On December 27th 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, thousands turned out for the opening of Radio City Music Hall, a magnificent Art Deco theatre in New York City. Radio City Music Hall was designed as a palace for the people, a place of beauty where ordinary people could see high-quality entertainment. Since its 1932 opening, more than 300 million people have gone to Radio City to enjoy movies, stage shows, concerts, and special events.
Radio City Music Hall was the brainchild of the billionaire John D. Rockefeller Jr, who decided to make the theatre the cornerstone of the Rockefeller Complex he was building in a formerly derelict neighbourhood in midtown Manhattan. The theatre was built in partnership with the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and designed by Donald Deskey.
The result was an Art Deco masterpiece of elegance and grace constructed out of a diverse variety of materials, including aluminium, gold foil, marble, permatex, glass, and cork. Geometric ornamentation is found throughout the theatre, as is Deskey’s central theme of the “Progress of Man.” The famous Great Stage, measuring 60 feet wide and 100 feet long, resembles a setting sun. Its sophisticated system of hydraulic-powered elevators allowed spectacular effects in staging, and many of its original mechanisms are still in use today.
In its first four decades, Radio City Music Hall alternated as a first-run movie theatre and a site for gala stage shows. More than 700 films have premiered at Radio City Music Hall since 1933. In the late 1970s, the theatre changed its format and began staging concerts by popular music artists. The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, which debuted in 1933, draws more than a million people annually. The show features the high-kicking Rockettes, a precision dance troupe that has been a staple at Radio City since the 1930s.
In 1999, the Hall underwent a seven-month, $70 million restoration. Today, Radio City Music Hall remains the largest indoor theatre in the world.