Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13, 1938 - Snow White's Radio City Music Hall Premiere

On this date back in 1938, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made its New York premiere at the Radio City Music Hall. It ran for five weeks in a row, the first motion picture to do so, and it could have played longer if not for prior commitments. It was the theatre's most successful engagement of the 1930s.

The New York Times review by Frank S. Nugent was printed the following day on January 14th.

The text and an image of Dopey appear on page 21 in the "Amusements" section. The opening paragraph of the positive review starts out very enthusiastically...
Sheer fantasy, delightful, gay and altogether captivating, touched the screen yesterday when Walt Disney's long-awaited feature-length cartoon of the Grimm fairy tale, "Show White and the Seven Dwarfs" had its local premiere at the Radio City Music Hall. Let your fears be quieted at once: Mr. Disney and his amazing technical crew have outdone themselves. The picture more than matches expectations. It is a classic, as important cinematically as The Birth of a Nation or the birth of Mickey Mouse. Nothing quite like it has been done before; and already we have grown impolite to clamor for an encore. Another helping, please!

”If you miss it, you’ll be missing one of the ten best pictures of 1938.” Click the image below to read entire review...

Article copyright The New York Times, 1938.

The same newspaper page includes a Radio City Music Hall advertisement for the film.

An earlier page has a small ad for a "full color" Snow White book published by David McKay Co. Retail price only $1.00.


Three weeks into the Snow White engagement, this two-page advertisement appeared in the Feb. 2, 1938 edition of The Film Daily: The Daily Newspaper of Motion Pictures (pp.4-5). Before this time, no movie had ever run longer than three weeks at the Music Hall.

Film Daily image tip from Jim at Tralfaz. Public domain pics via Internet Archive.


On the front page of The Film Daily from February 5, 1938, it's suggested that Snow White will likely play for an unprecedented five weeks at Radio City Music Hall.


One month after the NYC premiere, Boxoffice Magazine ran a two-page ad promoting the "fifth week" and it included photos of the queue lines from the earlier showings.

Week one...

Week two...

Week three...

Week four...

Boxoffice ad for the fifth week...

1938 Boxoffice images courtesy of Allen Pinney.


According to IMDb...
At the end of the film's initial engagement there, all the velvet seat upholstery had to be replaced. It seems that young children were so frightened by the sequence of Snow White lost in the forest that they wet their pants, and consequently the seats, at each and every showing of the film.

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