Boxoffice-May.12.156

boxofficepro

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

quality merchandise.

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"

pilot.

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

BritishFilmsNeedMoreU.S,Playclates;

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

happen.

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

vagaries.

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

former patrons.

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

We

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

achievements.

28 BOXOFFICE

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