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What is Radio City Music Hall?

Dan Cavallari
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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While Manhattan is certainly filled with its share of important landmarks and tourist draws, one of the earliest and most popular of those landmarks sits outside Rockefeller Plaza and boasts its now famous red-letter marquee: Radio City Music Hall. Located on the Avenue of the Americas, Radio City Music Hall opened in 1932 and became a national landmark in 1978. Its music hall has played host to countless worldwide acts and continues to be a strong tourist draw today.

Radio City Music Hall is an art-deco design building that was built on land leased from Columbia University. Originally slated to become the new home of the Metropolitan Opera, the venue became the project of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., though his original plans changed after the stock market crashed and the Opera pulled out of the deal. Radio City Music Hall became a venue for shows and movies until 1979, when its purpose was changed to include concerts and other special events. At the time of its opening, the venue was the largest movie theater in the world with almost 6000 seats. Its pipe organ is the largest movie theater organ ever built.

The name came from the site’s first tenants, Radio Corporation of America, a radio affiliate of nearby NBC Corporation. The largest indoor theater in the world, Radio City Music Hall became known as the Showplace of the Nation as more and more people came to New York specifically to see the venue and the shows contained therein. It quickly became the preferred venue for film premieres due to its capacity and grand atmosphere.

In the late seventies, Radio City Music Hall’s popularity as a movie venue waned and plans were made public to convert the space into an office building. But preservation efforts as well as commercial interests led instead to a renovation that gave the venue new life. It reopened again in 1980. In 1999, the interior of Radio City Music hall was once again renovated at a cost of around $70 million US Dollars. All of the carpets, wallpaper and seats were replaced and the murals adorning the venue were restored.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By anon1004690 — On Apr 01, 2021

The photo does not show Radio City Music Hall. This is another theatre.

By calabama71 — On Oct 03, 2010

The first film shown there was Frank Capra’s The Bitter Tea of General Yen.

By OceanSwimmer — On Oct 03, 2010

@cmsmith10: On December 27, 1932, the doors opened to the Radio City Music Hall with a wonderful stage show featuring Martha Graham and Ray Bolger.

The grand opening was meant to be a high-class lavish event. It didn’t work out as they had hoped. The program was extremely long and individual acts were lost in the cavernous hall.

By cmsmith10 — On Oct 03, 2010

Does anyone know who the very first performers were at Radio City Music Hall?

By SnowyWinter — On Oct 03, 2010

Here is a fun fact: The gold curtain that falls in front of the great stage is the largest stage curtain in the world!

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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