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1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 397 (359)

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition
1952 Theatre Catalog
1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 397
Page 397

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 397

people turned away from boxoffices for lack of seats were much larger than the number of people packed into theatres. These turn-away crowds were only part of the larger population that would have attended, but for theatre television's limited capacity to accommodate the public at that time.

"Of importance, too, was the attraction of part of the so-called flost audiencel # non-movie-goers e to the motion picture houses. Theatre television proponents had, from the outset, maintained that this new medium would attract new audiences. These when added to normal film audiences will expand theatre attendance in the, years ahead."

Financing and the Boxo'liice Take

"It goes without saying," continues Mr. Halpern, "that every major medium must pass through an investment period at the start, with operating losses until it has grown sufficiently. The pioneers in home television broadcasting made large-scale investments and sustained high losses for years of operationlosses that ran into millions of dollars for single stationsebefore they used black ink in their bookkeeping. The significant thing about theatre TV is that it has experienced profits on some events from the outset. As compared with television broadcasting, theatre television has required relatively small investments and its operating losses have been comparatively small. But before examining the credit side of the ledger, letfs take a look at the debits.

"The-glosses incurred in early theatre television have not been due to a lack of appeal in its programs or in the medium itself. These relatively small losses were attributable to three factors: 1) the few theatres sustaining the costs of the big-time attractions; 2) the pricing policies followed by theatremen; and 3) the absence of a regular, year-round fiow of programs and promotion.

"Last summer, the series of prizefights was carried by an average of only 12 theatres. In spite of the very small number of theatres which shared relatively high unit costs, it was remarkable how close to break-even these theatres came on most programs. Profits were made on individual fights. Naturally, a larger number of theatre installations will reduce individual theatre costs and turn losses into profits. And the profits will increase as the number of theatre TV exhibitors grows.

"A prime factor in the diderence between profit and loss on theatre TV events was the initial low admission price policy of participating exhibitors. At the beginning of the fight series, exhibitors were literally giving their products away to see whether people liked them. Some exhibitors seemed to treat theatre TV as a fight film, to be marketed as a bonus to the feature movie. The cost of theatre TV presentations, added to film exhibition, meant exhibitors would incur losses if regular movie admissions were charged. Many chose this course at the start, not realizing that the real boxofiice pull was theatre TV, and not the movie attraction on such bills. Theatres charged as little as 54 cents net admission for the first


several theatre televised fights. There was no trouble selling out on nights when film business was ordinarily in the doldrums.

"As theatremen saw the public demand and satisfaction, they began to adjust admission prices upward. Moreover, exhibitors began to realize that a theatre TV event was unique%ntirely different from a film which is shown consecutively, or even a liVe stage show that is repeated throughout its run. A unique televiSed event-valuable for the moment -requires special handling and pricing."

EDITORS NOTE Mr. Halpern does not mention that there is available in the theatre television set-up a system of recording televised events on film which is then immediately processed and ready for presentation on the theatre screen some ninety seconds after its reception in the theatre booth. Possibly such film, which can be shown again and again, and can be edited for l tighter presentation later, will bring theatre TV a little closer to normal film routines and prices. It has been used successfully at the New York Paramount on Times Square and elsewhere.

Continues Mr. Halpern, "By the time of the Robinson-Turpin bout, participating theatres had adjusted their admission prices to an average well over $2.00. Every theatre carrying the fight sold out, evidencing the publicis enthusiastic acceptance of this new entertainment medium. The average theatre TV gross was $5,000 per theatre with seating capacities ranging from 1,100 to 4,000 seats. It became apparent that higher prices for earlier events might have resulted in profits then, too. Moreover, concession sales in the houses boomed, increasing as much as 400% above average."

Mr. Wolfson reported recently, "The first exclusive theatre televising of a fight was the Louis-Savold heavyweight bout June, 1951. The results of the sixcity hook-up have been widely hailed as sensational. Every theatre was sold out and many disappointed fans were turned away. However, that was only the beginning. In the short period since that time, exclusive theatre televising was arranged for the Robinson-Turpin middleweight match held at New York on September 12th, 1951. Because of thentre TV, the first million dollar gate in history was achieved from a nonheavyweight prize fight. At premium prices ranging from $1.80 to $2.60, fourteen theatres in eleven cities were mobbed. They turned thousands away and Balaban and Katzis State-Lake Theatre in Chicago had doors torn down by rioting fans. I must admit that we would rather not have theatre doors ripped out, but I am sure none of us will be dismayed at any television development which can result in that kind of enthusiasm for getting into a theatre."

Mr. Halpern continuing, says: "I would like to give you an idea of then tre economics on a successful theatre TV event at this early period. Perhaps the best way to do this is by taking a specific example:* Theatre X, an actual participating theatre for one of last summerls fights. This house contains 3,300 seats. With a $2.40 gross admission price and a sell-out with 473 standees crammed in, the net receipts after taxes were $7,500. The total TV costs to the theatre (relatively high because of so few theatre installations) were $4,000, leaving an operating television profit of $3,500. The deduction of normal house expenSes and film distributor costs still left this exhibitor with a whopping profit for a single theatre TV show. His only regret was that he had to turn away thousands of disappointed people for lack of room. "The economics of theatre television last summer on such individual events clearly pointed up future prospects. If this kind of operating profit could be produced at the outset, with only a handful of theatres, the outlook for programs carried by hundreds and then a thousand or more theatres is fabulous.

Future Programming

"The third factor affecting early theatre television-the absence of a regular, year-round flow of programs," states Mr. Halpern, "is due in part to the newness of the medium. The development of entertainment attractions to go along with outstanding sport events, has preoccupied those of us in theatre TV these past several months. The entertainment desirable for theatre TV must of course be superior. Even now, theatre TV is growing closer to the number of outlets necessary to support regularly high cost presentations and talent.

"In the developmental work put into entertainment for theatre TV recently, talent and craft unions were faced, for the first time, with making decisions on theatre television. Most of these unions have recognized the importance of this new field and its gainful employment and compensation potentials for their memberships as well as its public service aspects. Consequently, their attitudes are becoming progressively more cooperative. Meanwhile, hOWever, time has been consumed in establishing a basis for entertainment in theatre TV.

"It is encouraging to report that there is a wealth of superior talent and entertainment eagerly awaiting the development of the medium. There is no lack of great entertainment, superior to home TV and different from movies, for theatre TV programs. Once the ground rules have been worked out, Theatre Network Television will launch a schedule of these programs."

On the subject of future programming, Mr. Wolfson opined, "All concerned can see the implications of what has only been an experimental period of theatre television. Here is a remarkable medium for the sports promoter to protect his gate and vastly expand the capacity of the arena. And for the fan it is a unique opportunity to see outstanding events in his own and other cities in an ideally convenient, comfortable and congenial atmosphere."

Continued Mr. Wolfson, "Some may feel that theatre television has only
1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 397