“South Pacific” 55th Anniversary – The Roadshow Engagements

posted by Michael Zoldessy on March 19, 2013 at 11:00 am


“South Pacific” 55th Anniversary
The Roadshow Engagements

Compiled by Michael Coate

Presented here in commemoration of the 55th anniversary of the release of South Pacific is a list of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical’s roadshow engagements in the United States and Canada, which offers an opportunity to name-drop some once-glorious movie theaters. These were shown exclusively in major cities prior to the film being given a nationwide release. The roadshow engagements included reserved seating with an advanced admission price and an average of ten scheduled showings per week. Much like a Broadway show, the roadshow presentations included an overture, intermission, entr’acte and exit music. As well, souvenir programs were sold. And, unlike the majority of the film’s general-release presentations, these roadshow engagements were presented in 70-millimeter and six-track stereophonic sound.

This article/list was created for the sake of historical record, but is also a celebration of the mostly now-closed and fondly-remembered “Cinema Treasures” in which the film played. The bookings are arranged chronologically by premiere date. Duration data, measured in weeks, has been included for selected entries. At the time, many of these engagements established a long-run record for their respective city and/or theater (and a few hold to this day).

03.19.1958 … New York, NY – Criterion [29 weeks]
03.25.1958 … Miami Beach, FL – Sheridan [46 weeks]
03.26.1958 … Chicago, IL – McVickers [56 weeks]
03.26.1958 … Philadelphia, PA – Midtown [46 weeks]

04.01.1958 … Baltimore, MD – New
04.01.1958 … Washington, DC – Uptown [46 weeks]
04.02.1958 … Cleveland, OH – Ohio [48 weeks]
04.07.1958 … Pittsburgh, PA – Nixon [26 weeks]
04.08.1958 … Boston, MA – Saxon [55 weeks]
04.09.1958 … Detroit, MI – United Artists [48 weeks]
04.16.1958 … Dallas, TX – Wynnewood [34 weeks]
04.16.1958 … St. Louis, MO – Pageant [45 weeks]
04.23.1958 … Denver, CO – Tabor [32 weeks]
04.24.1958 … Cincinnati, OH – Valley [42 weeks]
04.24.1958 … Indianapolis, IN – Lyric [45 weeks]
04.25.1958 … Montreal, QC – Alouette [45 weeks]
04.29.1958 … New Orleans, LA – Panorama [36 weeks]

05.08.1958 … Louisville, KY – Brown
05.21.1958 … Los Angeles, CA – Egyptian [44 weeks]
05.22.1958 … Buffalo, NY – Century
05.26.1958 … Seattle, WA – Blue Mouse [38 weeks]
05.27.1958 … Portland, OR – Broadway [29 weeks]
05.28.1958 … Atlantic City, NJ – Virginia

06.05.1958 … Milwaukee, WI – Strand [54 weeks]
06.05.1958 … Oklahoma City, OK – State
06.05.1958 … Tulsa, OK – Ritz
06.26.1958 … Houston, TX – Uptown
06.26.1958 … Minneapolis, MN – Academy [36 weeks]
06.26.1958 … Providence, RI – Elmwood
06.27.1958 … Columbus, OH – Cinestage [38 weeks]
06.27.1958 … Honolulu, HI – Kuhio

07.01.1958 … San Diego, CA – Capri [21 weeks]
07.01.1958 … San Francisco, CA – Alexandria [48 weeks]
07.09.1958 … Toronto, ON – Tivoli [57 weeks]
07.10.1958 … Dayton, OH – McCook
07.11.1958 … Asbury Park, NJ – St. James [22 weeks]
07.15.1958 … Rochester, NY – Monroe [31 weeks]
07.16.1958 … Syracuse (DeWitt), NY – Shoppingtown [32 weeks]
07.17.1958 … Richmond, VA – Willow Lawn
07.23.1958 … Atlanta, GA – Roxy [25 weeks]
07.31.1958 … Salt Lake City, UT – Villa [43 weeks]

