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Step back in time to see what area movie theaters were presenting in October 1954. Film titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database.
White Christmas, the first movie to use the widescreen process VistaVision, opened in Detroit on Thursday, October 28, 1954, at the Michigan (Bagley at Grand River). It had earlier premiered in New York City on October 14, 1954.
"When Irving Berlin was in Detroit not long ago, he described 'White Christmas' in an expression typical of show business as 'a big hunk of entertainment'," wrote Detroit Free Press Movie Critic Helen Bower on October 29, 1954. "Detroiters who waited in line for the first and second shows at the Michigan Theater Thursday should be willing to go along with that opinion from the man who composed its songs and wrote its lyrics."
"A bright October sun bathed the Michigan Theater yesterday in a radiance far removed from Christmas, but inside the house the atmosphere was full of sleigh bells, snow, Santa Claus and good cheer," wrote Al Weitschat of The Detroit News on October 29, 1954. "Beating the merchants to the holiday gun, Paramount trotted out its Irving Berlin musical, 'White Christmas,' first film made in VistaVision, the studio's new wide-screen process."
Other Detroit movies on October 28 included Walt Disney's The Vanishing Prairie at the Telenews (Woodward at Grand Circus Park); Woman's World (Clifton Webb, June Allyson) at the United Artists; Brigadoon (Gene Kelly, Van Johnson) at the Adams; A Star is Born (Judy Garland, James Mason) at the Madison; This is Cinerama, in its second year at the Music Hall; and The Adventures of Hajji Baba (John Derek, Elaine Stewart) at the Fox. The Redford was showing a double bill of Magnificent Obsession (Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson) and The Yellow Tomahawk (Rory Calhoun).
At the Michigan, White Christmas followed a run of Bengal Brigade (Rock Hudson, Arlene Dahl). It played until Wednesday, November 24, before giving way to a Thanksgiving Day opening of The Barefoot Contessa, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner.
White Christmas opened at Detroit area neighborhood theaters (including the Redford) on Saturday, December 25, giving patrons a special Christmas Day gift. At the Redford, White Christmas succeeded Arrow in the Dust (Sterling Hayden, Colleen Gray). It played for a week, along with the Walt Disney featurette Prowlers of the Everglades, and was followed by a New Year's Day 1955 opening of Sabrina, with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.
Ann Arbor audiences were treated to the opening of White Christmas at their Michigan theater on November 3, 1954, following another popular movie, The Caine Mutiny, with the very busy Humphrey Bogart. Also playing in Ann Arbor on November 3 was Francis Joins the WACS (Donald O'Connor, Julia Adams) at the State. White Christmas played at the Michigan until November 16, before being replaced the next day by On the Waterfront, with Marlon Brando in an Oscar-winning performance.
Click here to see a PDF of newspaper images relating to the opening of White Christmas.
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