Women dress up in their finest dresses, jewellery and hats. Men wear their dashing suits and ties. Patrons pay for their tickets and are handed a pair of glasses, glasses that they have never seen before. Then they promptly take their seats in the palatial theatre, a theatre that is full by showtime. The lights are lowered, the curtain rises and the patrons don their 3D glasses.
It is December of 1952, the premier of Bwana Devil, the first full feature 3D film. Directed by Arch Oboler and starring Robert Stock, Barbara Britton and Nigel Bruce, the movie is set in British East Africa early in the 20th Century. Men are hard at work building the Uganda Railway. But there is one problem: lions. Two lions are on the loose and railroad workers are being attacked, even killed. Three big game hunters are hired to hunt down the lions.
The scariest part of the movie is the fact that it was based on a true story. The Tsavo maneaters were lions who terrorized and killled many railroad workers in Uganda at the turn of the century. British engineer Lt. Col.l J. H. Patterson was hired to hunt them down, which he succeeded in doing. His book The Man Eaters of Tsavo, was published in 1907.
Ninety seven minutes after the movie starts, the credits run and the curtain descends. The patrons remove their 3D glasses and slowly exit the theatre. LIFE photographer J.R. Eyerman packs up his camera and returns to the photo studio where he develops the now iconic photograph of the audience at the premier.
Life photo by J.R. Eyerman courtesy all-that-is-interesting.com.