You can thank Alfred Hitchcock for movies having set showtimes

Do you remember ever walking into a movie right in the middle of the story?

Going to movies in the modern age has its pros and cons. Plush, reclining seats practically kick back into bed, like a first-class flight. Those are great. On the flip side, there are those people fiddling with their phones that distractingly glow like magnesium flares. Of course, people have been talking in movie theaters since, well… probably since the Lumière Brothers invented the movies.

We love the movies, and go all the time, don't get us wrong. That is how we develop these pet peeves. Another one is the coming-and-going of the audience in the middle of the film. It breaks the fantasy and sucks your attention away from the screen. But imagine if the crowd was constantly arriving and departing, if the doors to the lobby were swinging open and shut throughout the flick, if ushers were shining flashlights up and down the aisles as you tried to concentrate.

This is the way it was for the first half of the 20th century. Some of you might remember. Because movies did not have showtimes until 1960.

That sentence might seem so strange to younger generations, so let us repeat it. Movies did not have set showtimes. Remember, this is the era before cineplexes, when most films were screening for a couple days in a grand movie hall or local, single-screen theater. The theaters simply projected the movies on a loop throughout the day. People would come and go as they please. You could enter when you want and stay as long as you please.

In hindsight, it's a little hard to fathom. You and your date walk up to the box office, purchase a couple tickets, and settle into your seats — in the middle of the movie. You watch the ending, sit through some newsreels, and catch the beginning that you missed. 

So why did this all change? Besides the obvious inconvenience.

You can thank Alfred Hitchcock, his twist endings, and perhaps the first spoiler alert in movie history.

In 1960, the Master of Suspense was releasing his latest shocking film, Psycho. Suffice it to say, you would not want to walk into the theater just before the final act to see Norman Bates… well, spoiler alert. Those who have seen Psycho (and who hasn't?) know that seeing the ending before the beginning would ruin the entire story. Which is why Hitch appeared in newspaper advertisements instructing audiences to show up to the theater on time, at a set time, at the beginning.

"Surely you do not have your meat course after your dessert at dinner," the ad began. "You will therefore understand why we are so insistent that you enjoy PSYCHO from start to finish, exactly as we intended it to be served." Hitch tapped at his watch with a chiding look on his face next to the text.

The director went to even more extreme measure to secure the details of his devilish twist ending. He purchased as many copies as possible of Robert Bloch's novel that inspired the movie. He held back the film from critics. 

But set times were his greatest achievement. Some marquees in front of theaters commanded, "SEE THIS THRILLER FROM THE BEGINNING."

If Hitchcock hadn't done it, perhaps George Lucas would have gotten around to it. Can you image walking into The Empire Strikes Back just as Darth Vader declares, "Luke, I am your father!"

Sorry, spoiler alert?


Watch The Alfred Hitchcock Hour on MeTV!

Weeknights at 1 AM
Sundays at 1 AM

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

65 Comments

Post a comment
joenic27 1 month ago
I remember many times as a young kid in the 1960s, our family walking in the theater in the middle of the movie, and then staying to watch it again all the way through. Seems like an odd concept now, but back then quite common.
JHP 1 month ago
I was maybe in 6th grade and I read AH's book "the mystery of the green ghost" so many times
KJExpress JHP 1 month ago
I loved those "Three Investigators" mystery books. I borrowed them all from my elementary school library.
JHP KJExpress 1 month ago
we are in the same club for sure:)
KJExpress JHP 1 month ago
😄👍📖
JHP 1 month ago
Thank you Me-Tv for the AH Hour - that show and Peter Gunn - I am a junkie:)
daDoctah 1 month ago
The only movie I remember seeing from the middle was the original "Planet of the Apes" with Charlton Heston, which would have been when I was about nine or ten. We arrived just as the astronauts have crash landed on the planet and the ship begins to sink, with a jarring cutaway to the mummified female crew member in her damaged sleep pod. We watched from there through to the end, then stayed for the next show to catch the opening we'd missed (the only part of the film that took place in the 20th century), then announced "this is where we came in" and got up to leave.

BTW, Hitch was wrong when he said you don't eat the dessert first and the meat after. I am at this very moment poised between just those two tasks.
ncadams27 1 month ago
That was mostly for B movies and double features. You also got short features like a cartoon, comedy short (like The Three Stooges) and a newsreel in the pre-TV days. Most of the A movies (think - Gone With the Wind or Wizard if Oz) had set showtimes with a musical prologue (some times a live orchestra) and an intermission. You also got a program like Playbill. There was only one showing a day or perhaps a weekday matinee like a Broadway play.

But the one of the biggest features that drew people to theaters- air conditioning.
tootsieg 1 month ago
I remember spending all day in the movies watching the same movie over and over. I enjoyed the newsreels, cartoons and the coming attractions as well.
justjeff 1 month ago
One criticism... In the early days of theaters, they did *not* "simply project the movies on a loop throughout the day". Films came on huge reels, and there were two projectors in the booth. As one reel neared its end, the projectionist would watch for a visual cue and start the next reel.

