When did HORROR OF DRACULA premiere? An answer.
There are significant film mysteries. Are there any surviving prints of lost classics still existing? Does the Orson Welles cut of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS exist somewhere? Will we ever find a copy of LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT? And there are more trivial mysteries like “When did HORROR OF DRACULA premiere?”
If you go by Wikipedia currently, the premiere date is listed as “8 May 1958”. That agrees with the date provided in THE HAMMER STORY by Marcus Hearn & Alan Barnes. Other sources will say that the premiere date was May 7, 1958. All sources agree that the World Premiere was at Milwaukee’s Warner theater as part of a double feature with THE THING THAT COULDN’T DIE.
If you followed this website, you know I have a distinct love for Hammer’s HORROR OF DRACULA. And for the work of Terence Fisher in general. Unlike other researchers, I have a distinct advantage here. I live in Milwaukee and have ready access to archives of Milwaukee’s newspapers for the period. So, as to finally put this mystery to rest, I decided to go to the library and engage in a flagrant act of research and journalism.
The first place I started was with the microfiche records for THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL for the week leading up to the premiere. The first big clue was from the film ads from Monday, May 5, 1958. The ad below.
I’ve circled the key piece of evidence in red. Advertisements leading up to the premiere of HORROR OF DRACULA say that its premiere is Wednesday, May 7, 1958. That seems pretty conclusive. Especially as the advertisement notes that it’s the “Last 2 Days” for MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR which will presumably end its run on Tuesday, May 6, 1958.
But, just to be thorough, and to ensure that there was not a midnight premiere on the night of May 7, 1958 that would technically make it a May 8, 1958 premiere, I pursued farther. These are the movie listings from THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL for May 7, 1958.
Hey, nice, the Oriental is showing PEYTON PLACE, the Downer THE GREAT CARUSO, the Times is bringing AND GOD CREATED WOMAN, the Avalon has MERRY ANDREW and SADDLE THE WIND, the Tosa, now ROSEBUD, has a Dean Martin / Jerry Lewis double feature of JUMPING JACKS and SCARED STIFF, and the Fox Bay has MERRY ANDREW. You can still support these local theaters, but let’s get back to what we were originally here for and see if we can find out when did HORROR OF DRACULA premiere.
Here’s a zoom in on the Warner listing.
The only mention of a midnight screening is for Friday, May 10, 1958. For Wednesday, May 7, 1958, it appears to be business as usual for the Warner theater. But, let’s look at the big ad on the page anyways.
The key phrase is “STARTS TODAY”. Nothing whatsoever indicates that there was a midnight premiere. As best we can tell, HORROR OF DRACULA had its world premiere at Milwaukee’s Warner theater on Wednesday, May 7, 1958 around 11:15 A.M. at matinee pricing. The world premiere advertisement carried over to the following day, which may have lead to some confusion. But, I think this definitively settles the record.
And, now on to other mysteries. Thanks to the Milwaukee Public Library. Here are the original materials to show my work.