3 years ago


Screening Room Foibles

Screening Room Foibles on Pan Continued from preceding page on the public." Then our coy manager has his little joke when the title comes on the screen. It is in Technocolor, the stars and director are the biggest in the business and the story is by America's best known author. But, of course, hearing this was a small picture with unknowns, some of the boys decided to .skip the screening and go home to baby-sit while their wives went to the hairdresser. Next to Chinese torture for any exchange manager is the occasion when, thinking a certain picture is better than average, the manager invites a big shot chain executive or newspaper reviewer to the screening, to discover as the picture unfolds, that it is terrible, and they must sit through it to the bitter end. That is known as ulcerating the situation. NOT EVEN FUNNY Some comedies when viewed in the cool bleak surroundings of the screening room appear and far from humorous. Everybody comes out shaking their heads, saying: "It isn't even funny; won't make a nickel, don't know why Hollywood ever made it; I wouldn't play it in my house; let the oppo ition have it, etc." Then the picture plays a downtown key house, is held over for three weeks and sma-shes all records. Two years ago one manager screened a comedy, and strange as it may seem, it appeared -so funny the viewers laughed themselves sick and agreed it was the funniest picture to come from Hollywood. You've guessed it. It flopped in the key run and play second half of a bill all over the city. One company was so proud of its certain whimsical comedy that a tradeshowing was arranged on a Sunday at a large downtown theatre and all kinds of important persons were invited. This picture was IT—they thought. But w-hen the preview was finished. everybody came out of the theatre whispering: "Sure it's a nice picture, but who's going to pay money to see it ... I liked it personally, but my patrons don't go for that . . . My gosh, what am I going to do with that picture, I've already signed a contract at top rental for that picture." EXHIBITORS OFTEN RIGHT This time the exhibitors were right, the picture had mediocre success at the key run and was kicked around in subsequent Everything for Top Profits in POPCORN ! POPCORN MACHINES and SUPPLIES Pre-Popped Corn and Popcorn Warmers For details, wire, write or call SERVICE CONFECnONS, LTD. 243 Liloc Street Winnipeg runs. In a lot of country points, the picture was boxoffice poison and this reporter, who also happens to be an exhibitor, played this super-top-money picture on the second half of a midweek bill. Some new pictures don't have cue marks or leaders, and naturally the projectionist gets fouled up. Often when a very interesting story is developing and the viewers in the screening room are closely following the plot —just at the crucial moment when the is at its highest—the operator misses the cue and the screen goes blank. Cries of anguish arise at these moments, the gnashing of teeth is heard, reflections are cast on the ancestry of the projectionist until the picture is back on the screen. During mysteries there always are a few amateur Sherlocks who predict the true identity of the killer, and others beg the host manager to reveal the culprit's name, hoping that the manager read the synopsis of the picture in the pressbook before coming to view the picture. Of the types that sit in the screening room a separate volume could be written. There are exchange stenographers and revisers on their lunch hour who quietly slide in and watch the picture while eating their sandwiches and drinking their bottled beverages. These bottles invariably get knocked over and rattle and roll and smash when a latecomer blindly gropes around in the dark room for an empty seat. CRITIC BRINGS LUNCH There is one newspaper critic who comes with sandwiches in a paper bag, always with an apple for dessert. He claims he has so many commitments he has no time to eat lunch, and has mentioned and described his lunch-eating methods in his daily column. There is always one viewer who violently massacres a foul-smelling cigar, filling the screening room completely with smog, until somebody comes to the rescue by creeping forward, crouching low and flicking on the air conditioner switch, which is near the screen up front. Yes, there are the kibitzers; in fact, there is a trio known as the Unholy Three, who, as the mood befits them, make suitable commentary on the plot, acting ability, ticketselling appeal, future audience potentialities, and general ob.servations on the curvature and physical structure of the various actre-sses that across the screen. There is always one person in the screening room who announces to the manager just before the light go out, "I have an appointment with the doctor later on, so don't feel offended when I leave in the middle of the picture." If the picture is good, our viewer receives a telepathic message from the doctor's receptionist that his appointment has been hoisted an hour; if the picture is lousy. our viewer remembers an even earlier appointment. LATEST IN KIBITZING The latest in kibitzing is directed at such scenes as blood-thirsty savages in ambush, rioting prisoners in conclave or gun-s!inging badmen plotting to rob a bank. These are facetiously known in the screening room as "film salesmen's conventions." If a bulletraked, blood-spattered, uniform-tattered hero successfully gets through enemy lines