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1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 524 (508)

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition
1947-48 Theatre Catalog
1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 524
Page 524

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 524

Management and Policy for the Art Cinema

In Competant Hands, Specialized Operation Can Be Financially, Culturally Profitable

In the face of overwhelming trade opinion to the contrary, there is still a minority which believes that specialized operation of so-called art movie houses should prove profitable in both the financial and cultural sense.

Granting that there is little negative argument to the question as to whether the cinema is one of the art mediums of our day, the problem narrows down as how best to operate such a venture.

It goes without saying that one should steer far and wide from all the standard and generally accepted methods of average motion-picture advertising, exploitation, and ballyhoo; and veer definiter and decidedly to the ultraconservative and dignified type of selling usually used by the concert and legitimate stage. All newspaper advertising, posters, window cards, programs, brochures, trailers, and so forth, should be definitely directed toward the intelligensia you are endeavoring to reach; and not toward the generally accepted 12-year-old intelligence level of the patron of the usual Hollywood film fare.


There is no discernible reason why such a specialized operation could not prove worthwhile in most large cities, provided it is handled properly, with a subscription program the basis of an advance sale guaranteeing approximately from one-half to three-quarters of capacity, and the drop-in business covering the balance.

The body of a suggested subscription letter, to be signed by the management, follows:

"We find your name listed with us as one who patronizes the more advanced, cultural attempts of the theatre. And since the motion picture as an art medium should also fall into that category, We are offering you the first opportunity to obtain subscription tickets for our Art Film Festival at the . theatre, this city, beginning (date).

ffThis series of twelve artistic motionpictures from all over the world represents the absolute best in cinema. Each and every film on the festivaPs program has met with critical acclaim both here and abroad.

"The public sale of tickets begins ................ .. (date). If you send your check now, you will have the choice of seats and performances; and will have the honor of becoming a charter member of The Art Film Festival Guild.

the sincerely believe that our holding this Art Film Festival will be a significant event in the motion-picture history of (city).

"Hoping you will share our enthusiasm -but awaiting your opinion with interest-we remain . . P

Without the subscription sales partially to subsidize this policy, art cinemas


Editor 0/ Bran-m MANAGEMENT and Associate Editor 0/ Tm: EVIHBITOR

have flourished in large numbers in New York for years. A few have been successful elsewhere throughout the country, particularly in the Nations Capital, Chicago, and other large cities, and on the West Coast. Perhaps, just as many have fiopped. The failures can be analyzed; but usually it all narrows down to inaffective know-how in their operation and in many cases lack of sincerity or faith in the undertaking and with the first signs of waning patronage and subsequent diminishing of box-office receipts the signal for their managements resorting to other not-so-artistic policies. In so far as the records show, no one has attempted to better the artistic level of this medium along the lines herewith outlined.

The Park Avenue Theatre, New York, a perfect type of house for such an operation, both as to appointments and location, made such an attempt but before the subscription sale was fully consummated the house was sold to other operators for an entirely different type of operation.

In some situations it might be feasible to get close to the desired dignity of legitimate-theatre operation by actually renting a legitimate house for your subscription basis film festival; running it one or two weeks monthly as your advance sales might dictate.

When the switch over to an art policy is contemplated in a regular former movie house; the theatre should be refurbished, made as dignified and attractive as possible in appearance and in creature comfort with sound, projection, and so forth at perfection.

The location of a house for this type of operation should not prove an insurmountable problem, since the subscription sales, if successful, will guarantee a percentage of city-wide patronage. But, of course, a central city location is best.

In working up your mailing list do not overlook foreign language groups and colleges, as Well as patrons of the arts and all others whom you assume would be interested in this type of film fare.

Donit overlook advertising in the foreign press, those printed in English as well as those published in the foreign tongue, particularly on the Russian- and Palestinian-made product whose advertising should be placed in not only the Russian- but the Jewish-language dailies and weeklies. These papers have been found to reach many who would not otherwise be attracted to your house when it is playing films from these countries.

One can best establish the type of policy as to hours of operation individually; but generally on an overall basis

the ten performances a week on a legitimate theatre plan might prove the best. This would mean once nightly, a midweek matinee, Saturday matinee, and matinee and night on Sundays, since you are not bound by restrictions of blue laws which in many cities prevent legitimate shows from playing, on the Sabbath. However, the entire plan can be worked into a continuous-policy operation nicely. When a legitimate house is not available for a full schedule, it might be possible to make use of it on Sundays when the regular legitimate attraction cannot play.

To add a further aura of class to this type of endeavor, the use of printed, reserved seat tickets might prove the better policy, although the membership card, punched each time it is used, and the sale of unreserved seats at the box office on the day of showings can likewise be adopted without detracting anything from your dignified operation.

In other spots, particularly smaller towns, where such an art policy might not ever prove profitable regular film fare, the regular motion-picture operator might find value in a "Movie of the Monthii idea worked along the same subscription lines with the attractions playing two or three days at a time.

Most of the films scheduled for the film festival, it will be noted, have pretty lengthy running times. This will usually enable you to present them and them alone as the complete program. This is important in such a specialized operation. The people who come will not want to sit through a fiock of short subjects, no matter of how high a quality. Consequently, it will be to the advantage of such an operation to show the feature and that alone, starting the shows usually at 2:30,-2:40 or 2:45 for matinees; and 8:30, 8:40, or 8:45 for evenings so that you will end somewhere near the 4:45 p. m. or 10:45 p. 111. hour. In the event a short or so is needed to fill out running time, make sure the shorts are from the same country as the origin of your feature and run them first, with a brief intermission, say 5 or 10 minutes, before starting the main feature.

Motion-picture critics and reviewers on the metropolitan New York newspapers, in fan magazines, news magazines, and even in the trade papers have consistently looked with favor upon the high artistic level of the foreign films, which are the backbone of the international film festival. It is certainly wise to capitalize upon their criticisms, and in a few well directed words stamp the acclaim the films being shown have received.

If the theatre is equipped with a lounge, an art exhibit in the nature of a one-man show by a known local artist can always be held without detracting from your screen attractions; but adding prestige and good-will to the opera, THEATRE CATALOG 1947-48
1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 524