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About the Paramount Building in Times Square, cinematography, the legendary film studio, and Adolf Zukor

Walking through Times Square (How can we not bring guests here?), We involuntarily find ourselves at the front entrance to this building. But today only the surviving name of Paramount reminds us of the times when the headquarters of the legendary film studio and one of the largest cinemas in the city were located here. However, about the achievements of Adolf Zukor himself, who managed to make it world famous, most often it is possible to read only in special literature. But he was the first to open the doors of studios for theater actors, he was the first in Hollywood to shoot feature films, and then full-length and color ones. He was the first to attract foreign talent to American cinema and the first to introduce American films abroad. He lived a long and not at all easy life, summing it up at 103 years old. We can safely say that the story of his life, all its ups and downs - this is the story of the victories and defeats of American cinema. I hope it will be interesting for you to remember this again.

Photo: Shutterstock

Many copies have been crossed on these issues. But it is completely impossible to explain logically and convincingly how it could have happened that the world-famous, many-sided Hollywood was founded by Jewish immigrants from European countries. And if we add to this that none of them have ever had anything to do not only with cinema, but with art in general, then this will seem incredible. As well as the fact that, having started their activities in different parts of the country, they, without a word, moved their headquarters to Los Angeles. So the studio Universal founded by Karl Lemmle - an accountant from a family of Jewish emigrants of German Württemberg. Warner Bros. Pictures - four brothers from a Polish family of Jewish immigrants who helped their father in his shoe and grocery store. Samuel Goldwin also belonged to a Polish Jewish family from Warsaw. Goldwyn Pictures.

Columbia Pictures was founded by the Coen brothers who grew up in a Jewish family of immigrants from Poland and Russia. A Louis Barth Mayer, founder of two companies Metro pictures и Louis B. Mayer Pictures, was from a Belarusian Jewish family. Whereas the one who opened the studio 20th Century Fox William Fox, who worked in fur and clothing, was from a family of Jewish emigrants to Austria-Hungary. They came to business in the film industry in similar ways, and for the most part enjoyed the support or approval of their families. Adolf Zukor had a completely different situation. He was also born into a Jewish family from the small Hungarian town of Riche. It was in 1873. His father, Jacob, ran a small general store and died when he was only one year old. And his mother, Hannu Lieberman, is the daughter of a rabbi, he lost already at the age of seven. In this regard, he and his older brother Arthur moved to live with uncle Kalman Lieberman, who expected that his nephews would devote their lives to Judaism and become rabbis. Arthur actually chose this path and eventually moved to Berlin.

Adolf got a job in a neighboring village as an apprentice in a haberdashery store, where he spent three years. The owner's daughters were crazy about books and introduced him to reading. So he arrived in America already familiar with many works of European novelists, first of all with Dumas and Defoe. He made the decision to emigrate to America at the age of 16. “I had no father, no mother, no one who would not sleep at night to figure out how to teach me ... I was alone,” he later wrote. And so Adolf acted independently. In the end, he obtained permission from his uncle to leave, and from the orphan's council - the purchase of a ticket for him on the ship Hamburg - New York. And with 40 dollars (like many sewn into the lining of his jacket) in the spring of 1891, he arrived in New York. Soon he got a job as an apprentice furrier for $ 2 a week. I went to night school to learn English. True, until the end of his life he will speak with an accent, and in critical situations even switch to Yiddish (after all, for a long time he will be surrounded by people who have mastered it perfectly). However, he quickly managed to assimilate. He took up boxing and earned in the process an ear in the form of a cauliflower petal, and later mastered baseball. Since then, sport will enter his life.

Already at the age of 90, he could take walks from the Central Park area to Battery. He was stubborn and hardworking: he tried to do any work in the best possible way. At the age of 19, he became an excellent fur designer and under contract began selling furs, processed and made by himself. In 1893, the World Columbia Exposition in Chicago was organized in the USA. This huge fair attracted Americans from all over the country: up to 47 thousand a day. Among them was Adolf Zukor. The exhibition became a serious claim of Chicago for the title of favorite among the cities of the United States, and America - for world leadership. Adolf liked the city and, together with a friend from New York, opened a workshop here. In the first season, selling scarves with a clasp hidden in a fox's mouth, each of them earned a thousand dollars. The following year, the company grew to twenty-five people and began to generate more and more revenue. However, after a few years, their partnership broke up and, after dividing the company, they continued to work independently.

