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Looking Back

January 1940

Step back in time to see what area movie theaters were presenting in January 1940. Film titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database.

For more information about these theaters, see Cinema Treasures or Water Winter Wonderland.


Gone With the Wind opened in Detroit on Thursday, January 25, 1940, at the Wilson Theatre and the United Artists theater. It had earlier premiered in Atlanta on December 15, 1939 and in New York City on December 19, 1939.

"Hereafter, movies are definitely dated," wrote James S. Pooler in The Detroit Free Press on January 26, 1940. "They either led up to 'Gone With the Wind' or are attempts to surpass it. All the arts of picture making are blended in this picture to make it the most terrific emotional assault ever to reach the screen. Nothing in the future which pretends to cinematic greatness can escape comparison to 'Gone With the Wind.' "

"Frantically awaited by a pre-sold audience of record-breaking proportions, 'Gone With the Wind' came to town Thursday," wrote Al Weitschat in "The Screen in Review" column in The Detroit News on January 26, 1940. "It lived up to the extravagant expectations aroused during its long months of creation. No one who saw its reaction upon first-nighters at the United Artists and Wilson theaters could doubt that."

Other downtown Detroit movies on January 25 included His Girl Friday (Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant) at the Fox; The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Bette Davis, Errol Flynn) at the Broadway-Capitol and the Fisher; Destry Rides Again (Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart) at the Adams; Four Wives (The Lane Sisters, Jeffrey Lynn) at the Michigan; The Private Life of Henry VIII (Charles Laughton, Merle Oberon) at the Madison; and The Great Victor Herbert (Mary Martin, Allan Jones) at the Palms-State.

The Redford was showing a double bill of Pack Up Your Troubles (Ritz Brothers, Jane Withers) and U Boat 29 (Conrad Veidt, Valerie Hobson). The Cinema showed a re-issue of the 1937 movie Fire Over England (Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Raymond Massey)

At the United Artists, Gone With the Wind succeeded Intermezzo: A Love Story (Leslie Howard, Ingrid Bergman). It screened at the UA for more than two months, until March 30, and was followed by Northwest Passage (Spencer Tracy, Robert Young). At the Wilson, which was usually used for theater productions, Gone With the Wind continued until April 17.

The RKO Uptown hosted the Detroit neighborhood debut of Gone With the Wind, a week-long engagement that started on June 7, 1940. The UA hosted a downtown re-release that ran from February 13, 1941 to March 26, 1941. The first wide area release in Detroit came on June 20, 1941, when it opened for one week at the RKO Uptown, Cinderella, Riviera, Fisher, and Broadway-Capitol.

Ann Arbor audiences were treated to the opening of Gone With the Wind at the Majestic Theatre on Friday, March 29, 1940. It played for one week, after a run of He Married His Wife (Joel McCrea, Nancy Kelly). It was followed by Road to Singapore (Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, Bob Hope).

Also playing in Ann Arbor on March 29 were Vigil In the Night (Carole Lombard, Brian Aherne) at the Michigan; Meet Doctor Christian (Jean Hersholt) at the Whitney; Santa Fe Marshal (William Boyd) at the Wuerth; and Day-Time Wife (Tyrone Power) at the Orpheum.

Click here to see a PDF of newspaper images relating to the opening of Gone With the Wind.


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Launched November 25, 2005.

Last updated August 30, 2014.

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