“So Long to an Old (and, O.K., Shabby) Friend: Magno Screening Rooms”

To most observers, the closure of two movie screening rooms that shared a block near Times Square with a strip club and a souvenir boutique might seem like just another symptom of a changing neighborhood. But for film critics in New York, the shuttering of Magno Review 1 and 2, which will show their last movies today after 31 years in operation, is significant.

David Friedman, the executive vice president of Magno Sound Inc., who runs the company with his brother, Bob Friedman, the president, attributed the closure primarily to the cost of rent; Magno is not renewing its lease, effective July 1.

New York Times, June 27 2018


I’m sorry to hear of the end of Magno’s Sound & Video’s glory days. 729 7th Ave. was a phenomenal place to work back in the 1980’s, when Magno filled most of the floors of the old United Artists headquarters, founded by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith back in the early 1920’s. I don’t actually know all the details of Magno’s early years, but after U.A. moved out, Ralph Friedman and his business partner Larry Roemer moved in, originally doing sound engineering and expanding rapidly from there. Larry was the director of my favorite childhood Christmas cartoon, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, and Ralph was the sound engineer. I had the honor of working briefly with both Ralph and Larry. I started there as Chyron operator and graphic artist in 1988, a few months after Steve and I moved to Manhattan from NC. I worked in the Video Department on the 4th floor, where the celebrated “Mary Pickford Room” was located. It was one of the only rooms that still had its 1920’s style dark wood paneling, and it was gorgeous!

I spent five years there, working on projects ranging from major motion picture releases to political ads to adding foreign language end credits on tv shows; transcribing prescribing information legalese into a 10 minute scroll for pharmaceutical product launches; working on several PBS series, including several with Bill Moyers; and Ben Stiller’s original MTV comedy show named – you guessed it – “The Ben Stiller Show” in 1989. Every day was different and exciting! One of my favorite projects was working on the PBS documentary about the cast recording for the 1992 Broadway hit Guys and Dolls, the one with Peter Gallager, Nathan Lane, Faith Prince, and Josie de Guzman. Talk about catchy tunes – I still have them stuck in my head today, and I don’t mind one bit. (I just discovered it on Amazon Prime, by the way. It’s still as fun as it was back then.)

We edited everything to 2 inch tape in those days, but were pioneers in digital editing with the first Avid non-linear editing system in NYC. Talk about the wave of the future! Who would’ve thought that everybody would eventually edit video right on their own office computers!

Of course, those days in the Times Square neighborhood were pretty sketchy, not at all like the Disney-fied version it is today. I had my pocket picked at least once or twice as I walked past all the adult movie theaters lining the way to Port Authority Bus Terminal, where I took the bus back home, but all in all, it was a great experience and I got to work with so many great people there.
Best of luck to those who are still with the company in its new location.