Seating nearly 6,000, Radio City Music Hall is the world’s biggest theater having a traditional stage with a proscenium arch. Radio City Music Hall opened in 1932 as part of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s plan to revitalize the New York City Midtown despite a growing Depression. The Music Hall was one of a complex of buildings that replaced a seedy section of the city, known as “The Speakeasy Belt”. He partnered with one of the few companies that thrived following the 1929 stock market crash – Radio Corporation of America. RCA chief David Sarnoff christened the development “Radio City”, and the name stuck.
Nicknamed “The Showplace of the Nation”, Radio City Music Hall gained fame from its dance team, the Rockettes. Donald Deskey and Edward Durell Stone employed an Art Deco style in the design.
Radio City Music Hall has three balconies:
First Mezzanine: 1,600 seats
Second Mezzanine: 1,560 seats
Third Mezzanine: 1,400 seats
The total seating capacity of the balconies is 4,560 seats.
The orchestra level has 3,500 seats, so the total seating capacity of Radio City Music Hall is 5,960 seats.
The theater rose up from a property slated for a new Metropolitan Opera House. (That project had come to a screeching halt after the crash of the Stock Market in 1929.) It opened on December 27, 1932, as part of the construction of Rockefeller Center.
Radio City Music Hall was the brainchild of John D. Rockefeller Jr., who wanted to create a theater that would be a “palace for the people.” In addition to his partnership with RCA, he also worked with impresario S.L. “Roxy” Rothafel to bring the theater to life.
Rothafel was a master showman. He created a dazzling spectacle for the opening night of Radio City Music Hall. The show featured a cast of 1,000 performers, including the Rockettes, the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, and a variety of singers, dancers, and acrobats. The Music Hall also came to to feature a massive Wurlitzer theater organ.
Radio City Music Hall became a popular destination for both locals and tourists. It was a favorite theater for film premieres, and it also hosted a variety of other events, including concerts, stage shows, and award ceremonies. When To Kill a Mockingbird opened at the Music Hall, Gregory Peck attended. He acknowledged his past job ushering at Radio City Music Hall. Peck would go on to win an Oscar for his performance.
In the 1970s, Radio City Music Hall faced financial difficulties. However, a group of preservationists who recognized its cultural significance saved it from the wrecking ball. They restored the theater to its former glory.
Here are some of the highlights of Radio City Music Hall’s history:
1932: The theater opens on December 27, with a gala performance that includes a cast of 1,000 performers.
1933: The Rockettes make their debut at Radio City Music Hall.
1937: The theater hosts the Academy Awards for the first time.
1943: Radio City Music Hall becomes a National Historic Landmark.
1978: The theater avoids demolition thanks to a group of preservationists.
1984: Radio City Music Hall regains its former glory through a restoration.
1997: The theater hosts the first presidential debate between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.
2021: Radio City Music Hall hosts Tony Bennett’s final concert with Lady Gaga.
History of Management
Four entities have owned Radio City Music Hall since its completion in 1932:
Rockefeller Center, Inc. (1932-1978): Rockefeller Center, Inc., a subsidiary of the Rockefeller family’s holding company, the Rockefeller Foundation was the original owner. The theater was a centerpiece of Rockefeller Center.
New York State Urban Development Corporation (1978-1993): In 1978, Radio City Music Hall was facing financial difficulties. However, a group of preservationists intervened and persuaded the New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) to take over the theater’s management. The UDC oversaw a renovation of the theater, which reopened in 1981.
Radio City Entertainment, Inc. (1993): In 1993, Radio City Music Hall was transferred to Radio City Entertainment, Inc., a subsidiary of the Madison Square Garden Company. Radio City Entertainment has overseen the theater’s operations since then, and it has continued to be a popular venue for entertainment and events.
Today, Madison Square Garden Entertainment, a subsidiary of The Madison Square Garden Company, owns Radio City Music Hall. The company also owns Madison Square Garden, the Beacon Theatre, and the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Radio City Music Hall does not show movies as often as it used to. In the early days, the theater was known for its movie-and-stage-show format, but that changed in the 1970s when the mass showcasing of new films called for a new focus. Today, Radio City Music Hall still premieres selected films, but it mostly hosts the country’s leading popular concerts, stage shows, special attractions, and media events.
There are an average of 250-300 events held at Radio City Music Hall each year. This includes concerts, stage shows, special events, and corporate events. The number of events varies from year to year, depending on the schedule of events. For example, the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes is a major event that takes place every year from late November to early January. This event typically takes up about 40 days of the year.
In addition to the annual Christmas Spectacular, Radio City Music Other events include concerts by both big-name artists and up-and-coming performers, stage shows, special events, and corporate events. This makes Radio City Music Hall one of the busiest entertainment venues in the world. Of the 250-300 events that take place at Radio City Music Hall each year, about 225-270 are sold out. This means that about 90% of the events at Radio City Music Hall are sold out.
- Year Started: 1932
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Descriptive
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Rockefeller Center, Inc.
- Owner While In Use: Radio City Entertainment, Inc.
- Owner Successor: Madison Square Garden Entertainment
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Radio City Music Hall
- Naics Code: 512131
- Location Headquarters: New York, New York USA