The first reel was then rewound, and the process would start again for the next show.

By the 1980s, giant turntables with the film footage lying on it [like a record] *was* fed in a loop so play could be continuous... but before that, the work was all manually done...
JHP justjeff 1 month ago
Now...there was a Columbo Ep where the projectionist would use a nickel to signal the end of a reel
JeffPaul76 1 month ago
I did not know any of that before reading this article, So, thanks MeTV and Alfred Hitchcock! I haven't been to a movie theater in quite a few years.
Well, there’s not a lot of good movies being made now. I think everyone is going a lot less than they used to.
texasluva 1 month ago
Though I was too young to know the difference of showtimes or not. Since parents took me to most when not much more then a toddler. The only movie I can remember before 1960's was when I was seated with them to see Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Too young to even know what that was I sat and became ill watching those pod people start to evolve. I was next in the movie bathroom white as a sheet and worried about going to bed later at night. I mean what happens if THEY come for me. I believe they finally took me home because I sure did not remember the end of that movie. Today one of my favorites along with many others including most all of Hitchcock's movies. I will now show one of his films but everyone has to sign in on watching it from the beginning. You want snacks and such or BR break do it before hand and snacks on hand. No rustling around or jumping in front of screen to hinder others attempting to watch. I suppose I could have a intermission but I would have to splice it into the film tape. Okay yeah, I know, you all will have a pause button to click. So much for that, huh . Todays era everything is on a plater-Smart phones that can take you to all corners (is there a corner?) of the world in not hours, minutes or even seconds but micro this and Nano that. You want a pic of the universe 13.7 Billion miles away=James Webb Telescope. Wonder what ole Hitch would have thought about todays world? Still though his movies are ones to watch and never get tired of them.

Only question left is what one to show the MeTV Quizzer Lot. It's not going to be Psycho since some of you might pass out-ha ha j/k. I could but I am saving it for another time. I will put on my favorite one besides Psycho. North By Northwest. Most have seen this but those who did not take heed and watch. Just copy and paste into any browser-PC, I-Pad, Android phones or tablet. If you have Chromecast or screen casting along with Apple play types you can put right to your TV screens. Happy to have this Alfred Hitchcock story and it only seems right to comment and post a movie.

North By Northwest (1959)-2 hr 16 min- Action--Adventure--Mystery---Rated 8.3
Director
Alfred Hitchcock
Stars
Cary Grant---Eva Marie Saint---James Mason---Leo G. Carroll---Martin Landau

A New York City advertising executive goes on the run after being mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and falls for a woman whose loyalties he begins to doubt.

https://ia601808.us.archive.org/20/items/northbynorthwest_202101/North.By.Northwest.1959.720p.BluRay.x264-%5BYTS.AM%5D.mp4




cperrynaples 1 month ago
In the Anthony Hopkins bio about Psycho, we learn he made the cast and crew swear an oath that they would not reveal the ending to anyone "even President Eisenhower"...LOL!
Do you mean Anthony Perkins?
No I meant the movie where Hopkins played Hitchcock! Perkins is depicted in one scene where Hitchcock's secretary deduced he was gay!
Ah! Thanks for the clarification.
Andybandit 1 month ago
Thank you AH for making showtimes for shows, it is really convenient.
Michael 1 month ago
Wasn't this Hitchcock guy on the Flintstones?
cperrynaples Michael 1 month ago
No, that was Hitchrock with a phony voice!!
ELEANOR 1 month ago
I can remember when they showed cartoons before the movie and you were free to stay if you wanted to see the movie again.
cperrynaples ELEANOR 1 month ago
Yes, if you missed the beginning you could do it! Ironically, that happened to me when I saw his last movie Family Plot!
And a question about that film: How did Hitchcock make his final film appearance? Hint: It's a callback to AHP/AHH!
JHP ELEANOR 1 month ago
now friggin popcorn is $15 - must be the law of supply and demand
cperrynaples JHP 29 days ago
That's not the answer to my question! The answer is that Hitchcock was a shadow behind a door, similar to the opening of the TV show!
JHP cperrynaples 29 days ago
I think your barb went awry (to me:))
Catman 1 month ago
The expression "this is where I came in" is from the practice of running the movie all day long, and viewers coming in and leaving as they pleased. If you missed the beginning of the film, you'd stay in your seat when the movie was over and stay until you got to the point where "this is where I came in" and be on your way. Or not.
I was (I still am) a huge Beatles fan. When "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" were showing, I'd sit in the theater all day on Saturday and watch them over and over. When VHS and DVD versions of the films came out, well ... let's just say I probably know the dialogue by heart.
Anyhow, this is where I came in ...
Load previous comments
Catman cperrynaples 1 month ago
George says "That's not your grandfather ... I know your grandfather he lives in your house."
Paul: Well he's my grandfather as well.
?John? How do you figure that?
Paul: Well everyone's entitled to two and he's my other one.
cperrynaples 1 month ago
This comment has been removed.
Catman cperrynaples 1 month ago
I posted a link to a youtube video of the scene on the train with Paul's grandfater but apparently I ran afoul of some rule; my comment was removed. Dunno why.
cperrynaples Catman 29 days ago
Copyright possibly but yes that's the whole dialog, I condensed it for my post!
LoveMETV22 1 month ago
Well, I guess some appreciation to Mr. Hitchcock is worthy. However an Intermission between Double Features was probably welcomed.
Load previous comments
texasluva Moody 23 days ago
Movie for Labor Day- You looking for color? We have color here--lots of color. Lots of fun and more color in ************ Auntie Mame*************

.