and delivers the all important document to the general at headquarters, the crack is, "Your contract has been rejected, home office wants $20 more for each picture." If the hero is represented as having unsurmountable handicaps to overcome to reach safety, or rescue the girl, and there is perhaps a pit of hungry crocodiles in his way, or a hungry tiger loose (and him without a gun or knife i then this is equal to your chances of having your contract approved by the general manager in the east. If the picture shows a sinister leader or boss or chief who gloats quietly with eyes half shut as the smoke slowly curls from his cigaret while his chief moronic henchman pulls the toenails out of the hero's toes, or tortures the hero's dear old grandmother—scenes such as these are classified by the screening room kibitzers as "the branch manager is pleading for an increase in rentals." Then, of course, we have the hai'ghty manager who takes his job very seriously and issues this ultimatum prior to the unveiling of his company's ma.steripece : "One peep out of any of you birds and it's the last screening of mine you'll ever attend." Well, to be perfectly honest, what are screenings for? What other group of businessmen have enough sense of humor to lampoon their own busine. s in the privacy of the screening room? So if you are an exhibitor who lives near an exchange screening room, it is your duty to your business to watch a picture or two, and enjoy it in your own private way. I should know, I am one of the Unholy Three! Graeme Fraser Elected Crawley Vice-President OTTAWA—President F. R. Crawley has announced the election of Graeme Fraser, assistant general manager, as vice-president and a director of Crawley Films, Ltd. Fraser joined Crawley after his retirement with the rank of major from the Canadian army in 1946. He is a past president of the Ottawa Film society and served three years as vicepresident of the Federation of Canadian Advertising and Sales Clubs. He is also a past president of the Advertising and Sales club of Ottawa. He is an officer or committee member of the St. John Ambulance Ass'n, Canadian International Trade Fair. Dominion Boy Scout* Ass'n and the Canadian Film Institute. He is a member of the Rotary club of Ottawa. HERE'S YOUR CHANCE to get in th« BIG MONEY e Sun to Play As a screen game, HOLLYWOOD takes top honors. As o box-office attraction, it is without equal. It has .been a favorite with theatre goers for fAoVie Stars- over 15 years. Write todpy for complete details. Be sure to give seating or car capacity. HOLLYWOOD AMUSIMINT CO. 131 South WobotliAvanu* Chlcoae 5, llllnelt 86 BOXOFFICE :: January 17, 1953

— — — . . Vic M ARITIMES ]M[urray C. Trefry, who died recently a; Yarmouth, was an early-day projectionist. He was a veteran member of the salvage corps of Yarmouth ... At North Sydney, Manager John Farr of the Odeon accented the Nova Scotia angle in advance of a two-day showing of ''The World in His Arms." Some of the scenes in this picture were taken at Lunenburg and this fact was stressed in the promotion. It was pointed out that stand-ins and extras were hired from the Lunenburg fishing fleet, a.s well as the ve-.sels that were used in the production. The boxoffice of the Vogue, Sydney, in the Famous Players lineup, was open daily for two hours in the morning, four in the afernon and three and one-half hours at night, . . . to emphasize the sale of gift book tickets during the Christmas and New Year's weeks Mrs. H. L. Kerwin, wife of the manager of the Regent Theatre, St. John, was called to her parental home at Maxville near Ottawa by the death of her father, T. W. Dingwall, who was 82. Also attending the funeral was Jack Kerw'in, who is in the air force at Rockcliffe, Ont. He spent Christmas with his parents at St. John. A move has been made to have the old Opera House in St. John restored for use by local stage amateurs. It has been idle for many years after long activity for profe>^sional stage shows and finally for films. It was shuttered by arrangement among exhibitors who paid the rental. It was in this ancient theatre that the first films were roadshown in St. John. James Quinn, owner of the old structure in recent years, was in exhibition several years at the Empire, around the corner from the Opera House, which lately has been renamed the Kent after being leased by Abe Garson from the Knights of Columbus. At the Paramount in New Waterford, there were matinees during the school vacation showing only cartoons. Gregor & Gouthro has a tieup with Paramount . . . Joe Lieberman of B&L Theatres, St. John, was named president of the Shaari Zedek synagogue. This congregation supervises the chapel erected several years ago by Louis B. Mayer at the synagogue cemetery in the eastern environs of St. John. The chapel is a memorial to the parents of the film producer, and was opened by his nephew, Jack Cummings, MGM producer. . . A group picture of the staff of the Capitol, Yarmouth, was taken and reproduced for showing patrons. Absent when the shot was taken were Carl Winchester, projectionist, and Frank Murphy, a maintenance worker. The photo was used in the New Year wishes to the. patrons. The Capitol is in the Odeon chain . The London Theatre Co. returned to St. John's, Nfld., after five weeks in a Halifax school auditorium and Popcorn suppliers to Canada's leading independent theatres from coast-to-coast. YORK CONFECTIONS LTD. 277 Victorio Street Toronto 2. Ontario opened