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July 6th 2020

Paul Moore ‘When did “Starts Friday!” start? The shift to standardized movie opening days in North America’

All contemporary moviegoers know movies start Fridays, including at least forty years of my own personal experience. But when, why and how did this shift to a standardized, national opening begin? In May 1973, Variety reported Fox was “trying to line up other majors to go along with a proposed shift from Wednesday to Friday openings.” Was this a catalyst? Was the shift regional? Gradual? First only for wide-release blockbusters? Did some studios or chains or exchange territories test alternatives? Why was Friday chosen, and what factor was behind the industry-wide adoption of “Starts Friday!” as a tagline for almost all films “in theatres everywhere!”?

My answers turn to newspaper databases, combined with trade discourse in Variety and other available sources (for these quarantined times!) I will present at least one early case study of a metropolitan region, of a wide release on a continental scale, and word search hits for publicity catch phrases. This surprisingly simple question, “When did Starts Friday start?” has no quick and easy answer, and yet it holds the foundation for any investigation of American movie marketing and distribution and a cornerstone shaping the experience of blockbusters as part of weekends and mass leisure.

Paul Moore (psmoore@ryerson.ca) is Professor of Communication and Culture at Ryerson University. His media histories of cinema exhibition and newspaper distribution in North America have focused on the relation between audiences and publicity, appearing in Film History, Canadian Journal of Film Studies, and  The Moving Image. Recent work maps early transnational “circuits of cinema,” also theme of the 2017 International HoMER Conference, which he hosted in Toronto.