit” who refuses to switch to Dolby and 2 shows later the Brinks truck shows up and they pull the print, leaving a considerable line of ticket holders outside.
More in 70mm reading:

The Ziegfeld has closed

"Interstellar" in 70MM at the Ziegfeld in New York

A Nostalgic View of 70mm in New York City - 1950-1970

Internet link:

Ziegfeld's earlier years

Howard Haas flickr gallery

The next day I hear from Dolby in NYC that the night prior they had held the premiere screening and had shown the film in DD at the insistence of the producers. The “suit” wanted DTS, but no one bothered to switch the connections on the sound board, so the disks were spinning away for nothing. Meanwhile the DD adapter was sitting atop the projector with nothing running through it. The film ran in analog mode, with only the left channel going out.

TAP was told by the “suit”, who turned out to be a VP for Cineplex in NYC, that I was banned from their theaters “for life”. TAP reportedly sent a note back asking how, exactly, they were going to keep me out. Thereafter, TAP assigned me exclusively to CIneplex screenings in NYC.

As to the closing, frankly it is surprising that the theater lasted this long. I left NYC in 1998, and by that time almost all of the large rooms had been “twinned”, “tripled” or even “quadrupled”, mostly with terrible results.
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Updated 07-01-23