But Zukor, having made a mistake in choosing a strategy, lost all his savings. He was helped to avoid bankruptcy by the fur trader Morris Cohn (also from Hungary), with whom he founded a new company. In it, Kon provided funding and marketing for the product, while Zukor was responsible for design and production. In December 1896, Cohn & Company announced its entry into the market, and Adolf soon became the husband of Cohn's niece, Lottie Kaufman.

Having worked relatively successfully for several years, they opened a branch in New York in 1899, and soon moved there. To be closer to the fashion centers. Real success awaited them there. The fact is that Tsukor managed to predict that the red fox would soon come into fashion, and the company's revenues skyrocketed. At least he celebrated his 30th birthday with a profit of up to two hundred thousand dollars (about five million in 2000's prices). Thus, his future was presented in the best possible light.

Photo: Shutterstock

It could be considered that the immigration was successful. However, it soon turned out that these undoubted successes in tailoring and furrier business did not particularly please him. It is likely that back in those ancient times, when he lived in a remote Hungarian village, a premonition of indispensable good luck and a meeting with something amazing and beautiful arose in his soul. Skornyatskoe business was the traditional business of shtetl Jews. “Come on,” many art critics can reasonably argue to us. - Don't idealize the guy. It was just such a time when thousands of enterprising young people decided to start a new type of business, quickly filling this suddenly opened niche. " Yes, but he already had his own company, excellently established and bringing in a good income. Was it worth the risk?

At first, he did not particularly risk anything. Roughly speaking, this new type of activity began on April 14, 1894, when the famous inventor Edison opened the first Parlor Kinetoscope salon at the corner of Broadway and 27th Street in New York, where ten devices were installed in two rows, each of which he showed a short video for a small fee. And soon such salons began to grow like mushrooms on the streets of American cities. And then a newly-made relative Max Holstein once turned to Adolf with an unusual request. His friend also planned to open such a salon, and Max needed $ 3000 to participate in it. But, before lending him this money, Adolf carefully sorted out the chances of this enterprise for success. It all ended with the fact that he not only borrowed them, but also convinced Cohn (his partner) to open a similar salon on 14th Street, completely crammed with various establishments - where a crowd of immigrants crowded in search of cheap entertainment. And they rented a restaurant, filling it with “fortune-telling machines, power meters and other amazing machines. But the rows of kinetoscopes with thirty-second dramas collected the most coins. " It seemed how much money could be made with the price of a one-cent attraction? But very soon it became clear that their "Automatic Vaudeville" (as they called the salon) brought them from five hundred to seven hundred dollars daily, and in the first year the income amounted to about one hundred thousand. And then the partners opened salons in Newark, Boston and Philadelphia. What started out as a little onerous "side job" to the main business suddenly turned their full attention to itself. So the development of "vaudeville" gradually led to the curtailment of the fur business.

Then Zukor took the next step: he launched a 15-minute film (versus 30-second and minute in automatic machines) and on the top floor of Automatic Vaudeville created a cinema with 200 seats, setting an admission price of 5 cents. “Most of our clients,” he said later, “did not know what moving pictures were, and were used to paying one cent, not five. But we made a wonderful glass staircase. Beneath the glass was a metal gutter of running water, like a waterfall through which red, green, and blue light shone. We called it the Crystal Hall, and people paid their dimes mostly for the stairs, not for the movies. It was a great success "

