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Looking Back

October 1953

Step back in time to see what area movie theaters were presenting in October 1953. Film titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database.

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


Roman Holiday, which earned young star Audrey Hepburn an Academy Award, opened in Detroit on Friday, October 30, 1953, at the Michigan (Grand River and Bagley). It had earlier premiered in New York at the Radio City Music Hall on August 27, 1953.

When Roman Holiday opened, the movie public was swept up in many new technical innovations, like Cinerama and CinemaScope, as the film industry battled the increasing competition from television. That might have contributed to surprisingly short runs for Roman Holiday in the Detroit and Ann Arbor areas, despite strong publicity.

"The Michigan Theater is delivering two hours of solid film entertainment requiring neither wide screen, 3-D, color or stereophonic sound," wrote Al Weitschat of The Detroit News on October 30, 1953. "The picture, 'Roman Holiday,' is what the trade dubs a 'little, old flattie.' It has nothing but a sparkling story well directed and superbly acted. It seems destined to succeed as handsomely as 'From Here to Eternity,' another flattie that confounded a gimmick-conscious industry."

"Comedy has many guises. But it seldom comes robed in the grace and absolute enchantment of 'Roman Holiday,' opening Friday at the Michigan Theater," wrote Detroit Free Press Movie Critic Helen Bower on October 30, 1953. "Audrey Hepburn, remembered here for her stage appearance in 'Gigi' as a gangling adolescent, makes her screen debut as a runaway princess in this modern fairy story filmed entirely in Rome. Gregory Peck has one of the breaks of his career in having been cast as this lovely girl's co-star."

Also showing in Detroit on October 30, 1953 was the first Cinerama movie (This is Cinerama) at the Music Hall, as well as the first CinemaScope film (The Robe, with Richard Burton and Jean Simmons) at the Fox. Also playing were From Here to Eternity (Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift) at the Madison; Torch Song (Joan Crawford) at the Adams; Mogambo (Clark Gable, Ava Gardner) at the United Artists; A Lion is in the Streets (James Cagney) at the Palms; and Sabre Jet (Robert Stack) at the Broadway Capitol.

Roman Holiday topped a Michigan double bill that also included Trent's Last Case, with Michael Wilding and Margaret Lockwood. The first Detroit run of Roman Holiday ended on November 5, 1953, followed by So Big, with Jane Wyman. Roman Holiday arrived in neighborhood theaters on December 16, 1953. It screened at the Redford, with The Stand at Apache River (Stephen McNally, Julia Adams), from December 16 to 19, 1953.

Ann Arbor audiences were treated to the opening of Roman Holiday at their Michigan Theatre on Sunday, October 11, 1953, along with the Tex Avery cartoon Wacky Wild Life. It played for seven days before being replaced on October 18 by Little Boy Lost (Bing Crosby, Claude Dauphin, Christian Fourcade).

Also playing in Ann Arbor on October 11 were East of Sumatra (Jeff Chandler) at the State; Off Limits (Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney) at the Wuerth; and Man on a Tightrope (Fredric March, Gloria Grahame) at the Orpheum Cinema. Later in October, Roman Holiday played at the Martha Washington in Ypsilanti.

Click here to see a PDF of newspaper images relating to the opening of Roman Holiday.


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Launched November 25, 2005.

Last updated August 18, 2014.

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