History, Legacy & Showmanship

Cleopatra: The Roadshow Engagements

June 12, 2013 - 12:01 am   |   by
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Cleopatra, 20th Century-Fox’s well-publicized epic starring Elizabeth Taylor, was the most popular movie of 1963/64… even though history informs us the movie was a failure.  Presented here in commemoration of the golden anniversary of it premiere, and its recent Blu-ray release, is a (work-in-progress) list of the film’s original theatrical roadshow engagements in the United States and Canada.  These engagements of Cleopatra were shown exclusively in major cities prior to the film being given a traditional nationwide release and included reserved seating with an advanced admission price with an average of ten scheduled showings per week.  Much like a Broadway production, these presentations included an overture, intermission, entr’acte and exit music.  The roadshow engagements were presented in 70-millimeter and six-track stereophonic sound. As well, souvenir programs were sold.

It should be noted that the presentations of Cleopatra that commenced during June of 1963 were the original 4-hour version.  Only a couple of weeks into its release, the studio shortened the film by nearly an hour and circulating prints were edited to conform to the revised cut and/or replaced with newer prints.  All subsequent bookings were of the shorter cut regardless of whether or not it was roadshow or general release.

By early 1964, some theaters booked Cleopatra as a “modified roadshow” whereby the reserved-seating policy was relaxed, but maintained were the exclusivity, advanced pricing, scheduled showtimes, and, in some cases, the 70mm presentation.  Most new engagements of the film booked throughout 1964 and into 1965, however, were of the general-release type (i.e. continuous performances, popular prices, 35mm, 3-hour cut, no overture, etc.).  From there the movie went through the usual cycle of distribution (i.e. first-run, second-run, drive-ins, re-release, etc.).  The list provided here in this article focuses only on the first phase of its release (i.e. the reserved-seat engagements that commenced between June of 1963 and early 1964).

Cleopatra at the Pantages

This article/list was created as historical record of a famous motion picture, but also is a celebration of the fondly-remembered movie theaters in which it played.  (How many of these theaters survive today???)  The bookings are arranged chronologically by premiere date, and duration data, measured in weeks, has been included for most of the entries.

- Michael Coate

 

   Tickets for Cleopatra and the Rivoli    The roadshow program for Cleopatra

The Cleopatra premiere at the Rivoli Theatre

 

  • 06.12.1963 … New York, NY – Rivoli  [64 weeks]
  • 06.19.1963 … Los Angeles, CA – Pantages  [72 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Atlanta, GA – Roxy  [30 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Baltimore, MD – Hippodrome  [35 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Boston, MA – Music Hall  [20 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Buffalo, NY – Center  [26 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Calgary, AB – Capitol  [14 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Charlotte, NC – Dilworth  [28 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Chicago, IL – State-Lake  [32 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Cincinnati, OH – Grand  [42 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Cleveland, OH – Ohio  [26 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Dallas, TX – Tower  [26 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Denver, CO – Denham  [39 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Des Moines, IA – Ingersoll  [28 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Detroit, MI – United Artists  [52 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Edmonton, AB – Paramount  [14 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Fort Worth, TX – Palace  [? weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Houston, TX – Tower  [25 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Indianapolis, IN – Lyric  [31 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Louisville, KY – Penthouse  [23 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Memphis, TN – Crosstown  [29 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Miami Beach, FL – Lincoln  [74 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Minneapolis, MN – Century  [48 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Montreal, QC – Alouette  [35 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Omaha, NE – Astro  [26 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Philadelphia, PA – Stanley  [41 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Phoenix, AZ – Paramount  [33 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Pittsburgh, PA – Penn  [26 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Portland, OR – Paramount  [37 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Richmond, VA – Willow Lawn  [29 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … St. Louis, MO – Ambassador  [24 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Salt Lake City, UT – Centre  [26 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … San Antonio, TX – Broadway  [19 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … San Diego, CA – Capri  [42 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … San Francisco, CA – Alexandria  [56 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Toronto, ON – University  [39 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Vancouver, BC – Stanley  [42 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Washington, DC – Warner  [40 weeks]
  • 06.26.1963 … Winnipeg, MB – Metropolitan  [18 weeks]

 

  • 07.02.1963 … Milwaukee, WI – Strand  [48 weeks]
  • 07.03.1963 … Beaumont, TX – Liberty  [? weeks]

 

  • 08.02.1963 … Providence, RI – Elmwood  [27 weeks]
  • 08.07.1963 … Honolulu, HI – Kuhio  [19 weeks]
  • 08.07.1963 … Rochester, NY – Riviera  [27 weeks]
  • 08.07.1963 … Syracuse (DeWitt), NY – Shoppingtown  [20 weeks]

 

  • 10.03.1963 … Ottawa, ON – Nelson  [15 weeks]
  • 10.10.1963 … Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine  [15 weeks]
  • 10.24.1963 … Nashville, TN – Crescent  [? weeks]

 

  • 11.13.1963 … Kansas City, MO – Capri  [23 weeks]
  • 11.13.1963 … Oklahoma City, OK – Tower  [? weeks]
  • 11.15.1963 … Boston, MA – Gary  [cont. from Music Hall, 12 (32) weeks]

 

  • 12.25.1963 … Jacksonville, FL – Cedar Hills  [13 weeks]
  • 12.25.1963 … New Haven, CT – Whalley  [19 weeks]
  • 12.25.1963 … Norfolk, VA – Riverview  [? weeks]
  • 12.25.1963 … Toledo, OH – Princess 70  [16 weeks]

 

  • 01.22.1964 … Akron (Cuyahoga Falls), OH – Falls  [9 weeks]
  • 01.24.1964 … Youngstown, OH – State  [16 weeks]

 

  • 05.27.1964 … Hicksville, NY – Twin North  [? weeks]

 

  • 06.19.1964 … Upper Montclair, NJ – Bellevue  [10 weeks]

 

The first international roadshow booking of Cleopatra commenced July 31, 1963, at the Dominion in London.

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, Bill Gabel, Martin Hart, Bill Huelbig, Bill Kretzel, Stan Malone, Vince Young, and the librarians who helped with research for this project.

 

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