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1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 396 (358)

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition
1952 Theatre Catalog
1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 396
Page 396

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 396

Theatre Television Progress

Over 300 Individual Theatre Presentations, and 75 TVEquipped Theatres, Are Proving Its Economic Merit

BRIEF: To evaluate the current successes . . . and the future potentials . . . the Editors have drawn on quoted statements by Nathan. L. Halpern, President of Theatre Network Television, Inc., who has done more than any other one man to coordinate industry effort and focus industry attention on theatre-TV . . . Editorial notes . . . and other quotes by Mitchell Wolfson, Chairman of the Television Committee of the TOA . . . and by David Sarnoff of Radio Corporation of America . . . have been added in order to create a symposium of fact and creditable opinion.

With theatres in the United States displaying an ever increasing interest in the field of theatre-TV, and its possible effect on future operations, it is necessary to currently survey the operating policies and boxoffice successes or failures, of the more than 300 TV showings up to date. Can theatre-TV be presented as a second feature on a particular night, or even as a motion picture feature at all? Can its high cost in equipment, wire chargers, and program and booking fees be offset against even a jammed house at regular admis sion prices? Is the audience for a particular fight, or, as the opposite pole, for a particular opera, even interested in what movie attraction the theatre is playing with it? Or do they want any thing at all except their own particular interest? And are they willing to pay a top dollar to get it?

All of these questions, and more, run through the heads, and the correspondence, of some pretty capable and suce cessful theatremen. If theatre-TV is something completely extraneous to motion picture theatre operation, then all that the motion picture industry has to offer it, is the most of the worlds most comfortable auditoria. Is that enough? And will the interested public insist on such comforts, or will they accept the particular shows of their interest, in the less comfortable and more poorly accommodated arenas, lodge halls, fire houses, and skating rinks that also dot the land? To find the very important answers that may reflect themselves on industry history for years to come, we must look at the record to date, and to the several men who have been on the firing line, and so haVe the best perspective. There is no questioning the sincerity of their industry interest or the truthfulness of their facts.

The first of such men is Nathan L. Halpern, president of Theatre Network Television, lnc., which was organized as a negotiating group and clearing house for television attractions by the very industry executives who have been con to

ducting the early experiments. Mr. Halpern has the benefit of carefully kept records and statistics on each area and on each showing. He is familiar with the cables and relays necessary to itpipen a show anywhere in the nation and the costs of distribution methods. He has also negotiated all deals to date and knows the thinking of the sports entrepreneur and of the other owners of useable theatre-TV shows, with regard to the theatre future.

A second is Mitchell Wolfson, chain man of the Television Committee of the TOA, operator of a circuit of important: theatres in and around Florida, and owner and operator of a radio and television station in Miami. iHis also are the views of a man with a real stake in the future of the motion picture theatre industry; but also with a specialized intimate knowledge of television, and the things the public expects from it.

In an address before the 7lst semiannual convention of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers in Chicago on April 21, 1952, Mr. Halpern stated as follows:

ttToday there are over 75 theatres in 37 cities from coast to coast with largescreen television equipment. This is in comparison to a single television-equip ped theatre three short years ago. In the past year alone, theatre television has increased its seating capacity 600% while the number of cities with installations has risen 300%. Notwithstanding these impressive hgures, theatre television is only beginning to grow. There are 20,000 theatres to go.

itTheatre TV installations will be made eventually in all motion picture theatres in the country," said Halpern. This opinion has also been expressed by David Sarnoff, chairman of the board of RCA, who stated that fit will be as inevitable for every film theatre to have TV as it is necessary for them to have a sound system for their talking picturesfi Along these lines, Mr. Wolfson has stated: "Undoubtedly many theatres could for some time ignore television and survivo, but I do not believe they can ignore it forever, or even for too long."

Continued Halpern, HAlthough it is off to a fast start, theatre TV has a long way to go before it can fully realize its great potentials. The harnessing of this form of television by the motion picture industry will offer the public a new and different service. It will become a valuable national resource dedicated to the entertainment and education of the public.

TV Programming in Theatres HDespite its early stage of growth, there have already been oVer 300 ins dividual theatre prescntations of largescreen television programs. While most

of these have been news and sports events, there have been a few special entertainment presentations, as well as special government and industry uses of theatre TVls closed circuits. With few exceptions, the early presentations were experiments, conducted to test public reaction to, and the operation of, theatre TV, They clearly demonstrated that this new medium satisfied and pleased its audiences. It has been, in fact, the publicls acceptance that has caused the further development of theatre television.

"Theatre television has already proved that theatre TV programs can be successful. The conditions necessary for successful special event presentations have been emerging in the past year. Exclusivity, proper promotion and some regularity are all desirable, if not necessary. Matinee sports presentations, which bring new sports audiences into theatres at unprecedented times, require all three of these conditions to be favorable.

ftThe most publicized theatre TV programs to date were the series of prize fights presented in the summer of 1951. This series of six fights presented by Theatre Network Television was offered to the public that was unacquainted with the medium, and because of this opera ated under adverse circumstances. The boxofiice results were nothing short of startling. The overall average attendance for all theatres on all six fights was 87% of capacity, despite the fact that two of the lights were not top attractions.

tiThis boxoiiice average is only a partial indication of the great public interest in these theatre TV programs. At several of the fights, the numbers of


Mr. Halpern does not mention that part of the audience at these initial showings might also have been attributed to a certain curiosity value to be found among people in general. Nor does he mention the possibility of a goodly number of regular patrons, who might have shied away from attending their regular theatres on their regular days, because they had no interest in sports or in the attractions adored, There is no questioning the fact that probably a majority of the TV audience was not the normal patronage of the particular theatre. Once introduced they might come back for regular film fare. And if the well operated theatre has attracted a regular patronage in (he past, they will no doubt return on another evening. At least there has been no demonstrated hostilin to TV shown. to date by regular morivgoers.

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 396