When Did They Start Clearing Movie Theaters Between Showings?

I do recall seeing Grease at my local movie theater and I saw it THREE times in a row.

But then that theater closed and reopened as one that showed older shows and we had to go to the new mall with a Cineplex which was smaller but had three theaters and you couldn’t come in at the middle and stay over to catch the part you missed.

We always used to do that.

So I guess at least in the South Part of Chicago where, I grew up, it was in the mid to late 70s they stopped letting you sit through show after show.

I once heard somewhere that the trend actually started with the movie Psycho. IIRC, Hitchcock insisted that no one be admitted after the start of the movie. He was supposedly the first one to do that and he had the clout to do it too.

Ok, wait, I didn’t think I’d find a cite because of the odd combination of words, but I tried it anyway and got this:

Probably because in the current age of blockbusters and sold-out shows, they don’t want people to buy tickets and then find out that there are no empty seats. One ticket, one show.

Markxxx, did they check your ticket stub before letting you in? I mean, “no” is the usual answer. They don’t have enough staff to do it, so you go to the washroom, buy some MilkDuds, and go back from whence you came. We knew it long ago and we know it now: What matters to the theater owner is not ticket sales but popcorn, drinks, and candy sales.

In the Sixties and early Seventies, you could stay to see movies multiple times without a problem. Those were lean years for movie theaters, and they were happy to have butts in seats.

When did things change? Blame Spielberg and Lucas. Shortly after “Jaws” and “Star Wars” became smash hits, and lines were forming around the block for tickets, theater owners began clearing out theaters after each show. By the early Eighties, that was standard in New York.

I’ve always wondered if they advertised the start times for the movies? Surely, I can’t be the only one who would have wanted to come in at the beginning and leave at the end?

That’s kind of missing the point. “Long ago,” i.e., the '70s, it wasn’t necessary to do this. We just stayed from one showing to the next. And obviously it does matter to the theater owner or the question of whether they had enough staff to check tickets or not wouldn’t enter into it.

Here in Seattle, it was Star Wars. When Star Wars started getting lines around the block, the old UA Cinema 70 started clearing between shows.

My Dad was a cinema usher as a high school job in the '60s in New Zealand; he tells me that there were advertised start and finish times for movies and after that it was “Get out so we can clean the theatre!”

I think the “Movies on a continuous loop” thing must have been US-only; I’ve never heard any “pop-culture” references to the phenomenon in either Australia or NZ.

I saw Star Wars over 100 times when it first came out. The way I did it was to go to the earliest matinee and stay for all the showings up until the evening shows. Once the larger evening crowds showed up, they may have started clearing the theater between showings, but I don’t remember for sure.

I think you can still watch multiple showings if you go to matinees in a multiplex, but you probably have to hop from movie to movie while they’re cleaning the theater you want to go to.

When I worked at Cinemark in the 90s we had to clean every theater after every movie. Was this not the SOP in the 70s?

Where I lived in Wisconsin, they just cleaned around you.

Growing up in the 60s, the local grind house ran triple features aimed at kids on the weekend. The newspaper ads were very interesting. One reads; “Lone Ranger and Bonanza’s ‘Little Joe’ C-o-l-l-i-d-e with Mummy!!” There are no film titles listed and no starting times. I can only guess from the accompanying artwork (again with no titles) that this must have been a triple feature of Hammer’s “The Mummy”, “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” and some Lone Ranger movie. I probably went that weekend, like most weekends, and arrived whenever someone could get me down there, regardless of any starting times, and left when it came around to the point in the show when I arrived.

More to the topic, going through these old ads I came across one for “A Hard Day’s Night” from its first run in my town, not at the grind house mentioned above, but at a ‘nice’ theater. One little box in the ad reads; “INTERMISSIONS. Everyone is requested to leave after seeing a complete show. Intermissions will be given to clear the theater.” I’m sure this was a unique case in those days due to the overwhelming interest in this particular film.

Until the 1960’s, it would have been impossible to clear the theater between movies, because movies seldom had advertised start times and you were expected to enter during the middle. Then you’d stay through the newsreel and short subject and watch the beginning, and leave when you could say, “This is where I came in.”

My mother tells the story of how she once entered a theater when it opened for the day, confident that for once she’d be able to watch a movie from the beginning. But no, the theater just started in mid-movie where they had left off at closing time the previous night.

Once they went to advertised start times, it became theoretically possible to clear between movies, and it was just a matter of theater policy; I imagine there was a lot of variation.

Sounds like US Cinema back in the day was anarchy in it’s purest form :slight_smile: How could people stand watching movies last half first?

I asked my parents that very question. They had no answer. It seemed as annoying to them at the time as it does to us today.

Perhaps one of our cinema historians can weigh in with some technical reason as to why this was such a common practice.

That’s a good question. As a kid, I didn’t care when I arrived in the movie. Today, I wouldn’t dream of watching a film from anywhere but the beginning. Woody Allen’s character in “Annie Hall” (1977) refused to watch movies except from the beginning. I wonder if this may have been influential in the cultural tipping point.

This sounds a little far-fetched to me. I would like to see some movie ads from the 1950s with no starting times listed.

I think it started when movies became multiple theaters. If one just stayed, one could go into one of the other theaters and see a new movie for free.
Heh, my mother and I once went to see a Chevy Chase movie and it sucked so much, we snuck into the next theater room, which was showing a Cheech & Chong movie. We found it even suckier, so snuck Back!

sometime between star wars and the empire strikes back.

i would go into see starwars at about 10am and stay 'till 3-4 pm. i couldn’t do that with empire strikes back.