April 10, 1953: Cinema enters a new dimension as 3D horror film House of Wax hits the screen

House of Wax, the first 3D movie from a major film studio, thrilled and chilled audiences in equal measure at its New York premiere.

Filmgoers were given a heart-stopping glimpse of the cinema technology of the future on this day in 1953 as House of Wax, the first 3D movie from a major Hollywood studio, premiered in New York.

The horror film, starring Vincent Price as a vengeful owner of a wax museum who makes models out of real corpses, wasn't the first 3D movie - that honour goes to independent movie Bwana Devil, released in November 1952 - but it did mark the first time a major studio had licensed the Natural Vision 'stereoscopic' 3D technology that its inventor Milton Gunzburg had been touting around Hollywood without success for the previous 18 months.

Thanks to the advent of television, cinema audiences had dropped from 90 million in 1948 to just 46 million in 1951, and the studios were looking for new ways to entice people back into the picture houses.

Having failed to buy the rights to the surprise hit Bwana Devil, studio boss Jack Warner rushed House of Wax - a remake of 1933 thriller Mystery of the Wax Museum - into production. Filming lasted just 29 days and the film was release just five weeks later.

Cinema audience wearing 3D glasses

Among the stand-out uses of 3D in the film were a fire in which wax models melted out of the screen, can-can dancers high-kicking at the audience and a moment in which a character appears to walk out of the auditorium and into the screen.

The only gimmicky scene - and one which was insisted upon by the studio - is of a barker outside the wax museum who bounces a paddleball around the screen and 'into' the audience.

That the film still holds up to this day - even in two dimensions - is believed to be because its director, Andre de Toth, had lost an eye at a young age and so wasn't overly concerned with special effects he couldn't actually experience himself.

As the bellwether for 3D movies, the film was one of the biggest hits of 1953, taking $5.5 million at the US box office. While some 50 more films were made using the Natural Vision format, the 3D movie craze barely lasted another 12 months, and House of Wax is mostly remembered for being the first of its kind and the film that made Price a horror movie fixture over the next 30 years.

[June 20, 1975: Jaws hits cinemas and the summer movie blockbuster is born]

[December 27, 1977: Star Wars arrives in the UK – heralded by a wave of hype]

[Also On This Day: April 10, 1970 - The Beatles break up after McCartney quits to promote solo album]