The Manhattan Center building, built in 1906 and located at 311 West 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan, houses Manhattan Center Studios (home to two recording studios), its Grand Ballroom, and the Hammerstein Ballroom, one of New York City's most renowned performance venues. In 1976, the building was purchased by its current owner, the Unification Church for $3,000,000.
The center is located just a couple of hundred meters from another of New York City's famous buildings, Madison Square Garden.
The Manhattan Center was built in 1906 and remains standing over 100 years after, built originally as the Manhattan Opera House By Oscar Hammerstein I. The root cause for the construction centered around boldly rivalling the established Metropolitan Opera by featuring cheaper seat costs for the ordinary New Yorker. Rapidly, it became the alternative venue for many great operas and celebrated singers to make their debut.
In 1910, after the Metropolitan Opera could no longer withstand competition, offered Hammerstein $1.2 million to cease producing opera for a course of 10 years. He accepted the offer and experimented with various acts preceding the decision to sell the building. In March 1911, it was opened as a "combination" house by the Shubert brothers featuring vaudeville shows during the week and concerts on Sunday nights at much more affordable prices.
In 1922, the Manhattan Opera House was purchased by the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Free Masonry, who built a new building façade and The Grand Ballroom on the seventh floor. In 1926, Warner Brothers chose to set up the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system in The Grand Ballroom to capture the 107-piece New York Philharmonic orchestra for the film Don Juan which marked the release of the inaugural commercial film featuring a recorded musical soundtrack.
In 1940, the name of the building altered to the Manhattan Center helping to attract a variety of different types of events. In 1986, Manhattan Center Studios was formed to develop the center into a venue with the capability of holding multimedia festivities. MCS expanded the audio recording facilities when Studio 4 was opened in 1993. Studio 7 was rebuilt in 1996 to become a state-of-the-art control room capable of servicing all types of recordings and live events in the Ballrooms.
In March 1990, the company began investing in video equipment and studio facilities to expand into the video and television industry. The company’s video post production facilities in Studio 9 were completed in 1993 and in the years that followed, two fully equipped television studios were built. Studio 1 was completed in 1994 and Studio 6 was completed in 1995. The connection of the studios to the Ballrooms makes them attractive venues for live broadcast events and webcasts. Studio 1 and Studio 6 were temporarily closed throughout the Spring and Summer of 2003 to complete extensive upgrades as the company entered into a three-year contract with Atlantic Video, a Washington, D.C. based television services and production company.
Beginning in 1997, the Hammerstein Ballroom underwent a major face-lift to accommodate the demands for a premier event venue in midtown Manhattan. Today, clients include top business professionals and the best of the entertainment and cultural world. The beautifully renovated decor, superb acoustics and high level technical services are only a few of the attributes that contribute to the success.
The Manhattan Center became a hot spot for "big band" dances as well as trade shows, union meetings and other social functions.
Among the diverse events held here throughout the decades that followed were radio broadcasts, recordings and performances by the likes of Paul Robeson, Judy Garland, Harry Belafonte, Perry Como, Leonard Bernstein, David Bowie, Grateful Dead, Bob Marley and Evanescence, among others.
In the early 1990s, wrestling show WWE Raw broadcast from the Grand Ballroom a record 28 times, including the first ever episode of Monday Night Raw on January 11, 1993 which was broadcast live on the USA Network. Its Hammerstein Ballroom has hosted ECW events in the years before its closing and in its revivals in 2005 & 2006. Since 2006, The Manhattan Center has played host to yearly Ring of Honor events, both in the Grand Ballroom & The Hammerstein Ballroom
Several seasons of NBC's America's Got Talent have recently taped here.
- Biermans, J. 1986, The Odyssey of New Religious Movements, Persecution, Struggle, Legitimation: A Case Study of the Unification Church Lewiston, New York and Queenston, Ontario: The Edwin Melton Press ISBN 0-88946-710-2
- Manhattan Center Studios | AV Dept. | Home
- Manhattan Center Studios | Audio Dept. | Recording Studios
- Manhattan Center Studios | History
- Manhattan Center Studios | MCStudios