Opening Night, 1937: ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ Premieres at Carthay Circle Theatre

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Original Advertisement for the Opening of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ at Carthay Circle Theatre

As Disney Parks Blog readers know, when Buena Vista Street opens next year its centerpiece will be the Carthay Circle Theatre – home to the premiere dining location in Disney California Adventure park and a living tribute to a definitive moment in the history of the Walt Disney Company.

‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ Premieres at Carthay Circle Theatre on December 21, 1937

On December 21, 1937, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” premiered to a record-breaking audience at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles. News clippings from the time quote theatre manager Ray Ducerne, who reported that advance ticket sales outpaced every other picture ever booked at the theatre, resulting in a sold-out opening night. Advance demand for tickets was so strong that sales were limited to four per person. More than 30,000 fans who couldn’t score one of the $5 tickets gathered outside the theatre just to be a part of the historic event.

Walt Disney and 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'

This was quite a pay-off for Walt Disney, who had risked nearly everything he had to see his dream of a feature-length animated story come true. At a cost of $1.4 million, the film had taken three years, 750 artists and almost two million individual paintings to create. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” went on to receive a special Academy Award (one full-size Oscar accompanied by seven “dwarf” Oscars), and its original worldwide gross totaled $8.5 million – which would have been hundreds of millions of dollars today. It was the highest-grossing movie of all time until it was later surpassed by “Gone with the Wind.”

‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ Premieres  to a Record-Breaking Audience at Carthay Circle Theatre

Opening night at the Carthay Circle Theatre was a spectacular event. Crowds lined up around the block, and huge floodlights illuminated the scene. Walt and Lillian Disney arrived to enormous fanfare and enjoyed the screening alongside such celebrities as Shirley Temple, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Milton Berle, Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant, George Burns and many more.

The Carthay Circle Theatre at Disney California Adventure park will mark this game-changing night for Walt Disney and his burgeoning studio – a tribute to an enormous risk that turned into a golden opportunity. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was not only a financial success, but it set the stage for countless animated classics which would follow and paved the way for the rest of Walt Disney’s dreams to come true.

I’ll leave you with one more look back in time – the film’s playbill.

Playbill from Opening Night of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ at Carthay Circle Theatre


  • Robert from FL – I checked the address on Google and it appears to be a small park now, flanked by commercial buildings (6310 and 6330).

  • Hi Erin – I don’t know if you will read this or not, but it is worth a shot – that second picture from the top, the old Ford pick-up with the spotlight on the back? Is there anywhere I could get a larger/original size version of it? Is it available for purchase anywhere?

    My husband is a HUGE Disney fan and a huge Ford fan and we have a truck very similar to the one in that picture, and he was so excited to see that picture!! I would love to be able to get a print of it to frame on our wall (with some other great vintage Disney pics we have).

    Thank you for your time,


  • I can’t wait! DCA will be amazing when this transformation is complete!

  • Since I doubt the original Carthay Circle Theatre is still standing, does anyone know what is in its place? Where was the theatre located? When did it close?

    I too can’t wait to see it at California Adventure. I hope I go there next year!

  • So excited that the Carthay Circle Theater will be coming to Disneyland…my parents took me to the original theater in LA for my 16th birthday to see a re-screening of “Gone With The Wind”…everything about Disney is magical! Thanks for sharing this:-)

  • I can NOT wait to see the DCA improvements and hear more about the restaurant inside. Walt banked it all on SNOW WHITE and I just KNOW the park improvements would make him proud. I will be making my advanced priority seating arrangements for my 2012 trip so I can see the interior of the Carthy Circle building. Perhaps a ride on the trolley car first will wet my appetite! How exciting!

  • Filet Mignon was 60 cents but the movie ticket was $5?

  • Great post and wonderful photos. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the playbill before. I love the vintage stuff.

  • The Carthay Circle Theatre is going to be a great icon for California Adventure!

  • When is “Dec 21, 1937 Rememberance Night” in 2012????? Gotta get one of those ’37 priced dinners…

  • I love this. Keep up the good work. I love the history of Disney and especially Snow White, my daughters favorite!!

  • What a gala night it must have been! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • 1937: “Deluxe French Dinner, $0.60″…I’ll bet the Carthay Circle at DCA won’t be charging that! 😉

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