The 1956 film “The Ten Commandments” arrived at Lexington Street’s New Theatre with a flurry of publicity. Executives at Paramount Pictures announced that the city was among the first locales to screen the biblical blockbuster. The reserved-seat booking proved a solid hit here throughout the holiday season.
After the new year, theater management gave out discounted 90-cent passes to public and parochial school students. On the first Saturday morning after the passes were in circulation, Jan. 12, 1957, police found what they later estimated as 10,000 youngsters downtown. They wanted to see the parting of the Red Sea — and Charlton Heston as Moses, Anne Baxter as Nefertiti and Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora (long before she appeared as Lily Munster). There was a hitch. The New Theatre, while a large house, couldn’t accommodate thousands.
“We hopped on the streetcar and got off at Howard Street,” said the Rev. Michael Roach, now pastor of St. Bartholomew’s Roman Catholic Church in Manchester, who then lived in Ten Hills.
“I turned the corner at Lexington Street and thought I’d never seen so many people in my life. It took my breath away. It was also one of my favorite memories from the seventh grade. But it was still a wonderful day. We knew that we would never get in — and we didn’t. I had to go back later and see it on my own. It still didn’t bother me.”
The film was the costliest made at the time. It was also one of the most profitable and filled theaters throughout the country and overseas through 1958.