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On this day in 1933, RKO’s “After Tonight,” starring Constance Bennett with future husband Gilbert Roland, opened its NYC premiere engagement at RCMH. The untitled stage show was personally produced by “Roxy” with a cast of 500, including the Radio City Symphony, Corps de Ballet, Choral Ensemble, the Roxyettes, and guest artists. During this point in its history, RCMH had a general admission price scale of 35 cents from opening time to 1:00pm, 55 cents to 6:00pm, and 85 cents to closing. Reserved seats in the first mezzanine were a bit pricier. By comparison, the nearby and equally large Roxy Theatre, which had filed for bankruptcy and reduced its stage shows to eight acts of vaudeville, charged 25 cents to 1pm, 35 cents to 6pm, and 55 cents thereafter.
On this night 60 years ago, the United Artists Theatre held a “Halloween Spook Show,” which started at 11:00pm and included a screening of the 1948 classic, “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.” Starting at 6:00pm, a real corpse was placed on display in the grand lobby. Anyone who could positively identify the corpse was eligible for a $50,000 reward, according to an ad in the Los Angeles Times. Also on screen that night was the United Artists' current double feature, “Woman on the Run” and “Madness of the Heart.” There was no increase in admission prices for this special evening.
I don’t know the full price scale for the Strand Theatre in October, 1942, but advertising said that gerneral admission was 55 cents from opening until 1:00pm…Since the end of the Depression and the wartime “boom” in attendance, admission prices were gradually increasing, but I think that $1 was about tops for first-run Broadway houses except for “loges,” which had a slight additional charge.
On this night in 1942 at the Strand Theatre, you could see a “preview” of “George Washington Slept Here,” plus the current “You Can’t Escape Forever” and a stage show topped by Stan Kenton & His Orchestra, Jack Carson, and the Three Stooges. The next day, “George Washington Slept Here” started its NYC premiere engagement at the Strand, with a new stage show comprised entirely of Phil Spitalny and his huge and incomparable “All-Girl Orchestra.”
James MacArthur was the ADOPTED son of Helen Hayes and Charles MacArthur. The couple also had a child of their own, Mary, a promising actress who died at 19 from polio.
Kino International is distributing. A trailer can be seen here: http://www.kino.com/metropolis/
On this night in 1942 (which happened to be a Tuesday), comedian Joey Adams hosted a “Stars of Tomorrow” revue with 10 acts on the stage of Loew’s Willard. On screen were two “B” programmers, “Enemy Agents Meet Ellery Queen” and “All American Co-Ed.”
I doubt if Clearview does much if any p.r. work of its own. For first-run engagements, theatres usually expect the film’s distributor to do it for them. In fact, many distributors insist on it because they employ high-salaried marketing departments that are supposed to be aces in their field.
On this day in 1949, the Capitol opened its “30th Birthday Bargain Show,” with Columbia’s B&W Humphrey Bogart starrer, “Tokyo Joe,” on screen, and Lena Horne and Skitch Henderson’s Orchestra topping the stage bill. On weekdays, general admission was 55 cents until 1:00pm.
The cinema originally opened 76 years ago on October 26th. 1934, as Trans-Lux The Modern Theatre, according to advertising in The New York Times. A blurb described it as “Brooklyn’s First Newsreel Theatre” and “Ultra Modern in Every Detail.” Programs consisted of the lastest newsreels and selected short subjects. Continuous performances started at 10:00am, with the last show at 10:00pm. Admission was 25 cents at all times. The advertised address was Fulton Street & DeKalb Avenue.
The actress in “Operation Petticoat” was Joan O'Brien (not “Jean”).
“That Wonderful Urge” & “Belle Starr’s Daughter” opened on the RKO circuit in Queens on May 4th, 1949, so the combo probably reached the sub-run Newtown three weeks after that. In those days, the Jackson Theatre in nearby Jackson Heights played a week behind the RKO circuit, and then the Newtown would get the programs a week later. By this time, the Elmwood was no longer showing programs off the RKO circuit. It had gone “first-run” for the area with programs originating on the Loew’s circuit.
I believe that the Elmwood’s name referenced Elmhurst and the theatre’s nearness to Woodhaven Boulevard…The Newtown was originally known as the Victoria. The new name was to designate its proximity to Newtown HS, a landmark for the area…The name of Newtown still survives today on the magnificent First Presbyterian Chruch of Newtown, on the south side of Queens Boulevard (almost directly opposite the Target shopping center that was originally all Macy’s).
Tonight (10/23) will mark the 69th anniversary of the gala world premiere of Walt Disney’s “Dumbo” at the Broadway Theatre. Public performances started the next day at 9:30 am, with prices starting at 35 cents until 1pm. Children’s tickets were 25 cents at all times. The Broadway Theatre had previously enjoyed a long run with Disney’s “Fantasia” as a reserved-seat roadshow. For “Dumbo,” mezzaine seats could be reserved at a slight additional charge. Both films were distributed by RKO Radio.