Inspired by him, he, together with theatrical entrepreneur William Brady, bought the rights to Hale's Tours in 1906, which was a great success at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. The attraction was a Pullman carriage mounted inside the theater. The visitors were met and seated by the conductors, then the station bells rang, whistles sounded - the carriage swayed and shook, creating the illusion of a real trip. And the footage of nature and pleasant cities and places taken on film, projected onto the screen, enhanced the effect. However, for the development of the attraction, more and more films about travel were required. But they weren't. Then, wanting to avoid bankruptcy, he converted Hale's Tours into a regular cinema. Despite large losses, Adolf not only managed to maintain his network of salons and small cinemas, but also to increase their number. So much so that in 1909, Zukoru and his colleagues received an offer to merge with a large network of Marcus Lowe - Loew Enterprises. However, the analysis of the development of the new industry, at the origins of which he was, more and more convinced him that its further success would depend only on the increase in the duration of films and their quality. If theaters gather whole halls, why can't similar performances be shown on the screen? The only one who could implement this idea in America was the all-powerful inventor and entrepreneur Edison. After all, no film in the country could be shown on Edison's projectors without a license from his Edison Trust, whose chief was Jeremiah Kennedy. Tsukor decided to break through to see him. Many years later, journalists will claim that he kept Adolf in the waiting room for 6 hours. And yet he was accepted, was able to express his proposals and get a tough answer: "No," Kennedy told him, "the time for artistic pictures has not yet come, if it ever comes." And Adolf realized that no one in this industry would ever want to change anything. They are happy with everything. And everything suits them. So, you should do it all yourself. And three years later, in 1913, he will show the first feature film in America.

About Paramount, the development of the film industry and the "Dream Factory".

What is he doing during these years? Since the united and well-established "salon-cinema" business did not require his constant presence, Zukor went to Europe. Moving from country to country, he attends various theatrical performances there, wanting to find out the tastes of the European public. He was interested in what caused laughter and what were the tears, the plots of which plays were the most interesting to the public and which actors enjoyed its recognition.

“It occurred to me,” he will say later, “that if we could take a novel or play and reproduce it on the screen, people would be interested. And we must attract not only casual passers-by on the street, but also people who purposely leave their homes in search of entertainment. " At the same time, only well-known plays should be taken for production, and only actors recognized by the public should be invited to appear. "Famous Players in Famous Plays" - this will become the motto of his first steps in filmmaking. He stops in France and oversees the filming of Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth, a 1912 four-reel feature-length silent film based on a novel by Queen Elizabeth I of England and the Earl of Essex.

It stars Lou Tellegen as Essex and Sarah Bernhardt as Elizabeth. She was already 68 years old, and she said about her participation in it: "This is my last chance for immortality." The production company L'Histrionic Film had financial problems with the completion of the film, and it was completed only with funds from Adolf Zukor. "Everyone thought I was crazy," he recalled, "and they told my wife that I would lose all my money on this business." It could be believed: he paid an incredible amount at that time - $ 35. But Adolph soon brought the film to New York and premiered it at the Lyceum Theater on Broadway. The release of the film in the United States was the first release by his company, Famous Players Film. It was this success that convinced other American companies of the commercial viability of feature films. It lasted 000 minutes - twice as long as any previous film. It was then that Zukor contacted Broadway producer Daniel Froman, who helped him convince theater star James C. Hackett to make a film version of the hit Prisoner of Zenda. Having pulled Edison's most advanced director, Edwin S. Porter, to him, he removes this first feature film with him. And again, fate is testing Adolf. But he, without hesitation, sells all his shares in the amusement and entertainment "nickel" business and invests this money in Famous Players. By purchasing a 40th Street armory in Manhattan and turning it into Chelsea Studios. By the summer of 26, the company had released five feature-length films and was among the first Americans to enter the European market. (Today, overseas revenues are believed to account for at least half of the box office receipts of most films.) The Edison Trust, which continued to produce short films, was no longer able to compete. Moreover, all the equipment and film could now be imported from abroad. However, at this very time, producer Jesse L. Lasky founded the Lasky Feature Play Company, whose debut film was The Squaw Man, based on the theatrical production of the same name. Film Western, produced by Laskey and Cecil DeMille, was virtually the first film shot in a studio in Hollywood. The success of the Lasky Company made Tsukor think about merging with it to create a single, larger company.