with an English pantomime, "Cinderella," after Christmas. Ivan L. Haley, manager of the Mayfair and Dundas in Dartmouth who died recently was born at Yarmouth, where burial took place. He is survived by his wife, one son, one daughter and one brother. Each of the tw'o F&H theatres in Dartmouth was clo.sed the afternoon of the obsequies . . . The Savoy, Glace Bay, was the scene of a draw'ing for prizes offered by a local dry cleaning service. The net proceeds of one night at the Paramount and Majestic, New Waterford, were donated to the relief fund of the United Mine Workers. The union local at New Waterford asked everyone to attend either or both the theati'es the stipulated night in order to help the charity. Gregor & Gouthro operate the two 'theatres in partnership with Famous Players. The relief fund is for sick and injured miners. Firsl Vancouver Snow Keeps Grosses Down VANCOUVER—The first snow of the season kept theatre business down on top of the usual holiday letdown. Only pictures to show any strength were "Road to Bali" at the Capitol, "Million Dollar Mermaid" at the Orpheum and "The Turning Point" at Strand. Capitol Rood to Bali (Para) Excellent Cinerno The Greatest Show on Earth (Para), 7th d. t. wk Good Dominion Somebody Loves Me (Pare), Operotion Secret (WB), 2nd d, t, wk Good Orphcum Million Dollar Mermaid (MGM). .Very good Paradise Hangmen's Knot (Col); Mr. Waikie Talkie (IFD) Good Plaza Yankee Buccaneer (U-l) Averoge Strand The Turning Point (Para); The Women's Angle (IFD) Good Studio The Four Poster (Col) Fair Vogue Outpost in Malayo (JARO), 2nd wk Fair 'Bali' Is Best Grosser In Blustery Toronto Week TORONTO—Business was steady to good at most Toronto theatres during a spell of disagreeable weather, practically the first of the winter, the heaviest grosser being "Road to Bali" in its second week at the Imperial. (Average Is 100) Eglinton Everything i Hove Is Yours (MGM).... 110 Hyland Meet Me Tonight (JARO), 3rd wk 95 Imperial Rood to Boli (Para), 2nd wk 110 Loews Million Dollar Mermoid (MGM), 4th wk. . . 95 Nortown My Pol Gus (20th-Fox), 2nd wk 105 Odeon Stors ond Stripes Forever (20th-Fox). . . . 1 20 Shea's My Cousin Rachel (20th-Fox), 2nd wk. .105 Tivoli, Copitol Operation Secret (WB); Hurricane Smith (Pora) 105 University The Crimson Pirate (WB), 2nd wk 1 05 Uptown Plymouth Adventure (MGM) 125 Industry Associates Say 'Best Wishes' to Arthur TORONTO—Head office associates and close friends said formal farewell to Jack Arthur at a complimentary dinner last week (7) when tributes were heaped on Arthur for his many contributions to the amusement business in Canada over a period of 37 years. A charter member of the Famous Players' 25-Year club, which was established in 1945 for employes with at least a quarter of a century of continuous service. Jack Arthur resigned at the end of 1952 as head office district manager to devote full time to production activities with the Canadian National exhibition. During the war, Arthur was made a member of the Order of the British Empire. TORONTO Oharles Andrews, 66, projectionist at the Eglinton, died at the wheel of his car from a heart attack during a snowstorm when he tried to move his auto from the theatre parking lot with the help of Arthur Jobin, assistant manager. Andrews was born and educated at Orangeville but came to Toronto in 1912 to enter the theatre business. Surviving are his wife and a sister, Mrs. Blanche Anderson of Toronto. . . Manager Ed Leigh, Odeon manager at Brampton, captured a gunman under the stairs leading to the projection room after the theatre had closed, turning him over to the police. The man, who gave the name of Ken Shram of Brantford, was charged with vagi'ancy and carrying a concealed weapon . Jack Clarke of Loew's sneaked "Above and Beyond" for an evening audience January 8 during the engagement of "Million Dollar Mermaid." In addition to appeajing weekly in the CBC program, Mr. Show Business, depicting his own career, Jack Arthur, late of Famous Players, has blossomed forth as a speaker. He addressed a meeting of the Central Ontario Drama league on features of the Canadian commercial theatre . Nowe, manager of the Hyland, arranged for sponsorship of the opening night of "The Importance of Being Earnest" by the women's committee of the Mendelssohn choir. Elected 1953 president of the Motion Picture Theatres Ass'n of Ontario, J. D. Mcculloch, owner of the Iroquois at Petrolia for four years, has pointed out that he started in the theatre business in 1918 when he became an usher in his father's Royal George here, later becoming the projectionist. . . Awaiting Manager Sam Hebscher of the Palace at Hamilton has effected a weekly stunt with a leading grocery chain which has led to the distribution of $240 in merchandise at the theatre at 2 p. m. each Thursday . confirmation of offer by the board of the Canadian National exhibition. Bob Hope is considered a certainty as the headline attraction at the 1953 Toronto fair next August, the contract price mentioned being $85,000. Italian Film Premieres TORONTO—Holdovers prevailed this week at the specialty theatres. Both good for a third week were "Top Secret" at the International Cinema and "Anna" at the Towne Cinema. The Canadian premiere of the Italian "Reckless Cadets" held for a second week at the Studio while "One Wild Oat" was good for a second stanza at the Hollywood. The Astor turned to "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" for a week's run.