When did cinemas start charging for individual showings?

Back in the day, or so I’m told, movie theaters would show the same movie again and again during hours of operation. One charge for admission. You walked in, watched until it was over, then waited for it to start up again. When it caught up to what you’d already seen, you said “This is where I came in,” and left.

Or you watched it all the way through, maybe twice, maybe all day. I have a cartoon from the early '60s that shows a teenage couple looking at a poster for The Beast That Ate Boston Horrible! Gruesome! Hideous! The girl says, “This kind of movie scares me; let’s only stay to see it three times.”

So when did that stop? When did theaters start charging for one showing, and insisting that you either leave afterwards or pay another admission? I am old enough to remember when multiplexes were a new thing; presumably the one show/one ticket rule predated that. And for that matter, were all cinemas continuous-loop, or just some of them? I’ve also heard of double features and Saturday matinees; those must have been one-shot deals. Fill me in!

I can’t answer your question, but I thought they use to have “double features”: one ticket got you two different movies. It seems like a long time to be in a movie theater, though.

They still do “Movie Marathons” here, where one ticket gets you something like 3 consecutive movies (all shown as part of a special session).

I’ve never seen a cinema operating like the system you describe, and my Dad (who worked in a theatre as an after-school job when he was in high school in the '60s in NZ) tells me that even back then it was “One ticket, one movie”, at least in theory.

The places around here always have turned up the lights and sent in people to make sure you leave.

I don’t know about the old days, but when I was a kid, there were a couple of times that I remember staying through the end credits until the next screening began. We were always supposed to leave, but the theater staff wasn’t that aggressive about kicking people out.

My record is three movies in a row – but not the same movie! :smiley:

I can’t answer your question either, but I remember those days. IIRC, you looked in the newspaper ads for a phrase like “Continuous showings from [time].” If you saw that, you knew you could walk in anytime and stay for however long you wanted.

Of course, those were the days when your ticket didn’t have the film name, theatre number, show time, etc. on it, so even if they did try to kick you out, they had a hard time proving that you hadn’t just bought it for the next show.

From my reading of movie history, there were glamorous huge first-run theaters that featured one movie and everyday neighborhood movie houses that ran movies, cartoons, newsreels, and trailers more or less continually. The studios each owned a network of theaters and they would give their releases a big send-off in the New York and L.A. theaters, gradually reaching down to regular first-run and then second-run theaters. Smaller houses not owned by the big studios would get b-movies or movies after the first run. The continuous showings were to lure crowds to less desirable offerings. (Generally speaking: there were always exceptions.)

Neighborhood movie houses died in droves with the coming of television, so the break point comes somewhere after WWII.

I remember continuous showing of The Nutty Professor in 1963. Unless theaters were filled, there was no reason to kick people out after the movie was done.

IIRC, some theaters in Times Square had continuous showings into the 70s, and possibly beyond. I remember an account in one of the Medveds’ Worst Films books describing them only being able to catch one of them in an all-night theater. The theater was shut down after the film was run, so they kicked everyone out, but people would pay the couple of bucks for admission and flop for the night.

However, by that time, it was only limited to a few inner city theaters.

Okay, thank you!

I remember sitting through two showings of 2001 and a re-release of Fantasia on more than one occasion! This would be about 1969-1971. By the 1982 re-release of Fantasia (with the re-recorded soundtrack) the seating policy had changed to the current “one ticket, one showing”.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a movie her in SF, but there were (a few years ago) plenty of theaters that showed double features on one screen, usually second-run or oldies, and one could just pay and stay all day. I miss the wonderful St. Francis theater. Two screens, two second-run films each. Only $3.50 to get in in the mid-'90s. Full of sleeping drunks and drug addicts, rats, and roaches. I used to bring in a backpack with 2 or 3 forties and a bag full of Taco Bell from two doors down… Almost always popular drek films, but often decent action movies.

But also, a few places that showed respectable, first-run double features in which one could stay all dy - the Balboa, the 4-Star, and more, I’m sure. I saw a triple-feature of Lost Highway, Crash (Cronenberg) and… maybe Existenz at the Balboa. So fucking boring, but my best friend was positively exhilarated, loving all 3 films…


I remember seeing “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” this way, and it was released in 1969. My best friend’s dad’s appliance store was across the street from one of the big downtown movie theaters. When we got bored hanging out at the store, we’d go across the street, buy tickets, and do the “Watch 'til it comes around to where we came in” thing.

I think what Rilchiam is wondering about is explained by the fact they used to not do that and people could generally sit through more than one showing if they wanted to. As a complete wild ass guess, I would bet something like Star Wars put an end to not kicking out the loiterers.

I’ve heard that *Jaws * was the first film to be shown with “separate performances” rather than continuous. No cite, just something I’ve heard, somewhere.

However, it didn’t take over immediately, I remember watching *Ghostbusters * twice in a row. It was still the most common method at the time, ISTR.

I’ve been to a theater in Korea that was like that. (We stayed and watched Hercules twice, and got a kick out of it.) Not in Seoul–there you buy a ticket not only for a specific showing but for a specific seat.

Long before Jaws ** there were ‘special’ movies that had separate performances where they kicked everyone out between showings. Some I saw that come quickly to mind were Lawrence of Arabia, Oklahoma!, Ben Hur, and Bridge Over The River Kwai.**

I always thought it was “Psycho” since Hitchcock specified that people couldn’t be let in after it started (an unsual occurrence).

By the time I started going to “big” Hollywood movies in the mid to late 60s, they were all timed showings, with everybody leaving at the end. All the neighborhood theaters anywhere near me had closed by that time, so I don’t know what small theaters were like. The practice of timed showings was in place way, way before Jaws or Star Wars.

When I started going to the movies in the 40s and 50s, all the theaters, both first run and second run, except for times they were showing ‘special’ blockbuster movies, would show two movies, a newsreel, a cartoon, previews (noone called them ‘trailers’), and sometimes a travelogue. You bought a ticket, went into the theater, and stayed as long as you liked. It may be hard to believe, but people were used to coming in on the middle of a movie and waiting a couple of hours to see how it began.

Not really. I have no trouble at all believing it. I rememberaround the time of Ghostbusters it was possible to walk into the middle of a movie. Though I always made a point of waiting for the start to come round again.