08.08.1958 … Youngstown, OH – State [18 weeks]

10.07.1958 … New York, NY – Rivoli [cont. from Criterion, 25 (54) weeks]
10.17.1958 … Corpus Christi, TX – Tower [11 weeks]
10.23.1958 … Omaha, NE – Cooper [64 weeks]

11.05.1958 … Vancouver, BC – Stanley [68 weeks]
11.19.1958 … Tampa, FL – Britton [21 weeks]
11.26.1958 … Jacksonville, FL – 5 Points [12 weeks]

01.01.1959 … Shreveport, LA – Saenger

02.10.1959 … Hartford, CT – Strand [11 weeks]
02.11.1959 … Syosset, NY – Syosset
02.19.1959 … Albany, NY – Ritz
02.19.1959 … Phoenix, AZ – Vista [39 weeks]

03.29.1959 … Kansas City, MO – Capri [36 weeks]

05.07.1959 … Lexington, KY – Strand [8 weeks]

06.26.1959 … Upper Montclair, NJ – Bellevue [26 weeks]

07.02.1959 … Sacramento, CA – Alhambra [9 weeks]

Beaumont, TX – Liberty
Birmingham, AL – Ritz
Buffalo, NY – Granada [cont. from Century]
Fort Wayne, IN – Clyde
Little Rock, AR – Capitol
Utica, NY – Uptown

The first international roadshow booking of South Pacific commenced April 21, 1958, at the Dominion in London (where it went on to play a staggering 232 weeks).

The North American general release of South Pacific began during the summer of 1959.

References: This article was compiled by referencing regional newspaper promotion and various articles in Boxoffice and Variety.

Special Thanks: Jerry Alexander, Jim Barg, Raymond Caple, Sheldon Hall, Bill Huelbig, Bill Kretzel, Mark Lensenmayer, Rick Mitchell, Bob Throop, Vince Young, and the librarians who helped with research for this project.

Comments (53)

HowardBHaas on March 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Tonight at Music Box in Chicago, but this doesn’t say which format. I’m guessing 35mm. I was lucky enough to see it last summer in 70mm at AFI Silver. http://www.tcm.com/2013/roadtohollywood/

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on March 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm

232 weeks at the Dominion in London – could that be an all-time longest run for any movie, anywhere? Wonder how many 70mm prints they used up in all that time.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on March 19, 2013 at 5:39 pm

that is a lot of weeks..beating JAWS for sure.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on March 19, 2013 at 7:01 pm

At the Dominion Theater in London it opened April 21, 1958 and closed September 21, 1962, it ran just under 4 YEARS AND 6 MONTHS! An unbroken record run that will probably never be equaled. The film was shown about 2,320 times. If one is careful with 70mm prints, how many times can it be shown before it needs to be replaced?

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on March 19, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Mitzi Gaynor will be at the Music Box Theater here in Chicago tonight for the 55th anniversary along with Leonard Maltin as part of the FREE TCM Classic Film Festival.

rasLXR on March 19, 2013 at 9:49 pm

The Dominion used one show print and one stand by print, the show print was used throughout the run apart from a few shows when the show print was sent for cleaning on those occasions the stand by was run. The projection team were awarded a special bonus by the distributor at the end of the run for their care and professionalism. I noticed John Carpenter in the documentary side by side saying how the prints of Titanic were falling to bits out of the projectors, if he had been more accurate he should have said that film is not the problem in exhibition but the lack of skilled projection staff is the problem. I ran the last show on the Dominions DP70’s (A Star Is Born with B.Streisand also 70mm print) the booth was removed and the film continued the next day from the new booth with Vic 8s at the rear of the circle. This was the 3rd booth in the Dominion the original at the rear of the upper balcony was closed for South Pacific and onward due to the rake. The original booth is still there. R

Robbie25646 on March 20, 2013 at 8:39 am

I can remember seeing this film at the West End in Birmingham, UK. If I remember correctly it was also a record breaking run there too. I hope someone here in the UK will celebrate the film’s 55 birthday with a 70mm showing or several.

