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Movies: “Cleopatra” Has New York Premiere

June 13, 1963 - The spotlight was on “Cleopatra” last night as 10,000 persons massed around New York City’s Rivoli Theater for the motion picture’s premiere. The police said this was a record crowd for a Manhattan movie opening. More than 100 policemen were assigned to the Broadway area to control the throng. A police official called it the largest call of policemen ever assembled for a film opening. Critical opinion on the film was sharply divided. Of the four New York morning newspapers, two reviews were strongly favorable and one strongly unfavorable. The fourth approved of the spectacle but disapproved of Miss Taylor’s performance. The reaction by the opening night audience was as strongly divided as the critical responses. Opinions ranged from “stupendous” to “dreadful.” Among the comments heard from spectators emerging from the theater were, “I think it’s a terrific spectacle,” and “Artistic, but what a bore!” One remark, loudly spoken in the lobby during the intermission, was “Good God! Forty million dollars and a real dog!” Joseph Mankiewicz, the director, said today that he expected the 243-minute feature — the longest film ever released — to be cut after the opening.


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