I should have added that “The Miracle” and stage show were replaced on December 5th by Univeral’s “Operation Petticoat” and the annual Christmas spectacular, an engagement that proved one of the most successful in the Music Hall’s history.
WB’s “The Miracle,” starring Carroll Baker and Roger Moore in a Technicolor religious spectacle based on Max Reinhardt’s legendary stage production, followed at RCMH on November 12th, 1959. A new Russell Markert revue, “Contrasts in Rhythm.” was in support. In RCMH’s first decade, which coincided with the Depression, the movie/stage bills often changed every week. Hold-overs were a rarity until the WWII era, when they became the rule rather than the exception.
On this day in 1959, WB’s “A Summer Place,” with Dorothy McGuire, Richard Egan, Sandra Dee, and Troy Donahue topping the cast, opened its NYC premiere engagement at RCMH. The Technicolor sudser proved a boxoffice smash nationally, but lasted only three weeks at the Music Hall, where it was supported by Russell Markert’s stage revue, “Fall Frolic.” which featured the usual resident company plus the dancing Bob Devoyce Trio, the singing Rover Boys, and Noberti, a “comedy novelty.”
On this day in 1925, Loew’s Orpheum was presenting “The Tower of Lies,” starring Lon Chaney and Norma Shearer, with comedian Jack Wilson topping the vaudeville bill. Performances were continuous from 9:15am, with the last complete show starting at 10:30pm.
On this day in 1948, MGM’s “The Three Musketeers,” starring Lana Turner, Gene Kelly, June Allyson, Van Heflin, and Angela Lansbury in the first Technicolor version of the adventure classic, opened its world premiere engagement at Loew’s State. Since dropping vaudeville at the State, Loew’s had been developing the house as a “Showcase for important pictures,” and had offered a better deal for “Musketeers” than Radio City Music Hall, which had also wanted it.
A special concert tonight (10/19) at the Beacon Theatre by Leon Russell and Elton John will be broadcast “live” on the Fuse TV channel, starting at 8pm (EDT). The event will promote their new CD, “The Union."
Further details at http://www.fuse.tv/
Today marks the 55th anniversary of the opening at the Paris Theatre of the NYC premiere engagement of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Trouble With Harry,” a “black comedy” with a cast of veteran character stars and newcomer Shirley MacLaine. The movie’s chief selling points were a corpse that never stayed buried for long and VistaVision-Technicolor photography of Vermont’s autumnal glories. The Paramount release proved a boxoffice disappointment and ended up as a second feature when eent to NYC neighborhood theatres via the Loew’s circuit. Topping the bill was the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis VistaVision-Technicolor hit, “Artists and Models,” which also just happened to have Shirley MacLaine in a leading role.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Center’s world premiere engagement of RKO’s “The Last Days of Pompeii,” an historical spectacle in the DeMille mold with special effects by the creators of “King Kong.” The Center had only recently become a cinema again, after a highly-successful 44-week run with a spectacular stage musical, “The Great Waltz.” With its new film policy, the Center no longer presented stage revues, but it had a resident orchestra conducted by B.A. Rolfe, which played during the intervals, as well as an overture prior to the start of the film. Every Center program also included the latest installment of “The March of Time” series.
Yesterday (10/14) was the 56th anniversary of the opening of RCMH’s world premiere engagement of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” the first feature in Paramount’s VistaVision process. Directed by Michael Curtiz, the Technicolor musical starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. Leonidoff’s stage revue, “Showcase,” included a fashion parade by the Rockettes and a Statue of Liberty finale with some of Irving Berlin’s patriotic flagwavers and simulated fireworks.
On this day in 1943, “Phantom of the Opera,” Universal’s Technicolor remake of the silent Lon Chaney classic, opened its NYC premiere engagement at the Capitol Theatre. This time around, Claude Rains played the title role, with Nelson Eddy and Susanna Foster as the romantic leads. Although advertising didn’t spell it out, the Capitol’s stage bill was entirely “Negro,” including Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra, the Deep River Boys, Peg Leg Bates, and extra added attraction Lena Horne, who was filling time between movie assisgnments st MGM.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of RCMH’s world premiere engagement of U-I’s “Midnight Lace,” starring Doris Day, Rex Harrison and John Gavin under the direction of David Miller. The pseudo-Hitchcock suspenser was co-produced in Eastman Color by Ross Hunter and Day’s husband, Marty Melcher, and was chiefly notable for her sumptuous wardrobe by the legendary Irene. Leonidoff’s “Brazil” was the stage revue, employing all the RCMH regulars as well as some imported Brazilian entertainers who had never performed in the USA before.