Laithaine writes: For all of New York’s previous Theater Glory, there are very few one-screen movie theaters left to remind us of the majesty that used to exist before the institutional multiplex mega movie houses. The Ziegfeld is one of them! All weekend, this hidden treasure has been running a Lord of the Rings Movie Marathon and if it ever happens again, I urge everyone who can to get there and see the spectacle!
Although the movies didn’t begin until 1:00, fans began lining up outside the doors by 12:00. A sharp cold wind was diving in between the building to assail us with biting frost, but nobody minded (although some did compare it to the gusts on mighty Caradhras). People who felt an instant community with one another were chatting amiably with expressive recounts of their favorite scenes and vigorous discussions on the points of the films that diverge from the book. One thing was for sure, we were all so happy to be there.
The theater showed us incredible compassion by swinging the doors open by 12:20 and we all quickly piled in to escape the cold. There were 2 authentic black bordered ticket pick up and purchase windows with real live people behind them to greet and help you. I thanked the cashier for the three precious tickets that would let me into the films and practically dragged my friend down the luscious red carpet to the ticket taker. A couple of rippity rips and we were in! A mad dash up more carpeted steps and we stumbled into a marvelous rotunda with mirrors, circular high back couches and two old style concession stands. All of it the same deep Art Deco red. Contrary to the usual indifferent movie house staff that us constant moviegoers have grown accustomed to, remarkably friendly ushers herded us in the direction we were to go with smiles and greetings.
Enormous black doors were swung wide for us and we wandered through with wide-eyed amazement. Nothing can compare to the utter grandness of the theater itself. In my mind, it was even more elegant than Radio City. The magnificent size of the room itself was overpowering. Not to mention that every wall was covered in Red Velvet from base to the 50-foot ceiling and the entire floor was wall-to-wall carpet giving you the feeling of incredible elegance combined with the comfort of a well provided living room.
Contrary to what I read, the seats were well padded and comfortable with a bit more legroom that was expected. The orchestra was gently but deeply tiered so that a head in front of you didn’t block the screen and the mezzanine in the back ramped straight up to provide excellent distance viewing, if you’re into that sort of thing. There was even an honest to God heavy brocade curtain covering the unbelievably wide screen with yellow sheers as a compliment.
Before we knew it, the curtains pulled back and the lights darkened. The first thing you notice after the thrill of hearing the projector begin is the absolutely incredible sound system. It engulfs you with its quality and power. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed
Such a richness of sound! It could easily have been the best I have heard in many years.
The previews came and went, and so did the 70’s movie manners reminder cartoon.
THEN YOU HEARD IT!!!
The beginning music, those mournful violins with deep mysterious cellos…and Galadriel’s ghostly voice:
Han mathon ne nen.
Han mathon ne chae.
A han noston ned ‘wilith.
We were RAPT with awe; it sounded like she was whispering right in our ears and as the film unfolded, it’s breath and scope drew us into Middle-earth utterly and completely.
The fireworks display was staggering and with the expansive woofers slung on the wall, each explosion rattled the room. We were there. We were really there!
The cry of the Ringwraiths literally hurt your ears (I swear to Manwe, I had to cover my ears more than a few times in earmuff fashion just to handle it) and Asfaloth’s hoof beats forced your heart to drum in time. We were pulled in so deeply that most people let go of their normal self-restraint to weep openly during the tragic slaying of Boromir and gasp out load as the great wall of Helm’s Deep exploded into the sky. We chuckled at Gimli’s refusal to be tossed and then his request to be tossed later. And I’m convinced that those who didn’t laugh when Sam proclaimed himself not the bodyguard but the gardener are missing some humor gene. Personally, I lost my self-control when the Eagles arrived at the Black Gate to open a world of hurt on the Fell Beasts. I just love that scene; Gwaihir in action is not only powerful, but also comprised of nearly perfect grace and dignity. And, no matter how many times we’ve all seen it, the tears just pour out when Frodo tells Sam, “I’m glad you’re with me, Samwise Gamgee. Here at the end of all things.”
And all of us were glad, too, to be with each other. There was a strong sense of community between us all even though it was the first time we laid eyes on one another. We took food orders when we stepped out to grab dinner from kindly strangers who were staying behind to watch over everyone’s stuff. Extra Snacks were passed around while in between movie debates carried on wildly. There are few opportunities for Tolkien fans to get together without having to pilgrimage to a large and costly convention and so it was wonderful that for under $20 you could sit in the comforting presence of like-minded company. If a viewing like this ever comes around again in NY, I enthusiastically encourage fans to go. It was a wonderful day, or rather, escape from the real world and a much-needed fix for all of us who are despondently missing Middle-earth.