Auntie Mame (1958)-Comedy--Drama--Romance-2 hr 23 min
Director
Morton DaCosta
Stars
Rosalind Russell---Forrest Tucker---Coral Browne---
Fred Clark---Roger Smith---Peggy Cass-
This movie tops out at 7.9 on the IMDb scale. Even Forest Tucker can play in a role other then Horror B's or F Troop-

https://ia802203.us.archive.org/2/items/AnteMme1958/AnteMme1958.m4v
Moody texasluva 23 days ago
I think I'll skip the spider movie! I hate spiders! The other one I might check out if I can reach that archive site. I tried before from here & I can't seem to connect to it. I'll mess around with it & see if it works.
Moody texasluva 23 days ago
This looks interesting. I'm not familiar with this movie.
texasluva Moody 20 days ago
Throwback Thursday. Another one of those 1960 movies that we all treasure. What a great year that was for cinema. This may not be in ones watching past but a good movie never the less. The World of Suzie Wong is just that movie. I've also included a review I found interesting below. Many facts that I am sure most have passed up.

The World of Suzie Wong (1960) 2 hr 6 min--Drama--Romance
Director
Richard Quine
Stars
William Holden---Nancy Kwan---Sylvia Syms

https://ia903407.us.archive.org/27/items/ThWldfSzeWg1960/ThWldfSzeWg1960.mp4

9/10
Liz Moore: the unseen star
tomsview1 May 2018
There are layers to "The World of Suzie Wong". I find it engaging, surprisingly witty, and William Holden and Nancy Kwan have charisma to spare. However the way the film highlights how the Chinese were classed as social inferiors is wince-inducing. Especially so now that China is an emerging super power, and the fact that if you go to a hospital in my city, Sydney, your life is very likely to be saved by a Tan, a Chan or a Wong.

But this film is a time capsule of the way things were. The film actually treats the Chinese rather respectfully. Even though the bar girls at the center of the story are prostitutes, they are presented as worthwhile people and given a certain dignity although I can't imagine Elizabeth Taylor or Audrey Hepburn swapping places with Nancy Kwan when William Holden tears off her dress.

As an artist, I enjoy the art aspect of the story. It's amusing watching William Holden pretending to paint Suzie in his bedroom studio. Bill is a neat painter. No dustcoat or apron for him, even though a spatter of Alizarin Crimson or Cerulean Blue would turn his trousers into painting pants immediately - I possess about 50 pairs of painting pants.

But I have always admired the paintings he executes as the story unfolds. Bold, confidant works with powerful composition and superior draughtsmanship.

Recently I discovered that they were done by Elizabeth Moore, a sixteen-year-old art student attending Kingston Art School in London. Sixteen! Amazing. Better known as Liz Moore, her first love was sculpture. She went on to create the Star Child for Kubrick's 2001 and then the 'nude' furniture for the Korova Milk Bar scene in "A Clockwork Orange". Finally she was involved in creating the costume for C3PO and the Stormtrooper helmets for "Star Wars".

There are a couple of sites that have tributes to her and show other work including busts of The Beatles and Dame Sybil Thorndike. Another site features "The centrepiece painting from the film 'The World of Suzie Wong'", revealing thickly applied impasto. Photos of her show a vibrant blonde. Sadly that beauty and talent was crammed into too short a life. She was killed in a car crash in Holland in 1976 aged only 32.

To those who know, "The World of Suzie Wong" is a legacy to that burgeoning talent and a gift that would seem to have been divinely inspired.



VBartilucci 11 months ago
In point of fact, theater owners had wanted set showtimes (and the ability to clear between shows) for quite some time, so Hitch's publicity gimmick was well received, and most theaters gleefully cooperated.
Yes, and it was ALWAYS used for reserved movies such as Ben Hur where you had to pay a premium!
nostalgic123 29 months ago
I remember when growing up in the 60's and early 70's even though there were set times advertised, you weren't prevented from purchasing a ticket anytime and going in, and allowed to stay to catch what you missed. Double features were still the thing as well. And some of those B movies could be dreadful.
DawnGraham 46 months ago
My mom said there was set times before 1960, Several shows that were suspenseful had set times & people were not let in before that time.
cperrynaples DawnGraham 1 month ago
Well we all know the Carol Burnett story re another Hitchcock movie!
cperrynaples 46 months ago
Set showtimes for movies predated Psycho, but Hitchcock was the first filmmaker to insist that his movie be seen from the beginning!
Well "hello darkness my old Friend"...I knew this was a repost when I saw my old post...LOL!
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?