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Theatre Showings in the 1930s


DeborahKerr_fan
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I think it was actually opposite of that. I think features may have been in theaters for a week maybe a little longer if they were really popular films. Plus films were released in larger cities first and made their way to smaller markets later, with prints being shipped from one theater to another. However, I wasn't around back then so I can't say this with any authority besides things I read here & elsewhere.

 

I was a kid in the sixties and my local theater had different movies every week, but The Sound of Music did play in the largest city near my hometown for a year. And that was a time films were on tv.

 

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I imagine it would be the same as it was when I was a kid in the late '50's-early '60's. Since there was only one screen per movie house, sometimes a movie would be there up to three weeks or more, depending on attendance. As memory serves, two weeks was about average. Maybe even just a week.

 

 

You have to realize movies didn't open every week. Often new movies would be released once a MONTH. And they weren't as hyped as they now are. For instance, I never remember seeing a TV ad for *Star Wars* . There WERE TV ads for other earlier movies, but they were quick and showed little in the way of footage compared to the TV ads for movies now.

 

 

Plus previews for upcoming movies would be limited to just a couple or so, as the theater would only show two a night, and had no need to show previews for just about every movie being released within the next half year.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Once a month???

 

I was wondering the same thing, only as it related to the number of movies churned out during the 1930s. At least, there seem to be so many of them - is that because an 'A' movie was shown, and a 'B' movie, and a cartoon, and a newsreel?

 

But once a month? They then must have had a treasure trove of movies from which to choose in the local movie houses.

 

At any rate, I was thinking how lucky those who went to the movies in the 1930s, the best classic movie decade in history, were, and how pathetic is the movie scene since 1960.

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In my youth of the late 50s and early 60s, there were two big chains in NYC, RKO and Loew's.

 

Both of them had theaters in the downtown areas or the heavily commercial areas and these would show a new release from two weeks to a month. Then the films would usually move on to what Variety called "the nabes" - the neighborhood theaters owned by the chains that were in the working class neighborhoods. These would generally play for a week.

 

These neighborhood theaters also ran films from the lesser studios but again, it tended to be a weekly churn.

 

Then there were the big exceptions - the Manhattan theaters that were primarily used for reserved-seat attractions such as BEN HUR or THE SOUND OF MUSIC - these could run indefinitely as long as they were drawing customers. Then the film would move on to the nabes "at popular prices."

 

We also had independent second-run houses such as the one where I spent most of my time as a juvenile. This theater rarely played an attraction for more than three days, by the time that we got them, most people had seen them already. But the ticket price was half of what the chains were charging and on weekends we often had triple-bills.

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helenbaby wrote:

<< The Sound of Music did play in the largest city near my hometown for a year. >>

What was the mental sanity of the projectionist at the end of the year? Oh the humanity. smiley_suicidio.gif

Besides movies, lets not forget the various shorts and newsreels before and inbetween movie features.

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I seem to remember back in the late 1940s and early 50s, the average was about a week for a major film or major double feature. Also, a major film was usually only about 1 1/2 hours long and it also had a double feature. The movies would change on the weekend, so I guess that Sat and Sun were the big days and nights to see a new movie.

 

Saturday afternoon matinees for kids would show just once on Saturday afternoon. That cost me .10 or .15 cents when I was a kid.

 

Some big movies would show for two weeks or more and they would receive a lot of studio publicity. Some big ones would show for longer than that, in big cities, at big large studio-owned theaters. Sometimes these cost a little more to see.

 

I remember a lot of small towns with only one theater, and they ran major films for about a week, but usually that was a couple of months after they had already shown in big cities.

 

I recall that when my father wanted to treat the family to a new first-run theater, we would often have to drive up to 50 miles to go to see it at a big theater in a big city. Such a film might not reach our small town for several months.

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Back in the 30s and 40s I think it was rare for a film to play more than a week, except maybe in New York or a really big metropolis. There were no saturation bookings back then. A film would play a downtown theater, then go to one of the major suburban theaters (often as large and lavish as the downtown theaters), then to the 2nd run smaller suburban theaters and theaters in small towns to complete their run. There were so many films being released in the 30s and 40s it was like an assembly line. This changed in the 50s and 60s when less films were made and theaters held on to films longer (as long as they made money) By the mid60s saturation bookings started (at least in NY) and after playing Broadway a movie would break on big circuit of theaters in the boroughs rather than play in one or two. This expanded across the country as the norm....

 

Edited by: Hibi on Nov 14, 2012 12:18 PM

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Hi ginnyfan,

 

I just remembered that the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto, California has a list of its old movies and showtimes, from several decades. Here is 1936:

 

http://www.stanfordtheatre.org/years/1936.htm

 

It looks like they changed their programs 3 times a week. This was a big college town back then and today too.

