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Friday, June 02, 2006



Inviting The Wolf To Come In


I can’t imagine any late forties exhibitor being applauded for putting a television set in his lobby, but Paramount Theatre manager M.D. "Babe" Cohn reckoned in September 1949 that the best way to meet oncoming competition was to embrace it. Kansas City did not yet have an operating broadcast station, but WDAF-TV was set to go on the air October 16, and Cohn was determined to commemorate the occasion with a miniature "home theatre" display featuring an Altec set provided by one of the local dealers. Viewers could only look at a test pattern until the sign-on date, but the novelty of seeing an actual TV set was sufficient to draw a crowd. Good will amongst rivals is one thing, but this was like hens opening their barnyard door to a salivating fox. In addition to pushing TV in his entry area, Babe was working co-op displays with local stores (one shown here) to emphasize television and films as harmonious providers of entertainment for K.C. families. What was this guy thinking? "Television is a partnership enterprise rather than a competitive one," said Cohn as his gates opened wide to welcome this Trojan horse. No doubt fellow showmen reminded Babe of his folly in coming years when the home screen wreaked its havoc on exhibition nationwide, but who would have dreamed that quaint test pattern in the Paramount’s foyer would grow into such a monster?

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