How long did old movies stay in the theater for?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Dean Kousoulas, Aug 4, 2002.

  1. Dean Kousoulas

    Dean Kousoulas Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2002
    Messages:
    332
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I was watching documentary's on Psycho and Ben-Hur (The ones that were included on the DVD's) and noticed that when they showed lines of people going to see the movie, the theater outside has great big billboards, or lighted signs, similar to what you might see on the Vegas strip. How long did movies play back then? Considering the amount of time it would take to build one of those things, it must have been at least a couple months, correct?

    Dean
     
  2. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

    Joined:
    May 16, 2001
    Messages:
    7,596
    Likes Received:
    257
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Georgia (the state)
    Real Name:
    Patrick McCart
    They'd play for a few weeks, then would go to lesser theaters.

    The "5-star" theaters got the films first, then smaller theaters, then the tiny ones. Even after theaters would move on, they'd later bring back movies almost like HBO.

    Now, studios want to get the movie from the theater to video within a year.

    Some roadshow movies would play for ages...2001 played at revival houses for years after the initial release.
     
  3. Tom Brennan

    Tom Brennan Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2000
    Messages:
    1,069
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Dean---When I was a kid (born in 49) the movies in Chicago would first play only Downtown and in a single theater. After the downtown run, which could last for weeks or months, the movie moved out to broader booking in the neighborhood shows. Sometimes this move out was in 2 steps, first to "flagship" neighborhood shows like the Marbro and then to dives like the Byrd.
    As Patrick said the big Roadshow pictures like Ben-Hur might play for over a year Downtown. Roadshow pictures were a Big Deal; you bought the tickets ahead of time and had reserved seats, they shut down the regular concession stand and only sold expensive stuff like Jordan Almonds, they tried to sell you a program etc. There was an overture before the picture, an intermission, exit music; really cool and kinda special. And the picture quality was better than any seen today and the sound was at least as good as today's best, those old Western Electric tube amps and Altec A-4 speakers and magnetic multi-track sounded superb.
    www.chicagohornspeakerclub.org
     
  4. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 1999
    Messages:
    16,738
    Likes Received:
    129
    Trophy Points:
    0
    If a film was a major hit, it would run indefinitely.

    As you have seen in this thread, film distribution was a whole different animal back in the pre-video days.

    A major release would have what is known as its initial roadshow engagement, playing in the upper-tier cinemas in the major markets (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC). Word of mouth and critical consensus would build. This run could and often did last for months.

    Then a film would go into its showcase run, opening wide throughout the country. But "opening wide" in the pre-Jaws era meant only a few hundred screens.

    The showcase run would last for as long as the box office numbers were good.

    Even when the showcase run concluded, these same prints would remain in circulation among the lower-tier cinema houses indefinitely. 2001 could be screened in commercial cinemas almost continuously from late 1968 until its first official reissue in 1974, for example.

    The reissues, depending on the size and scope of the film, would often repeat the pattern of its initial release.

    Alas, the rules were rewritten almost entirely after Spielberg made his splash with the shark movie. Then, with the later advent of home video, the entire scheme changed.

    Now, an initial theatrical run of a major release almost seems to serve as a running advertisement for its video release! Of course, most movies don't even show a profit until the video-release receipts start rolling in.

    I miss the old days in many ways.

    And with that, I sign off on my 10,000th post.
     
  5. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2000
    Messages:
    938
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    You guys have better memories of how long shows lasted. The first that I remember lasting longer than a week or so was Star Wars . It came to the local theater in Idaho Falls in June 77 and was still showing at Christmas.
     
  6. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    Messages:
    12,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thanks Dean for asking a question that I am well qualified to answer. Unlike most of the other posters, I grew up in small to mid-size towns in Illinois and Kentucky, both places having only two or three movie theaters, plus (later) drive-ins.
     
  7. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Producer

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2000
    Messages:
    3,036
    Likes Received:
    36
    Trophy Points:
    1,610
    I am too young to remember the olden days, but Diva played at the Plaza (RIP), a very nice theater on East 56th St. for at least 52 weeks. Those days are gone...
    Ted
     
  8. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 1999
    Messages:
    16,738
    Likes Received:
    129
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Lew, your example certainly did apply. I have a friend in Nashville, TN, who tells me Harry & Tonto, a 1974 release, didn't even show up in his town until more than a year later. Some aspects of the old days are best left to the old days!
     
  9. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2000
    Messages:
    3,971
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Congratulations on your fifth digit Jack.

    I often wondered how a smaller release would fare if it had been released in the pre-blockbuster/video days. Would many films that succeed on video have instead succeeded on the screen. Imagine if those cult video favorites like Big Trouble in Little China and The Shawshank Redemption had the benefit of months of exposure. Would they have been recognized for the films they really are?

    And, as a final question, what would it take to get back to those days? Are too many films being made today to allow a movie the comfort of a 6 month run?
     
  10. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 1999
    Messages:
    3,583
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Trophy Points:
    4,110
    Real Name:
    Peter Apruzzese
     
  11. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 1997
    Messages:
    9,306
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
     
  12. Paul Linfesty

    Paul Linfesty Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2001
    Messages:
    216
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
     
  13. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 1999
    Messages:
    16,738
    Likes Received:
    129
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Maybe what I am pining for is the day when film was regarded more as an entertainment (one that occasionally offered depth as well) rather than as "product." One didn't feel as if he or she were being taken for so corporate a ride in the "good ol' days." But, then, that's another thread.
     
  14. Robert Floto

    Robert Floto Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 1999
    Messages:
    739
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    When I started working at a 6-screen movie theatre in College, it was June and E.T. had just started playing in the largest auditorium. By January it had played in most of our smaller auditoriums before finally leaving.
    So if you count the entire theatre, it played continuously for almost seven months.
     
  15. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 1999
    Messages:
    3,756
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I lived in Fairfield CA, pop. 16,000 as a kid from '52 to '62. We had one single screen walk-in theater and one single screen drive-in.

    The movie changed twice a week at both theaters, on Wednesday and Sunday. It was always a double feature, with a newer movie seconded by an older release or B movie. Exceptions were huge movies like Ben Hur, and Disney movies which played without a second feature and for an entire week. The really big movies didn't show up until as much as a year after their release in big cities.

    To see a "road show" movie like Ben Hur, Ten Commandments, etc. one had to go to San Francisco, 45 miles away, or wait a year or so. Schools would offer discounted reserved seats for special showings of Cinerama features at the Orpheum theater in SF.

    I first saw Ten Commandments, released in 1956, at a Drive In near Oklahoma City in 1958!


    Ticket prices were 90 cents for "downstairs", 1.25 for balcony seats. Matinees were .35 and .50, except Disney movies which were .50 and .75.

    Popcorn came in only one size, about what would be called medium today, cost .15 without butter, .35 with butter.

    I went to a Catholic elementary school, and once a month would be given a list of movies and their ratings by the Catholic Legion of Decency. According to the nuns, it was a mortal sin to go see Run Silent Run Deep, or Elmer Gantry.
     
  16. Gruson

    Gruson Second Unit

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2000
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I remember Return of the Jedi being in theaters for months...around 6 or so.
    Damn I miss the days a good, big, quality theater (like Northpark 1 and 2 for you Dallas people). I cannot stand these multiplexes (small screens, stadium seating, sound always off, etc) that rush a movie in and out in 4 weeks.
    Oh well, those days are gone. Glad I have my nice home theater [​IMG]
     
  17. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2001
    Messages:
    18,498
    Likes Received:
    2,909
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Albany, NY
     

Share This Page