Roadshow Theatrical Release

A roadshow theatrical release (known also as reserved seat engagement) was a term in the American motion picture industry for a practice in which a film opened in a limited number of theaters in large cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco for a specific period of time before the nationwide general release. Although variants of roadshow releases occasionally still exist, the practice mostly ended in the early 1970s.

As far as is known, virtually all of the films given roadshow releases were subsequently distributed to regular movie theatres. This was called a general release, and was akin to the modern day wide release of a film. However, there are four important differences between a roadshow presentation of a film and today's limited releases:

  1. Films shown as roadshow releases, especially those made between 1952 and 1974, were nearly always longer than the usual motion picture, lasting anywhere from slightly more than two hours to four hours or more, counting the intermission (examples include the 1959 Ben-Hur, or the 1963 Cleopatra). There were no short subjects accompanying the film, and rarely any movie trailers.
  2. Roadshow presentations were always shown on a one or two-performance a day, reserved seat basis, and admission prices were always higher than those of regular screenings. Unlike today's limited releases, seats had to be reserved, one could not simply buy a ticket at the box office and go in to watch the film. The two-performance-a-day screenings were usually limited to Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. During the rest of the week the films would be shown only once a day. (In the case of Oklahoma!, however, there were three showings of the film a day. )
  3. Souvenir programs were often available at roadshow presentations of films, much as souvenir programs are made available when one goes to see a Broadway play or musical. These programs contained photos from the film, photos and biographies of its cast and principal crew, and information on how the film was made, rather like today's "extras" on DVD's.
  4. In the days of frequent roadshow releases, production companies and film distributors never used them to determine whether or not a film should be given a wide release, as is done today occasionally when films perform poorly at the box office. From the 1920's to the mid-1970's, a roadshow release would always play widely after its original engagements. This was true even of box office flops.

Other articles related to "roadshow theatrical release, roadshow":

Roadshow Theatrical Release - History - Rise of The Limited Release
... The practice of roadshow presentation began dying out in the 1970s, partly due to the rise of the multiplex ... In its initial run, it was blown up to 70mm film and given a roadshow release ... It had a roadshow release, like Apocalypse and Hunter, and premiered in a 70mm blow up version with an intermission ...

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