Photo: Shutterstock

It was created in 1916 under the name Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. At the same time, both Lasky and Famous Players used the services of the famous William Hodkinson and the first distribution company, Paramount Pictures Corporation, organized by him. The point is that Hodkinson entered this nascent business with a solid vision of the ideal film industry. He believed that if movie makers focus solely on film production and theater owners focus on film distribution, they will need distributors to bring them together. After all, Hodkinson knew perfectly well which films were best shown and in which cinemas, how to set rental prices, handle ads, and share revenues. In those conditions, they were necessary for each other, and therefore Laski and Tsukor invited him to unite into a common company. Moreover, the products of Laska and Tsukor accounted for 75% of Hodkinson's turnover. The common company was named Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation., And later became simply Paramount (which meant: paramount, most important, supreme). At the same time, her famous logo, invented by Hodkinson, appeared - a mountain surrounded by stars with a snowy peak, which is the prototype of Mount Ben Lomond (Utah), where William himself lived. The 24 stars forming a halo over the mountain indicated the number of contracts signed with famous actors.

In this form, with minor changes, the logo has survived to this day. It was recognizable and loved by many generations of spectators, in whose perception the mountain was associated with power and confidence. How were responsibilities distributed in the new association? Weasels were most interested in creative tasks. As Tsukora's son Eugene recalled: “The world was a wonderful place for him to make pictures ... And money? What's the money? Even to questions related to the budget of the film, he treated like this: "Yes, yes, it is too expensive, but, on the other hand, it is not too much if you get the desired result." He believed that this money is spent on a good cause, and no money is spared for a worthy end. " Hodkinson's main goal was to develop his distribution network to the national scale. Thus, the solution of all issues related to the development and life of the new company fell on the shoulders of Tsukor. In terms of the development of production, until the end of his life, he retained the confidence that the main component of success was famous actors and directors, who had to be convinced to leave the stage and go to the cinema. Zukor signed contracts with many of the leading stars of the time. These include Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Marguerite Clarke, Pauline Frederick, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swenson, Rudolph Valentino and Wallace Reed. It was he who introduced William Hayes and Mae Waite into Hollywood.

Adolf perfectly understood how to work with them, and knew how to do it. Most importantly, he knew their value: he could invite the young stage star Mary Pickford to work in the cinema, and offer her $ 500 a week compared to the $ 175 she earned on Broadway. At some point, she told Tsukoru: "You know, for years I dreamed of earning $ 20 a year before I was 000, and I will be 20 very soon." “I took the hint,” later recalled Tsukor with a smile, “she received $ 20, and soon I began to pay her $ 20 a year. And she was worth it. " The fact is that he soon came up with a special form of mutual settlements with cinemas. He sold them films in packages (block-booking), diluting "star" pictures and potential blockbusters with unassuming consumer goods. For a film with Mary Pickford or other stars, he could freely impose a dozen passing pictures.

Also noteworthy is the story of how he adopted the polka Pola Negri, who moved from Germany after Ernst Lubitsch. Gloria Swenson was then the prima of the company, who was furious at the appearance of a rival, but Zukor quickly coped with this problem: he kept one on the east coast of the United States, and the other on the west. All studios were looking for talent in Europe, but Zukor was especially diligent. It was he who brought Joseph von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich from Germany, lured Ernst Lubitsch from Warner Brothers. Paramount even offered Sergei Eisenstein to stage a film based on American Tragedy, but because of the changed political situation, nothing came of it.

Meanwhile, the "Spanish flu" came to America, a flu pandemic that, from late 1918 to early 1920, claimed more than 20 inhabitants of the Big Apple. You don't need to talk about what happened in the city. After all, a similar situation is unfolding before our eyes today. Naturally, the cinemas were empty, and many began to sell at bargain prices. Could Zukor have passed this sale? Moreover, it was then that he had a completely revolutionary idea for those times: the creation of the "Dream Factory". And if he could leave the "dreams" at the mercy of the producers, then he should create the "factory". Moreover, before my eyes was the experience of Ford, who himself created new models, built cars himself, and sold them himself. Why can't the film industry concentrate the production of films, their distribution and distribution in cinemas in the hands of one company? The whole cycle is in one hand. He raises this issue at a meeting of the company, but Hodkinson is against it. However, this can no longer change anything: Tsukor is elected head of Paramount. In 000, the company buys 1919 cinemas in the southern states, making it the first to guarantee its production in its cinemas. In 135, Paramount raised $ 1919 million on Wall Street to acquire and build 10 cinemas in major American cities, becoming the world's largest film distribution company.

