Radio City Music Hall is an entertainment venue located in Rockefeller Center in New York City. Its nickname is the Showplace of the Nation, and it was for a time the leading tourist destination in the city. Its interior was declared a city landmark in 1978.
Its originally planned name was International Music Hall. The names “Radio City” and “Radio City Music Hall” derive from one of the complex’s first tenants, the Radio Corporation of America. Radio City Music Hall was a project of Rockefeller; Samuel Roxy Rothafel, who previously opened the Roxy Theatre in 1927; and RCA chairman David Sarnoff. RCA had developed numerous studios for NBC at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, just to the south of the Music Hall, and the radio-TV complex that lent the Music Hall its name is still known as the NBC Radio City Studios.
The Music Hall opened to the public on December 27, 1932 with a lavish stage show featuring Ray Bolger, Doc Rockwell and Martha Graham. The opening was meant to be a return to high-class variety entertainment. The new format was not a success. The program was very long, and individual acts were lost in the cavernous hall. On January 11, 1933, the Music Hall converted to the then-familiar format of a feature film, with a spectacular stage show perfected by Rothafel at the Roxy Theatre in New York City. The first film shown on the giant screen was Frank Capra’s The Bitter Tea of General Yen, starring Barbara Stanwyck, and the Music Hall became the premiere showcase for films from the RKO-Radio Studio. The film-plus-stage-spectacle format continued at the Music Hall until 1979, with four complete performances presented every day.