 

Here are other years:

 

http://www.stanfordtheatre.org/aboutHistory.html

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Here's the schedule for the Rockwell (NC) for the first half of March 1942 (courtesy of Mike Cline's site):

 

*{color:red}ROCKWELL THEATRE*

 

*{color:purple}1 - 2 YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH (1941) **Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Robert Benchley, Osa Massen*

*{color:blue}3 SWAMP WATER (1941) **Dana Andrews, Walter Huston, Walter Brennan, Virginia Gilmore*

*{color:purple}4 INTERNATIONAL LADY (1941) **George Brent, Ilona Massey, Basil Rathbone, Gene Lockhart*

*{color:blue}5 - 6 H.M. PULHAM, ESQ. (1941) **Robert Young, Hedy Lamarr, Ruth Hussey, Van Heflin, Fay Holden*

*{color:purple}7 ALL-AMERICAN CO-ED (1941) **Johnny Downs, Frances Langford, Esther Dale, Allan Lane*

*{color:purple} GAUCHOS OF EL DORADO (1941) **Bob Steele, Tom Tyler, Rufe Davis, Duncan Renaldo*

*{color:blue}8 - 9 ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY (1941) **Edward Arnold, Walter Huston, Jane Darwell, John Qualen*

*{color:purple}10 DESIGN FOR SCANDAL (1941) **Walter Pidgeon, Rosalind Russell, Edward Arnold, Lee Bowman*

*{color:blue}11 MERCY ISLAND (1941) **Ray Middleton, Gloria Dickson, Otto Kruger, Donald Douglas*

*{color:purple}12 - 13 KATHLEEN (1941) **Shirley Temple, Herbert Marshall, Laraine Day, Gail Patrick, Guy Bellis*

*{color:purple} FIESTA (1941) Anne Ayars, Jorge Negrete, Betty Bryson, Nick Moro, Antonio Moreno*

*{color:blue}14 BLONDIE GOES TO COLLEGE (1942) **Arthur Lake, Penny Singleton, Janet Blair, Adele Mara*

*{color:blue} MAN FROM CHEYENNE (1942) **Roy Rogers, Sally Payne, Gale Storm, William Haade*

*{color:purple}15 - 17 TARZAN'S SECRET TREASURE (1941) **Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, Tom Conway*

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yes, in the 30s, movies were in neighborhood houses a day or two...a big hit might be held longer. And people went to the movies several times a week PRECISELY because there was no TV. In the 1940s, with the arrival of WW2, the need for escapism was so keen that everyone was going to the movies in the evenings...movies were held over for significantly longer periods than in the previous decade, with a commensurate and notable increase in the boxoffice take of movies.

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The Stanford Theater has a great collection of movie posters and lobby cards on display that date back to the opening of the theater. While it was (and still is) located in a college town, its history looks as if it was a major cinema back in the day.

 

David Packer and his wife are to be commended for restoring the theater (and the mighty Wurlitzer) and keeping it running as a revival movie theater.

 

It's a terrific theater and Dennis James who plays the mighty Wurlitzer before films and between the double bills keeps the crowd entertained.

 

And the concession stand may be the most affordable concessions stand in any theater. A large box of popcorn costs less than two dollars. And it's freshly popped!

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IZ, you hit on something.

 

 

Back "in the day" a kid (me) could go to the local theater and see TWO movies, a couple of cartoons, a preview or two and be able to afford to buy something at the concession counter. ALL on his meager $3 a week allowance.

 

 

The theater in my hometown for years had the same little old lady that ran the concession. She was behind that counter from the time I was about six or seven right up until I was 20, just before it shut down and first tried having local rock band "concerts" and then later turning(like many did) into a porn house. The theater is STILL there, but in building only. And that little old lady seemed to never age.

 

 

The concession used to sell potato chips in "noiseless" bags, and they actually WERE! I was there practically every weekend.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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I moved around a lot as a kid, so it is difficult for me to remember the schedules of all the theaters I went to.

 

I can remember many films I saw in the late 1940s, but not the theaters.

 

Seems like I recall that some of the theaters did have two or three film changes a week. The weekend was always big... Fri, Sat, and Sun.

 

Many theaters had special films for kids on Saturday afternoon, the Saturday matinee. I recall one town where I would go to the matinee on Saturday, see two films, a serial, a cartoon, and then my mother would pick me up for dinner, then I would go back to the theater with the folks to see adult films, usually a double feature. So for me, it was 4 films every Saturday, plus the serial and cartoon in the afternoon, plus another cartoon at night. :)

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