In 1923, Paramount released The Covered Wagon, which cost $ 336 to produce but grossed $ 000 million. Those records were broken that same year with Cecil B. DeMille's epic The Ten Commandments, the most expensive film ever made at the time, at $ 1,6 million ($ 2 million today), featuring 29 actors, 2500 animals and 3000 feet of timber for the decoration. He also brought in huge profits.

And already in July 1925, Zukor allocates 20 million dollars for the construction of 22 new cinemas and continues to buy hundreds of old ones. But he needed someone energetic and talented to manage this ever-growing network. And then he acquires control of the Chicago-based Balaban and Katz (B&K) chain, the most profitable group of movie theaters in the world. It was founded by Barney Balaban and his son-in-law Sam Katz. Their West Chicago movie theater was the first true Cinema Palace. Here, for the first time, air conditioning was used (fans blew chunks of ice), and guests were awaited by triumphal arches, grand staircases, ministers in uniform, orchestras, kindergartens with sandpits and slides. This has never been seen in theaters. It was Sam Katz who suggested Zukor to lead the entire empire of cinemas. Thanks to his skills and money, Paramount controlled 1920 theaters by the late 1600s - more than all other film companies combined. Corporate profits rose from $ 5 million in the mid-twenties to $ 8 million in 1927. And movie theater revenues increased from $ 30 million in 1927 to $ 113 million in 1930. And then, in fact, on the 10th anniversary of the company, Zukor decides to start construction of the Paramount headquarters. Right in Times Square, 42nd Street and Broadway.

Members of the board discourage him. Everyone believes that it is too early for them to build a skyscraper. All the more so here, in the center of the theater district. “Right here,” he insists. Indeed, on the first floor of the building, we will arrange a cinema where we will show our premieres. Do the builders really think about where to put the main cathedral in the city or the mast on the ship?

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His friend Marcus Lowe, whose office was located across the street from the planned construction site, watching from the window at the beginning of earthworks for the construction of foundations, sadly shook his head and prophetically declared: "Adolf is digging his own grave." Although it seemed to everyone that everything ahead should be fine and wonderful. No one then could have guessed that clouds were already gathering over Paramount.

The Great Depression could not pass by the film industry. In 1929, Americans spent $ 720 million on movie tickets; four years later, that amount fell by a third to 482 million. Paramount Theater revenues fell from a peak of $ 113 million in 1930 to $ 25 million. In 1932, the company lost an astonishing $ 21 million (it cost the company $ 13,5 million to build its headquarters).

But the scary thing was that the theater acquisition program automatically entailed millions of dollars in mortgage and bond debt. In some cases, Zukor settled in shares, promising to buy them back from movie theater sellers for $ 80 per share (up to $ 11 million). But the stock fell from $ 78 to $ 8 a share. Nobody could have foreseen this, and this was his main mistake. "Fifty-three different law firms, banks, defense committees and experts have fought and shed blood for two and a half years over the ailing giant and its 500 subsidiaries," Fortune magazine told the public. The board of directors was now held not by cinematographers, but by financiers. In 1935, it turned out that the company had somehow survived. Its president, with the blessing of Tsukor, was Barney Balaban from Chicago. The "old man" was given the opportunity to stay in business. He was named chairman of the board of directors and moved from New York to Los Angeles to set up a troubled studio there. The fact is that back in 1926, Zukor hired independent producer B.P. Shulberg, who had an unmistakable understanding of new talent, to lead operations on the West Coast. They acquired Robert Brunton Studios, a 26-acre property at 5451 Marathon Street for $ 71 million. It was from there that it was decided to raise the company. But the trouble, as you know, does not go alone. Balaban did not have time to sell to many owners of regional cinema chains half of their shares in the business and part of the shares in CBS radio and television networks (wishing to somehow stabilize the situation), when the government issued a decree banning reservations and "pre-sale" (Zukor's procedure for collecting advance payments for films that have not yet been filmed). Paramount immediately cut production from 19 films to XNUMX annually throughout the war.

