H. E. Jameyson
(.Continued from page 25)
will not live up to boxoffice expectations, we
know their general high quality will impress
the patrons who see them. We also know
that the Model T movie will soon be for
the living room only, not our screens.
Secondly, our distributors have re-oriented
their attitude towards release schedules. Releasing
conditions have been chaotic for several
years, with each distributor jockeying
for a favored position. Distributors have
now learned the folly of releasing their more
attractive wares in a manner that resulted
in a "feast or famine" condition. We are
promised this year an even, steady flow of
LACK OF INDUSTRY RESEARCH
We are only now reaching the point where
we can see history repeating itself. Necessity
being the mother of invention, we are seeing
our industry turning to new devices and new
methods. We are re-enacting the battle we
had 20 years ago with radio.
One of the great problems this industry
has always faced is our lack of precise information
about our business. Even as these
words are written no two distributors of films
can agree on the actual number of theatres
we have in the United States. We don't
know how large our audience is. We don't
know how many dollars are spent at our boxoffices.
Fi-om studio to theatre, we operate
by intuition and inspiration. We use "feel"
instead of knowledge. While other industries
have turned to scientific procedures to learn
about themselves and to map their com-ses,
we still operate like a "seat-of-the-pants"
I think that's about to be changed. I won't
go into details, but a research outfit, Sindlinger
& Co., business analysts, have been
taking a hard and expensive look at our
industry. So far their coverage is not complete
and their techniques not perfected but
they are already telling us things about ourselves
we never knew before. I foresee the day
when theirs, or a similar service, will be as
important and valuable to us as a dictionary
is to a writer.
FILM STOCKS HOLD APPEAL
From another source comes very encouraging
news. I refer to the analysis sent to
the clients of Ai-nold Berhard & Co. It is
commonly known as the Value Line Investment
Survey and is highly regarded in financial
circles. It recently surveyed the position
and prospects of our industry as well
as those of each individual producing company.
It is much too long and detailed to
quote here but it does dwell intelligently and
at length upon our problems and our future.
With regard to the stocks of producing
companies it says this: "These stocks offer
special appeal at this time." With reference
to television competition it has this to say:
"Actually, it appears that the motion picture
industry has been gaining the upper hand
in its battle with television for some time."
Bear in mind these are not the words of
a wLshful-thinking movie man, but the advice
of disinterested financial advisors, jealous
of their standing with conservative investors.
On some future day, when we look back on
these troubled times, we'll probably credit
Cinemascope with reviving our hopes and
M. P. Warns Against U. K. Restrictions
NEW YORK—Sir Tom O'Brien, member of
Parliament and general secretary of the
National Ass'n of Theatrical and Kinematograph
Employes (the British equivalent of the
lATSE), had been in this country only a
few hom-s early in the week when he predicted
that, unless British films get more
playing time in this country, something might
O'Brien was a member of the group who
came over to attend the Variety Clubs International
convention. While here he will confer
with Ei'ic Johnston, MPAA president, and
Richard P. Walsh, president of the lATSE.
O'Brien pointed out the possibility that a
Labor government might return to power
our faith. While all producers did not embrace
Cinemascope at first, and while some
still have not fully employed it, it has, nevertheless,
won a permanent place. For this
we can give thanks to the courage and vision
of Spyros Skouras and his associates at 20th
Century-Pox. Today, we have a picture with
a visual aspect ratio unsuited to the television
screen. We have pictures that are
ours and ours alone. They will never be the
"come-on" for a coast-to-coast medicine
show, chiefly designed to peddle dentrifices,
detergents and deodorants.
Generally speaking, television came late
to our Midwest territory, and in many homes
its novelty has not yet worn off. In addition,
our territory is suffering from climatic conditions
and declining agricultural income.
Though industry may be moving in, we still
operate in an agricultural economy and are
vitally affected by its
I cannot refrain from pointing out a favorable
trend that seems to be developing. One
of our standard procedures is to keep a tenweek
daily attendance record of each theatre.
Each week this is changed to fit the performance
of the previous ten weeks. All last fall, and
for the fii-st few weeks of this year, the trend
in the majority of our theatres was downward.
In recent weeks this trend has reversed.
We now find the great majority of our theatres,
week-by-we€k, returning more than the
previous ten weeks' averages.
CAN'T BE COMPLACENT
However, in this fact, hopeful as it is, there
are no grounds for complacency. We cannot
trust "nature to take its course" or expect
our missing patrons, occupied with other diversions,
to voluntarily return to the fold.
For years we have communicated with our
patrons through the newspaper, our screen
and other standard media. These still have
their value and are essential, but they are
not enough. Thousands of our former patrons
no longer read our ads and, of course,
never see our screens. Oiu- job today can
be likened to that of the missionary seeking
converts. His task requires persistence and
patience, and above all, zeal. I have told
our men they face a grass roots task.
In our business we have never made personal
solicitations like the insurance salesman
or the Fuller Brush man. But I've told
our managers, these times and these conditions
require just that sort of an approach.
I've asked them to pei-sonally contact a
and said that, in that case, the American industry
would have "increasing difficulties in
maintaining its position in the Brtish market."
He declared that, unless proper machinery
is set up, no progress can be made. One of
his suggestions was that an international film
council be set up to discuss and solve the
problem of insuring more American bookings
for the British imports.
New restrictions, he admitted, would be bad
both for American distributors and British
exhibitors who would face a film shortage.
Discussions of a new quota agreement with
Great Britain in 1957 would be influenced by
the situation prevailing then. He said he
personally favored quotas.
specific number of stay-at-homes each week.
I have told them that reams of printed matter
extolling the merits of a certain picture will
not accomplish as much as a few words of
sincere recommendation from the lips of the
manager or one of his employes.
If each of our managers can promote,
through personal contact, a hundred admissions
that would have otherwise not come,
w^e will gradually reconvert many of our
Up to the present, we have not been able
to enter into any such program with confidence,
because we have not had enough
quality merchandise. This condition is
rapidly changing. We have, in the immediate
future, some wonderful product for
our theatres. Upon this foundation we can
rebuild our patronage.
AN ENCOURAGING REPORT
While I've avoided using figures and statistics
in this statement, I must conclude it
with some information that I consider very
impressive. The Value Line Investment Survey
previously mentioned, shows that during
the whole period from 1948 to 1951, only four
pictures grossed more than five million dollars
in our domestic market. In 1954, eight pictures
hit that figure. In 1955, there were 15
in that category. Add that information to the
fact that "Carousel," now having its first
showing in New "5fork, grossed over $300,000
in its first three weeks and you'll certainly
reach the conclusion that our straying patrons
must be returning to the fold.
And if it's faith in our business you are
looking for, consider this: Paramount has
spent more than ten million dollars on "The
Ten Commandments" which will be released
this year. It took faith in our industry for
men to make tremendously spectacular pictures
like "War and Peace," "Meet Me in Las
Vegas," "Alexander the Great," "The King
and I," "The Conqueror," "Moby Dick" and
several others, costing over 5 million each.
With these facts in mind, it becomes the
duty of management and our managers in
the field, to extend greater efforts than ever
before. We must justify the faith that courageous
men have shown in our business.
owe it to our company and our associates to
make the most of what will be handed us
this year. And, above all, we owe to our lost
patrons a personal appeal to witness and revel
in our recent artistic and technological