Nicknamed the “Showplace of the Nation,” Radio City Music Hall is truly one of the most iconic entertainment venues in the US. When the stock market crashed in 1929, plans for an opera house fell through and John D. Rockefeller began looking for a way to turn the Manhattan property that now holds Radio City Music Hall into a symbol of optimism and hope for the declining city. Since opening in 1932, more than 300 million people have visited Radio City to watch stage shows, movies, concerts and special events.
The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes calls Radio City Music Hall home and for years, the production rented 100% of their lighting inventory to successfully execute the technical aspects of their shows.
In 2016 Radio City Music Hall decided to invest in a quality lighting rig that would be available to any act that came into the space.
Larry Sedwick, senior vice president of production, The Madison Square Garden Company says, “The choice to go with ETC was not a difficult one. We had been using ETC fixtures through the rental market for years and knew the quality we were getting. Radio City is booked year-round between the Christmas Spectacular and various concerts and events, so it was important that all products be enhanced to provide the best audience experience possible.”
Lighting designer David Agress said that one of the goals of the upgrade was to switch to LED fixtures.
With the help of ETC rep, 4Wall Entertainment, Radio City soon had just over 300 ETC Source Four® LED Series 2 Lustr fixtures ordered, installed, and programmed.
“The entire process from purchase order to the first live show of the season took no more than two weeks,” Remembers Al Ridella, 4Wall.
“We made the choice to program everything to match what we previously had set up with the scrollers. As you can imagine, it took a fraction of the time to program the LEDs, and the show looks even better than it did before,” Says Agress.
It’s now been one year since ETC was permanently brought into Radio City. “For the 2017 show, we overhauled the technology in the Christmas Spectacular so it was paramount to have lighting to showcase those updates. With the new technology and the ETC fixtures, we’re able to immerse audiences in the show and provide them with a one-of-a-kind experience,” says Sedwick.
The overhaul Sedwick mentions was no small project. Graphics for several of the numbers were programmed using advanced 14K digital mapping technology. The LED wall that serves as the backdrop for the Christmas Spectacular has also been upgraded to one of the largest 8K resolution LED screens in the world.
One unexpected benefit Radio City noticed with the ETC LED fixtures was the lack of lens flare. This ultimately serves to enhance the digital projections that cover the walls and ceiling of the Music Hall. “It’s something we didn’t consider before purchasing the fixtures, but has been a great added bonus for us,” Agress says.
Every season, Christmas Spectacular grows and changes – it’s never quite the same show from one year to the next. While several of the numbers still remain from that first performance in 1933, the show itself has kept up with the technology of the decades. ETC is proud to be a part of that progression.
*All photos supplied by Radio City Music Hall.