Photo: Shutterstock

The studio was rescued by new stars such as Bob Hope, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Paulette Goddard and Betty Hutton, as well as a sharp increase in attendance during the war. But soon they were dealt another blow from which they will never recover. The Supreme Court at its meeting United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (1948) decided that the film studio no longer has the right to own movie theater chains. As a result, the company was split into parts, in which one of them was engaged in production, and the second - United Paramount Theaters - owned cinemas. This ended the classic Hollywood studio system and ended its golden age. As well as on the idea of ​​the "Dream Factory", conceived and implemented by Adolf Zukor. Mechanically equating a creative association with the automotive, metallurgical or mining business, the judges did not even think about the irreparable damage they caused to the film industry. After all, the funds received through "advance payments" made it possible not only to significantly expand the volume of production, but also to have a maneuver for the development of auteur or experimental cinema. Not to mention the fact that in the event of some cataclysms, such as a pandemic, it was the “factory” that could calmly and interestedly bring hundreds of cinemas that had suspended their work out of the crisis. And much more. Moreover, Paramount did not seek to become a monopoly in business. Several other film studios freely existed nearby, which, if desired, could also be "factories".

Understanding perfectly the role of Zukor in the formation of American cinema, in 1949 he was awarded an honorary Oscar and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as the "father of American feature films".

Several years after these events, Music Corporation of America (MCA) approached Paramount with an offer to pay $ 50 million for 750 sound feature films released before December 1, 1949. With the payment of their shares over several years. What old films could anyone think of when the future of Paramount itself was in a fog? And they gave everything without speaking. And there were such masterpieces as "Beach Story", "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Double Insurance", "Lost Weekend", "Heiress" and others. For the rental of each of them, over time, it would be possible to collect similar amounts. (It is believed that in the next 40 years alone, up to a billion dollars was earned at the box office). But money was urgently needed. And then, in order to raise the funds necessary for the survival of the corporation, in 1964, Paramount takes an unprecedented step: decides to sell its office complex in Times Square.

About family and destiny

Now, like in a movie, let's replay this story forty years ago. At the same time, when Adolph begins to negotiate a joint work with Chicagoans Barney Balaban and Sam Katz. Naturally, he tells them that he plans to build the firm's headquarters in the theatrical district of Broadway in New York. Together with a huge cinema. And on the upper floors of the skyscraper, next to the offices of the employees, there are two more showrooms for previews in a narrow circle. It turned out that these problems are well known and close to them. After all, they owned forty cinemas in Chicago alone, most of which were rebuilt or rebuilt. Naturally, they knew all the best architects here. And the "Chicago School of Architecture" was known far beyond the borders of the United States. So the firm Rapp and Rapp, which designed many buildings for them not only in Chicago, but also in the Midwest, was invited to design and build a 33-story skyscraper for the Paramount headquarters in New York.

Experienced professionals, they have adopted a traditional metal frame construction scheme. However, they managed to create a structure with an unusual and memorable silhouette. Roughly speaking, in height it was divided into four differently functional parts, where the lower and upper ones were made in the then fashionable Art Deco style. The most expressive elements of the lower tier, undoubtedly, were a five-story arch on the side of Broadway with the Paramount inscription and an elegant curved tent adjoining it (later barbarously destroyed and restored only in 1992). Further there was a 12-storey block of office premises with vertical cutting of window fillings. And then the elements of the so-called. step-back (receding facade), made here in the form of a kind of steps of a pyramid running upward.

And the final upper part was a four-sided turret with a huge clock on each side, where the numbers on the dial were replaced with stars from the corporate logo. And the whole construction was crowned with a globe, symbolizing the global significance of the company. This upper part of the skyscraper, including the clock and the globe, has been specially illuminated. (In 1942, during World War II, the clock and the globe were covered with black paint to protect against air attacks, and returned to their previous state only in 1996-2000). At the beginning of 1926, construction work was completed, and all attention was paid to completing the interior work and equipping a large theater hall on the ground floor. At least when the Beatles' charity show took place there in 1964, tickets were issued for 3682 spectators. And it opened on November 19, 1926 with a gala screening of the film "God gave me 20 cents." The Mayor of Walker and Thomas Edison attended as guests of honor. The gala was hosted by John Murray Anderson. Since then, every week thousands of spectators have come here to not only watch a movie or a show, but also to plunge into the festive, refined and luxurious atmosphere of the theater itself. They entered the arch, crossed the gallery leading to the theater, and entered a hall modeled after the Paris Opera. The ceilings were striking with frescoes and gilding, and the railings with the brilliance of brass. In the wall niches, Greek statues and busts were admired, and the waiting rooms were comparable in style to the cathedrals of that time. A huge crystal chandelier served as a highlight of the decor. White marble columns and a grand staircase accompanied the audience into the hall, where the curtains made of red velvet and the carpets in the aisles repeating this color were immediately striking. Against their background, the frescoes on the dome of the theater, painted by the Chicago artist Louis Grelle, looked especially beautiful. The theater also housed one of the largest and most admirable theatrical organs, built by Wurlitzer. Designed for renowned organist Jesse Crawford, it has been used for solo parts and accompaniment to silent films. The organ had 36 rows of ringing metal and wooden pipes, with a total weight of 33 tons. The "live" orchestra also played here, which was especially important during the silent film period.

