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1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 151 (117)

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition
1952 Theatre Catalog
1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 151
Page 151

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 151

Low Overhead tRunl Theatres in Traffic Areas

Two Small Houses Adept a Long First Run Policy, And Give Birth to a Novel Concept in Exhibition

BRIEF: The experience of two theatres has shown that a policy of long engagements of first run pictures of high quality can pay of handsomely. Success of the policy depends on the strength of the picture . . . low seating capacity and consequent low overhead . . . and location in a center of heavy traffic. The plan . . . carried out on a nation-wide basis . . . in large cities . . . would benefit the industry as a whole. While many small theatres could easily adopt the long first run policy . . . the TransLux type of operation lends itself ideally to the plan . . . which may prove to be an important factor in the future prosperity o/ the industry.


A New Concept

When the Trans-Lux theatres in Washington, D. C., and Philadelphia recently changed their policies from uart" features to extended engagements of first run domestic attractions of exceptional merit 4 with spectacularly successful results4a new concept in exhibition was born.

Should this conversion in policy similarly become standard at other smallcapacity theatres now operating as newsreel or art houses in the heavy traffic areas of busy metropolitan centers, a whole new breed of hybrids, which might be called iirun houses," will have evolved. Judging from the success of the Trans-Lux experiment, such a hybrid, combining the most potent features of the first run theatre and the art house, while avoiding many of the disadvantages of both, would constitute a forceful boost to the industry in sev eral ways.


First, the owners of a run house would be assured of profitable operation. With a seating capacity ranging only from 500 to 600, operating expenses are sharply reduced with the lower space requirements # meaning lower property overhead-and the lower weekly payroll of the small staff required to operate such a theatre. The current attraction would always attract a large audience because the Hgo seeii urge of thousands of patrons would not be satisfied too quickly. What is lost in seating capacity would be more than compensated for by the sustained engagement. The problem of booking in a picture of sufficient merit to hold its own over a period of weeks should not be too difficult. The industryis severest critics will readily admit that there are at least six pictures of exceptional merit produced evory year. Assuming that this is the case, these six films could well comprise the run houses


program for the entire year, with each run averaging a little less than nine weeks in duration.

The Philadelphia Experiment

Breakdowns of the Philadelphia Trans-Luxis grosses for the first 16 weeks of a 21-week engagement of HDetective Story" (grosses for the last five weeks were not available at this writing). and of the Washington TransLux's grosses for a 17-week run of HA Place in the Sun," present a rather amazing example of how limited seating capacities may be compensated for by sustained engagements of strong attractions.

Here is the breakdown of the Philadelphia Trans-Lux's grosses for "Detective Storyn:

lst weeke$12,100 9th weeke$8,800 2nd weeke$10,800 10th week-$8,800 3rd week4$ 9,000 11th week#$8,900 4th weekw$ 8,400 12th weeke$8,900 5th week $ 5,900 13th week4$7,900 6th weeke$ 7.100 14th week-$6,700 7th week-$10,000 15th weeke$7,000 8th weeke$ 8,600 16th weeke$5,800

Total: $134,700

Advertising expenses during these 16 weeks were as follows:

Preopening & 8th week4$1,000 lst week-$6,000 9th week-$1,000 2nd weekillilx'llO 10th week4$1,000 3rd week#$ 900 11th week-$1,000 4th weekefl; 900 12th week4$1,000 5th week-$1,000 13th weeke$1,000 6th week-$ 900 14th weeke$ 750 7th \\'cek-$1,000 15th weeke$ 750

16th week4$ 750

Total: $20,350

It will be noted that from the eighth week through the 12th week the grossas remained at a fairly constant level. The Philadelphia Trans-Lux seats 493, and with a total gross of $134,700 for the 16 weeks the gross income per seat amounted to $273.33, or $17.08 per week. This figure. becomes quite impressive when one considers that thisis comparable to a weekly gross of $101,608 92 at New Yorle 5949-scat Radio City Music Hall, and in the 10 weeks of the engagement the Philadelphia theatre paid out considerably less in overhead expenses than it costs to maintain the Music Hall, with its slanre show. for one Week.

The (meni'N: week of HDetective Story" brought in an income of $24.54 per seat, which on a seat-by-seat basis is proportionate to a weekly gross of $145,988.46 at the Radio City Music llall. When one considers that the opening week of the, all-time. record breaker at Radio City Music Hall (The Great Caruso") drew $155,000, this figure becomes cvon more significant.

The Washington Experiment

In Washington, the other Trans-Lux chalked up returns for 2A Place in the Suniy that are almost equally impressive. Here is the breakdown of grosses for the full 17-week engagement:

lst weeke$13,000 10th weeke$2,700 2nd week-$11,400 11th week-$3,000 3rd weekh-$ 9,500 12th week-$5,700 4th week-$ 8,000 13th weeke$5,400 5th weeke$ 7,000 14th week-$4,500 0th week-3S 5,000 15th weeke$4,200 7th weeki$ 6,000 16th weeke$3,400 8th weeke$ 4,300 17th week-$3,700

9th week#$ 4,300

Total: $101,100

Advertising expenses during the engagement were as follows: Pre-opening &

lst weeke$5.000 10th weeke$500 2nd weeke$1,500 11th weeks-$500 3rd weeke$1,000 12th week-$750 4th week-.Sp'l,000 13th weeke$750 5th \veek#$1,000 14th weeke$600 0'11 week4$ 750 15th week4$600 7th weeke$ 750 16th weeke$400 8th weekg$ 600 17th weeke$350

Total: $16,650

With a seating capacity of 598, the Washington Trans-Lux grossed $169.06 per seat for the 17-week period, or about $10 a week per seat. This is proportionate to a weekly gross of $59,490 at the Music Hall. Again, operating expenses for the entire run were considerably less than the cost of operating the 5949-seat Radio City Music Hall for one week. The opening week of HA PlaCe in the Sun7 resulted in a gross of $21.74 for each of the Washington Trans-Luxis 598 seats, comparable to weeks grass of $129,331.26 at the Music Hall. It should be noted that the 10th and 11th weeks listed in the above breakdown were the two Weeks before Christmas, and while boxofhce returns dropped from $4.300 in the ninth week to $2,700 in the 10lh week, when a large percentage of Washingtonls high: ly transient population left town to go home for the holiday, grosses climbed right back and were hitting the $5,700 mark by the 12th week.

On a per seat basis, the advertising expenditures required to maintain the publicls interest in the film during its extended engagement would probably be greater at a run house than at a conventional large first run theatre. The .Q'VHESl) expended bv the, Philadelphia Trans-Lux for advertising the first 16 works of HDetective Story" represented 15] of the total gross. ln Washington, 5510.050, or 10.5 percent of the gross it"is paid for advertising during the entire l7-wcek run of 2A Place in the Sun."
1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 151