JohnGn on March 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Perhaps I could give some details of the British release. After opening at the Dominion in London, these are some of the cinemas that went on to show it. 28 April 58: Manchester, Gaumont (111 weeks). 2 August: Brighton, ABC Astoria (23 weeks). 21 September: Glasgow, Gaumont (81 weeks). 22 September: Birmingham, West End (94 weeks); Leeds, Majestic (40 weeks); Newcastle upon Tyne, Queens (81 weeks). 25 December: Edinburgh, New Victoria (24 weeks). 26 December: Bristol, Odeon (19 weeks); Cardiff, Capitol (24 weeks); Liverpool, Odeon (25 weeks); Sheffield, Odeon (21 weeks). 15 June 59: Middlesbrough, Odeon (18 weeks). This is not a full list, just those I have come across. Most, if not all of these cinemas were equipped to show the film in Todd-AO.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on March 20, 2013 at 10:33 pm

This article concerning the run of South Pacific at the Bellevue in Upper Montclair NJ is more a review of the theater than of the movie.

MPol on March 21, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Does anybody know if there’ll be a 55th Anniversary national re-release of the movie “South Pacific”? A curious, inquiring mind of an older classics-loving moviegoer wants to know.

raysson on March 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm

SOUTH PACIFIC played at Charlotte’s Carolina Theatre on June 25,1959. It was the ONLY showing of the film in the Carolinas.

Raleigh and other cities in the Carolinas didn’t get the film until September-November of 1959.

PeterApruzzese on March 21, 2013 at 8:40 pm

MPol – highly unlikely.

MPol on March 22, 2013 at 3:27 am

Okay. Thanks for the heads up, PeterApruzzese.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on May 5, 2013 at 6:16 am

My personal favourite of all time – and many musicals leave me unimpressed. I first saw it in York, England in 35mm. CinemaScope at the Tower cinema which had stereophonic sound installed especially. The Tower was one of many independents/small chain cinemas which benefitted from a rift between 20th Century Fox and Rank, owners of the Odeon circuit, who were not prepared to install stereophonic sound in all their cinemas. The “lesser” cinemas who did make the investment found themselves showing “South Pacific” for lengthy runs often followed by return engagements over a number of years. In York, the film returned several times to the Tower as well as the Odeon on general release and even the ABC where it appeared as a one day special presentation during the ‘70s. On my first of many visits to see “South Pacific”, the impact was incredible. I had never heard stereophonic sound or seen cinematography so breathtaking. The film has played over nineteen weeks in York and is the longest running stage or screen entertainment in a large venue in the City, ever. I have paid to see the film, in both Todd-AO and 35mm. over forty times, shown it as a cinema manager and now project the stunning Blu-ray version in my home cinema to new generations of delighted audiences. If I can take one film with me into my pyramid, it will be “South Pacific”!

tonyguy on May 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I saw the film with my parents at the Criterion in New York City.I was a thrill watching it in Todd-AO, along with great sterophonic sound.I thought then and still do that the use of color tint during the musical number was distracting. I loved the film and have seen it many times later. I also remember it being transferred over to the Rivoli after the Criterion run. I don’t recall how long it played there.

michaelkaplan on May 12, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I also saw the film in its initial run at the Criterion in New York. The image and sound quality were excellent, although the screen used was the regular CinemaScope one, barely curved. There was considerable controversy over the use of colored filters during the musical numbers, which served to remove these numbers from the ‘reality’ of the dramatic action. I didn’t know the film moved to the Rivoli, which had the original curved-screen Todd-AO projection setup from the screening of Oklahoma.

WTKFLHN on February 10, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Something is wrong about the listing for movie in Kansas City, Mo. South Pacific in TODD-AO, played at the Tower Theatre. Not the Capri. I used to work for the man who was the manager of the Tower during its long run.

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