Alfred Hitchcock’s Strict Rules for Watching Psycho in Theaters (1960)

Psy­cho, one of Alfred Hitch­cock­’s icon­ic films, did­n’t come togeth­er very eas­i­ly. Hitch­cock­’s stu­dio, Para­mount Pic­tures, did­n’t like any­thing about the film and denied him a prop­er bud­get. So the direc­tor went solo and fund­ed the film through his tele­vi­sion com­pa­ny Sham­ley Pro­duc­tions. The bud­get was tight — less than $1,000,000. Costs were firm­ly con­trolled. Hence why, in 1960, the film was shot in black and white.

When Psy­cho hit the­aters, Hitch­cock con­trolled the pro­mo­tion. The stars — Antho­ny Perkins and Janet Leigh — did­n’t make the usu­al rounds in the media. Crit­ics weren’t giv­en pri­vate screen­ings. And Hitch­cock cre­at­ed buzz for the film when he exert­ed direc­to­r­i­al con­trol over the view­ing expe­ri­ence of the audi­ence. Show­ings of the film began on a tight­ly-con­trolled sched­ule in the­aters in New York, Chica­go, Boston, and Philadel­phia. And a firm “no late admis­sion” pol­i­cy was put in place. You either saw the film from the very begin­ning, or you did­n’t see it all. Signs appeared in front of cin­e­mas read­ing:

We won’t allow you to cheat your­self. You must see PSYCHO from the very begin­ning. There­fore, do not expect to be admit­ted into the the­atre after the start of each per­for­mance of the pic­ture. We say no one — and we mean no one — not even the man­ager’s broth­er, the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, or the Queen of Eng­land (God bless her)!

The­ater man­agers ini­tial­ly balked at the idea, fear­ing finan­cial loss­es. But Hitch­cock had his way. And he was right. Long lines formed out­side the the­aters. Psy­cho enjoyed crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess, so much so the film was re-released in 1965.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2012.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Who Cre­at­ed the Famous Show­er Scene in Psy­cho? Alfred Hitch­cock or the Leg­endary Design­er Saul Bass?

How Cin­e­mas Taught Ear­ly Movie-Goers the Rules & Eti­quette for Watch­ing Films (1912): No Whistling, Stand­ing or Wear­ing Big Hats

The 5 Essen­tial Rules of Film Noir

Watch Alfred Hitch­cock Make Cameo Appear­ances in 37 of His Films

Alfred Hitch­cock Reveals The Secret Sauce for Cre­at­ing Sus­pense

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.