The Paramount office building also housed two cinemas for previewing studio films, designed by architect Charles Burton in an Art Deco style.

In 1959, when the premiere of Elvis Presley's first film "Love Me Tenderly" took place in the theater, it was still functioning in full force. Over the years, numerous stars have performed here, in particular Frank Sinatra and dozens of celebrities of that era. The work of the theater was closed with the tape about James Bond "Thunderball".

On February 21, 1966, it was closed, and the auditorium, entrance and lobby were demolished to make way for office and retail space. The same fate befell the preview rooms. In the same year, the sinking Paramount was sold to Charles Bloodhorn's industrial conglomerate Gulf + Western Industries Corporation. After that, the studio will change hands many times, keeping its name and logo in different versions.

And the famous organ from the auditorium will be dismantled and moved to Century II Convention Hall in Wichita, Kansas, where it functions to this day.

The headquarters building was used by the New York Times for a while after the sale. Then, in 2000, most of it was rented by the World Wrestling Federation, which, although it recreated the famous arch and tent, lasted only three years here. When the World Wrestling Federation closed, the Hard Rock Cafe took over the ground floor. This rather popular chain was founded by Americans, but their first cafe appeared in 1971 in England. By tradition, its walls are decorated with all sorts of items related to hard rock and guitars, one of which still flaunts as an emblem on the facade of the building.

Today, the Hard Rock Cafe network contains more than 70 thousand exhibits: instruments of famous rockers and their accessories, motorcycles and cars. Popping in here for lunch, you involuntarily find yourself in a kind of museum. But nothing reminds of cinema here anymore. Is that part of the Paramount services, which traditionally reside here on the upper floors. And if you have a desire to plunge into the atmosphere of the "old cinema", the times of the development of the film and television industry, or visit a small hall of a retro cinema at the beginning of the last century, then you should visit the New York Museum of the Moving Image, located in one of the 13 buildings of the former film studio Famous Players-Lasky.

What was Adolf Zukor doing all this time? Surprisingly, he continued to serve as chairman of the board of directors of Paramount until 1964, when, at the age of 91, he was "sent upstairs" as honorary chairman. The young colleagues who replaced him were smart enough to keep the "old man" with them for consultations. Ever since he showed the audience "Queen Elizabeth" with Sarah Bernhardt, cinema for Tsukor has remained a source of moral strength and nobility. At the studio, he opened courses where future actors studied, classes were held in literature, sociology and history, where they taught disciplines such as dance and good manners. He created an incentive fund for those authors who have contributed most to raising the status of cinema as an art. And each time he was convinced that the strategy he had chosen was correct. He remembered being considered insane when he dared to screen a 40-minute film. But his confidence that people could watch "famous actors in famous plays" for long periods of time was more than confirmed in 1939, when nearly four hours of Gone With the Wind (MGM) broke all box office records. He had an amazing instinct. He could almost accurately determine the fate of the film, and in case of failure, explain the reasons in detail. This gave him the opportunity to determine the true path of business development. One example: in the post-war period, television began to develop at a rapid pace. In 1946, Americans bought a total of 6500 televisions. By 1949, there were 4 million homes with televisions in the country, and in 1959 there were 41 million. While some studios fought television, barring their movie stars from appearing on it, Paramount, on Zukor's recommendation, went into production of television series. At the time, one of the studio's managers was Leonard Goldenson, who began negotiations with television studios. When this became known in cinematographic circles, representatives of several film studios immediately contacted him. In his book Beyond the Odds, he writes: “I received three calls. The first is from Nick Schenk, head of Loew's and MGM. He said: "You are a traitor ... you will now compete with cinemas for spectator time." The second call came from "General" David Sarnoff, ruler of RCA and its subsidiary NBC. Sarnoff said: “Who will watch your films? Viewers want to watch them live. " The third call came from Adolf Zukor, who was then about 80 years old. Zukor said: “Now you have a great opportunity to reach many more people than we could through cinemas. I want to express my admiration to you for the efforts you are making in trying to create a viable third network. " Goldenson then added, "Tsukor's blessing has dispelled all the doubts I've had since I first turned to ABC." And one more characteristic detail. He treated cinema as his own brainchild, and therefore perceived the heads of other studios not as enemies, but as colleagues. Their memories have been preserved: “Tsukor became the confessor of his comrades-in-arms and friends; they called him regularly for personal matters as well as business. Even competitors sought an audience to get Tsukor's advice. One day, Karl Lemmle, the head of Universal, made a courtesy call, ostensibly to discuss the state of the industry, but soon admitted that he was in serious financial difficulties.

