NBC Matinee Theater

Matinee Theater is an American anthology series that aired on NBC during the Golden Age of Television, from October 31, 1955,[1] to June 27, 1958.[2] Its name is often seen as Matinee Theatre.

Matinee Theater
Directed byJohn Drew Barrymore
Alan Cooke
Walter Grauman
Arthur Hiller
Lamont Johnson
Sherman Marks
Lawrence Menkin
Albert McCleery
Boris Sagal
Pace Woods
Alan Hanson
Presented byJohn Conte
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes650
Executive producer(s)George Lowther
Producer(s)George Cahan
Albert McCleery
Frank Price
Darrell Ross
Running time4548 minutes
Production company(s)NBC Television Network
DistributorNBC Television Films
Original networkNBC
Picture formatMost in color; a few episodes in Black-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseOctober 31, 1955 (1955-10-31) 
June 27, 1958 (1958-06-27)

The series, which ran daily from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.[2] Eastern Time, was usually broadcast live and most of the time in color. Its live dramas were presented with minimal sets and costumes.[3]

When it was broadcast, Matinee Theater was the most heavily promoted regularly scheduled daytime program on U.S. television.[4] Along with NBC's Home, the show was part of the network's effort to "provide quality 'adult' entertainment" in daytime programming.[1]

In its second season, the program had an audience of 7 million daily viewers.[3]

The series ended in 1958 due to its high budget; much higher than any other daytime program in television. In 1956, the program's budget was "about $73,000" to produce five episodes per week.[5] A few of the later episodes were preserved on color film for later rerun syndication under different titles.

Buckley's comments

Jim Buckley of the Pewter Plough Playhouse (Cambria, California) recalled:[6]

When Al McCleery got back to the States, he originated a most ambitious theatrical TV series for NBC called Matinee Theater: to televise five different stage plays per week. This series aired live at 3 p.m. Eastern time and 12 noon Pacific, in order to promote color TV (which had just been developed) to the American housewife as she labored over her ironing. Al [McCleery] was the producer. He hired five directors and five art directors. Richard Bennett, one of our first early presidents of the Pewter Plough Corporation, was one of the directors and I was one of the art directors and, as soon as we were through televising one play, we had lunch and then met to plan next week’s show. That was over 50 years ago, and I’m trying to think; I believe the TV art director is (or was) his own set decorator (selecting furnishings and hand props)—yes, of course! It had to be, since one of McCleery’s chief claims to favor with the producers was his elimination of the setting per se and simply decorating the scene with a minimum of props. It took a bit of ingenuity.


Matinee Theater was produced by Albert McCleery, Darrell Ross, George Cahan and Frank Price with executive producer George Lowther. McCleery had previously produced the live series Cameo Theatre which introduced to television the concept of theater-in-the-round, TV plays staged with minimal sets. Directors included Walter Grauman, Boris Sagal, Lamont Johnson, Arthur Hiller, Lawrence Schwab, Allen A. Buckhantz, Alan Cooke, and Livia Granito.[2]

A staff of about a dozen people searched through books, magazines, and material in the public domain, looking for ideas, and about the same number of writers produced material for the program.[5]

Notable guest stars

Award nominations

Year Result Award Category Notes
1956WonEmmy AwardBest Contributing to Daytime Programming[7]
1957WonGolden Globe AwardBest TV ShowTied with The Mickey Mouse Club, Cheyenne, Playhouse 90, and This Is Your Life

Notable episodes

The program's initial presentation was "Beginning Now", by John P. Marquand, starring Louis Hayward.[2]


  1. Cassidy, Marsha F. (2009). What Women Watched: Daytime Television in the 1950s. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292782723. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  2. Hawes, William (2001). Filmed Television Drama, 1952-1958. McFarland. pp. 47–51. ISBN 9780786411320. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  3. McGilligan, Patrick (2015). Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson (Updated and Expanded). W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393350975. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  4. Thumin, Janet (2002). Small Screens, Big Ideas: Television in the 1950s. I.B.Tauris. pp. 131–148. ISBN 9781860646836. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  5. Crosby, John (March 18, 1956). "Matinee Theater Is 'Greatest Show Business Factory In The Worle'". The Tampa Tribune. Florida, Tampa. New York Herald Tribune. p. 16-D. Retrieved April 11, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  6. Buckley, Jim. "Prelude to Playtime," Pewter Plough Playhouse Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 2, March/April 2006. Archived 2008-05-16 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Matinee Theatre". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2015-07-01.

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