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.