The Ziegfeld Theater, once the city's largest single-screen theater and a favorite venue for star-studded red-carpet premieres, has been reborn after a 20-month, $25 million gut renovation.
And fair warning to New Yorkers and cinephiles who were fond of the 1,131-seat theater's old red velvet interior: The building's transformation into a multi-purpose event venue is … extreme.
Now known as the Ziegfeld Ballroom, it’s being billed as Midtown's only free-standing, street-level event venue. The renovated space now covers 21,331 square feet over three floors and includes one of New York City's largest ballroom. The space can hold more than 1,200 guests for cocktail receptions and theater-style presentations, and more than 800 guests for seated dinners.
Cablevision CEO James Dolan, which owned the Ziegfeld, decided to transform the iconic movie palace into an event venue after years of the theater hemorrhaging money. Its doors closed in early 2016 and the red velvet chairs were promptly trashed. Only the movie screen stayed in place, so the venue can still be used for screenings.
The venue is now owned and operated by Core Ziegfeld LLC, which also runs the nearby event space Gotham Hall.
Architect Richard Bloch wanted to enhance the space so it could be used for multiple functions. As such, the ballroom’s upholstered walls were padded to ameliorate sound issues, and the ceiling has sound baffling features with strategically-installed rigging points for various hanging configurations. Hidden gates on the grillwork balustrade of the mezzanine, overlooking the ballroom, can be opened to expand that area.
At the opposite end, the stage boasts hydraulic panels that can be manipulated to any height from floor level to three feet. Green rooms can be entered from 55th Street, so performers or speakers can walk on stage without having to pass through the ballroom. There is also a kitchen designed to serve large parties, plus five meeting rooms.
The lighting was a big deal, too. A computerized system individually controls thousands of LED light bulbs throughout the space—including the fluted, frosted glass torchieres that line the ballroom and two-tiered crystal chandeliers. Since opening in mid-October, the ballroom has hosted events that range from nonprofit galas, corporate gatherings, trade shows, and weddings.
The Ziegfeld has had many lives before this. The original building was a Broadway theater and movie house before being razed in 1966. The current iteration opened on 54th Street in 1969 as single-screen movie house. And now, it's on to the next version—though it’s tough not to feel nostalgic for the old, Hollywood-glam red interior.