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1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 573 (545)

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition
1945 Theatre Catalog
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 573
Page 573

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 573

The Effect of Television on the Theatre

His Possession of a Box Office Will Make The Exhibitor Television's Fair-Haired Boy

Television is a word which is causing thousands of exhibitors aegreat deal of uneasiness and worry. They see in it the threat of annihilation and ruin. They thought that once about radio. Home television can and undoubtedly will be helpful to theatre attendance for television will discover, create and popularize more picture personalities than radio. This benefit will come without the collective exhibitor raising a finger. There is a coming phase of television, however, which will make the exhibitor the fair-haired boy of television. That is large screen, syndicated, theatre television. Of all those who are in a positiOn to cash in on television, but big, is the exhibitor. Why? He has 11,000,000 seats and some 18,000 box offices. He can put on his screen events that the public will clamor to see and can see only by walking through the turnstile. I recommend that the exhibitor watch this phase of television most carefully. It is not too far off. This age of miracles in which we are living has a disconcerting way of making realities out of theories during the short period of time some of us are explaining why it can never happen.


Allow me to start off with an assumptionewhich, incidentally, is quite common when discussing television these days#television for the home will, I am sure, become established before theatre television becomes general. I believe home televisions effect on theatre attendance will undoubtedly follow the pattern set by the advent of radio broadcasting, which was no effect at all until several millions of sets were in operation. Then there was a perceptible dip in theatre attendance. However. this recession was short-lived and was followed by full recoveryeand, of course, the advent of sound pictures boosted the level of attendance beyond any previous weekly records.

I believe that within a year or two after home television becomes entrenched, perhaps even sooner, equipment will be availiable for the satisfactory and Showmanship-like exhibition of television images on the large size screens of motion picture theatres. When this equipment is ready for market, I feel that the motion picture theatre owner-ewhom I will hereafter call the exhibitorewill avail himself of the box office possibilities theatre television will offer.

I believe all are acquainted with the fact that if satisfactory large screen theatre equipment were available today, intra-city television would shortly be a commercial reality. All that theatre television nceds to become. a reality, other than the theatre equipment itself, is a means of interconnecting a chain of the i945-THEATRE CATALOG


Executive Vice-President, RKO Television Corporation

atres with cameras located at the scene of the subject matter desired to be exhibited upon the theatre screen. Let me quote but one paragraph from a letter dated March 17, 1944, written by Keith S. McHugh, vice-president of American Telephone and Telegraph Company, to Will H. Hays, then president of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc., more familiarly referred to as tithe Haysi Office":

Knowing the interest of some of the motion picture people in television. I thought you might want to have copies of the attached memorandum outlining the tentative post-war plans of the Bell System for the provision of intercity television network facilities. Within the same city television can be transmitted over ordinary telephone wires, with the addition of suitable terminal and intermediate equipment, or over special conductors provided for the purpose.

This means that a stage show, let us say from the RKO Palace Theatre, could be witnessed simultaneously in all other RKO theatres in Greater New York, plus as many other independently owned theatres as might desire to tie in on this show in their own neighborhoods. The famous stage presentations of the Radio

City Music Hall might likewise be subscribed to by other theatres in Greater New York.


If we now let our imagination wander a little*and yet not let it get out of control--I think we can see where this practice of syndicating stage shows could grow to a final form of national coverage. There are approximately 18,000 theatres located in 10,015 United States cities, affordinga total seating capacity of 11,700,000 seatseor one seat for every twelve men, women and children. There is one motion picture theatre open in the United States for every 8,000 people. It is not the purpose of this article to become involved in figures, but I am sure you can see what a vast box-office potential the theatres of the United States can become for events relayed to them by cable.

Sufiice to say that the present monthly titakeii is approximately $150,000,000. At the present rate, the theatres of America take in through their box-oiiice windows, in two months, more than the entire broadcasting industry does in one year. Resolved to plain hard figures, it means'this: total motion picture admissions per year, $1,800,000,000; total expenditures of advertisers for radio for

EVENTS IN THE SQUARED CIRCLE will probably be among television's top drawing cards in the future, as, in the past, have been motion pictures of the fights. Here is an audience in the New Yorker Theatre, New York, watching a championship prize fight in the Madison Square Garden, brought, to the theatre by means of Radio Corplt foreshodows many coming events. (RCA photograph.)

oration of America's large-screen television equipment.
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 573