In 1956, at the age of 83, he lost his 59-year-old beloved wife Lottie. Every year, a bouquet of two dozen long-stemmed roses awaited her for her birthday, expressing love and gratitude for her. She gave him two children - daughter Milfred and son Eugene, whose life was also connected with filmmaking. It is likely that his will to live and genes passed to his son, who lived to be 97 years old. Eugene's wife had died a year earlier, after 73 years of marriage. Both men were ideal family men, which is extremely rare in an industry notorious for adultery. Lottie was a wonderful housewife and loving wife. And they lived in perfect harmony, taking all the troubles of life with firmness and calmness. When something happened, she hugged him and said: “Well, are we moving again? I'll look for a good place. Just tell me, how much can we afford now? " And he answered her: "As little as possible, but at the same time always next to a good school." Her departure was a very great loss for him. He will have to live alone for another 20 years.

However, at 93, he still smoked three cigars a day, although he had to give up his daily steam bath. At 96 he lived alone in an apartment at the Beverly Hills Hotel. At 97, he still spent two hours every day in the studio watching Paramount compilations every Monday morning. At the age of one hundred, he moved to a high-rise building in Century City and hired a young housekeeper while continuing to attend the daily dinners at the Hillcrest Country Club and then watch bridge games in the afternoon. In January 1973, Paramount hosted a grand celebration of its 100th anniversary with over a thousand guests in the ballroom of a Los Angeles hotel. For them, he was not just a long-liver, but a living embodiment of the era, the last surviving "mammoth" of cinema and its forerunners. And on June 10, 1976, Adolf Zukor, dressed as always in a neat suit and tie, took a nap, but never woke up. He was 103 years old.

Unfortunately, with all the variety of genres, Hollywood rarely shoots films about its great producers and entrepreneurs. But the fate of Adolf Zukor reflected the entire history of American cinema, with its dramas and ups, joys and sorrows. A legend has survived about how the king of Spain came to the performance of the famous Russian ballet Diaghilev. He liked the show very much. He looked behind the curtains and asked Sergei Pavlovich: “What are you doing in the troupe? You do not conduct, do not dance, do not play the piano - then what? " “Your Majesty,” Diaghilev replied. - I'm like you. I do nothing, but I am irreplaceable. " Adolf Zukor was such a person in cinematography. Person, in whose head the film industry began much earlier than the world saw the first feature film. He was one of those who came up with how “… then a window suddenly lights up in the wall. A grand piano sound is produced. The movie begins. This ray, direct and sharp, this light strip makes me cry and laugh for two hours, be a participant in events, drink, love, go to the bottom ... My life, cinema, black and white cinema! Who wrote the script? What kind of strange dreamer is this equally brilliant and insane director? " One of them was he - Adolf Zukor. "Father of American feature films", creator of "Dream Factory".

This article by ForumDaily author, journalist Leonid Raevsky, is part of the "Walking New York" cycle.

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