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1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 472 (446)

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition
1945 Theatre Catalog
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 472
Page 472

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 472

Forms and Systems in Efficient Management

How to Keep the Necessary Theatre Records To Insure Proper, Business-Like Operation

Just as there has been great progress in the film industry since the day when the small, gaudy nickelodeons borrowed chairs from the local undertaker and bought the Lubin or General Film contract for so many reels of film each week, so the responsibilities for arriving at practical business methods, adequate business records, and systems of cash control have kept pace with progress. The "old timer"-either because he had a relatively small investment in what even he may have doubted would become a permanent and solid business or because of his ofttimes background of "carniesfl circuses, and road shows-did a highly speculative business fout of his hat". It does not take a very long memory to recall some who did their film booking on little memoranda and scraps of paper which bulged from their pockets; others who paid for film and equipment with coins and bills directly from their box-ofiice cash drawers, sometimes not even bothering with the formality of a receipt; and still others who signed film contracts right and left without any intention of playing them off. This was the informal stage of embryonic development, when any system which existed was simply improvised by a particular man or group of men to serve a particular local need.

Surprisingly enough, some of the basic systems, forms, and methods of operation set up at that time still persist as the ideal or most workable yet developed by the industry. The exchange booking book, adopted from the vaudeville agents, system for keeping track

THE RING BINDER for the Service Kit Forms discussed in this article is large enough to hold properly all the various items for an entire season. it is a standard three-ring binder, bound in sturdy Fabricoid.

of the availability of acts, was used at that time to record the availability of prints, and it remains today basically unchanged. fiCut-off" sheets to show in quick tabular form the terms, commitments, availabilities, and play-off of each theatre account are still maintained in a very similar style by all exchanges. Availability notices, billing methods, clearance structures, inspection, records, and so forth, may have varied in type selection or arrangement, but the basic principles remain about the same.

This was particularly true of exchange operation for several reasons. First, even in the days of General Film and Vitagraph, it was a chain operation of relatively larger financial investment which necessitated bookkeepers and auditors who were naturally system-minded and contributed many of the ideas and forms which enabled them to check cold figures rather than to depend on someone's memory or memorandum slips. And, second, because of the very number of each companyls branches and volume of customers in each branch, it was possible to amortize the cost of preparing and printing a particular form over a long print run.

In the theatre side of the industry, however, the development of forms, systems, and established methods was much slower. With predominantly independent unit operation, just as it is today, the owner or manager centered his complete attention to the operation of his one theatre and, therefore, did not, to the same extent, feel the need to reduce his memory to cold factual records. Whenever he did feel the need to produce such records, the cost of printing 5, 10, or at the most, 52 sheets a year made such records a luxury, so they were use ually laboriously hand ruled and, therefor, abandoned by all except the very precise and meticulously careful. Only in the then budding theatre-circuit operation were the bookkeepers and auditors available, and the possibility to spread the preparation and printing cost over a long print run with a resultant low unit printing cost.

Then came the series of events and growing pains that made accurate theatre records not only desirable at any cost, but actually necessary and, in some cases, mandatory.

First, the original 5- and 10-cent nickelodeon was replaced by more substantial structures, with specially manufactured precision equipment and many patronpleasing furnishings, all of which required a relatively large investment. A large investment usually required a bank loan or mortgage, and bankers and mortgagees wanted to see auditable proof of the borrowing capacity of the business.

Next, as added taxes were needed to support a succession of wars and depres THEATRE

sions, the municipal, state, and federal fund-raisers, since industry revenues had increased, eyed theatre admissions as a solid source and passed tax laws. In some cases as many as four different taxes affected the box-office dollar. The tax boys were not taking any memory or memoranda figures, but demanded consecutively numbered tickets and auditable records to prove that they were getting all of the tax and not sharing it with some manager or owner. And last, but not least, the increase in the percentage buying of film gave the distributor a very real interest in authenticated gross-income figures, and ofttimes, when adjustments were sought, in expense and overhead figures as well.

At least one trade paper and an assortment of other individuals and theatre supply dealers recognized the need that existed and, by printing large quantities of many buying, booking, management, and bookkeeping record forms, were able to resell them to the theatreman at a low unit cost which made them economical for his use.

It is now pretty well established that theatre forms, systems, and methods can be divided into three groups: (1) Buying and booking records, (2) theatre management records, and (3) cash control and financial records.

And, for the benefit of this survey, we will only discuss those which have been tested and made available for many years to its subscribing theatres by the same tradepaper of 28-year standing, THE EXHIBITOR, the weekly sister publication to THEATRE CATALOG.

A COMPACT FOLDED BRIEFCASE of sturdy Leatherette can also be obtained for the Service Kit forms. It contains two inner pockets for keeping papers. The standard three-ring binder is a built-in feature.

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 472