80 Years of The Hollywood Reporter

RKO Radio Pictures

The most glamorous and memorable moments from a storied history.

King Kong spent his life on two islands: a mysterious one in the Indian Ocean and Manhattan. On one, he was a god; on the other, he swatted biplanes from atop the Empire State Building and became a box-office phenomenon. The $650,000 RKO production, starring Fay Wray as one of cinema's most famous damsels in distress, was the first film to open simultaneously in Manhattan's two largest theaters: Radio City Music Hall and the Roxy. Nearly 10,000 seats were sold out for 10 showings a day, and the four-day opening gross of $89,931 (about $1.5 million today) broke all records. "It is a colossal creation of the imagination," editorialized Hollywood Reporter publisher William Wilkerson, and THR's review called the film "a swell piece of picture merchandise." New York saluted the film again in 2004 after Wray, dubbed the first "scream queen," died at age 96 (before she was able to make a planned cameo in Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong remake). Two days after her death, the lights of the Empire State Building were dimmed for 15 minutes.