Finding actual release dates for films has always been a bugaboo. L.A. release dates, which the Oscars go by, are often difficult to find. Even the Academy, which last year started cataloging them from 1952-2012 never got beyond those years. IMDb. does its best, but contains errors. The New York Times has had a great on-line database for finding original reviews but even those can be suspect. Now the Times has come up with something called the Times Machine where you can access pdf. files of 129 years of actual newspapers through 1980. The service is free with home delivery and/or on-line subscriptions - new subscriptions can be obtained for 99 cents for the first four weeks. In addition, there is a free sample given every day. Today's sample is April 15, 1912 with the first reporting of the sinking of the Titanic. Ironically you can still find an ad for the Titanic's scheduled sailing from New York on April 20th on page 11.
You can trace the price of things from men's dress shoes ($5 at Florsheim's during the Great Depression) to Van Huesen dress shirts ($3.95 at Gimbel's in 1949) to new homes ($20,000 in New Brunswick in 1963) and the family cars to go with hem ($2,000 in 1963).
Getting back to release dates, IMDb. lists Mata Hari as 1932, the Times review is dated 1/2/32, but the 12/31/31 ads show the film began its continuous run at 10 A.M. on New Year's Eve. The same goes for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, listed as 1931 on IMDb. because of its "premiere" on December 31st with its actual "release" on January 2, 1932, the day it was reviewed by the Times., Nope, it began its continuous run at 5 P.M. New Year's Eve, running through the night and into the day on New Year's Day.
Legend has it that three planned 1941 releases were held back until January, 1942 because of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While that may be true for two of them, Kings Row and Sullivan's Travels, it's not true for The Man Who Came to Dinner which began its continuous run at 8:45 P.M. on December 31, 1941.
I'm not sure if The Great Man qualifies since its two December 31, 1956 showings were advertised as "previews" with regular performances starting New Year's Day, 1957.
There may be others, but that's all I've found in random checking.
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