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Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Antidotes For Television

Exhibitors always understood, as they put it, the basic superiority of theatre-size motion pictures over small-screen television, but how to convince their dwindling movie-going public? Institutional ads were one answer --- devoted to audience appeal and professional standards. Stressing the idea of relaxing at the movies was the goal. Infra-red candid photography of audiences laughing uproariously at All About Eve (!) and Mrs. O’Malley and Mr. Malone were published in newspaper ads (presumably without benefit of waivers from viewers who might not have appreciated having their pictures taken while "relaxing at the movies") You must be part of an audience if you want to enjoy yourself, they said, but would those long-ago showmen embrace the same philosophy if they experienced our present-day theatre community, with its endless patron chattering, fire alarm cell phones, and oppressive commercials lurching toward overlong features?




Home-I-Tis was a common affliction exhibitors were determined to stamp out. Get Them Out Of The House was the shared mantra of co-op merchants and service providers who could all benefit if only those zombies in front of their televisions would leave the nest and seek entertainment in the public sector. During those bleak years of the early fifties before 3-D, Cinemascope, and Vistavision came along to grant temporary reprieve, theatres were joining hands with restaurants, night clubs, taxi companies, parking lots, gas stations --- any and all links between the TV set and their lobby door. By getting them out of the house --- regardless of where they go --- the people will again become motion picture conscious once they stop staying home, declared the Schine theatre circuit. Contests were inevitable. Winners received a night out, courtesy participating businesses. The lucky ones would enjoy – free! – a taxi ride to an outstanding restaurant for dinner, passes to the theatre; after the movie a visit to their favorite night club, hotel or tavern, and a ride back home. Imagine such an evening! Streamlined transport in a checkered cab, steaks and chops at a quiet dining retreat (no doubt much like the one Miles took Becky to in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers), screen hilarity with the newest Dean and Jerry, followed by generous libation at one of the local owl clubs, then you’re poured into that canary-colored chariot for the trip home (assuming you weren’t rolled in that tavern/clip joint). Sounds like a great night out, but who’s home watching the kids?

2 Comments:

Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

How interesting! I love these ads because I see some contrary arguments regard the advantages of having a home theater system. While the theaters were clearly fighting against television (and later VCRs) now the Home Theater business and afficianados use similar tactics to sell you a system. As an argument they list the cost of going out: gas, tickets, snacks,etc(vs. "sandwiches etc." mentioned in the ad.). They also mention that your living room is more comfortable (vs. straining your eyes, watch in comfort)and that technology can provide a theater going experience.
Now I do not have the funds to create a home theater, but having seen some setups of some people I know and some I've seen on home improvement shows - I am certainly tempted to build one someday. There aren't any movie theaters around Columbia, SC anymore that have large screens, comfy chairs and run great old movies. Why not do it at home where I can decide to run King Kong 33 and King Kong 05 back to back, if I want?

Why is it that the home theater stuff: tvs, chairs etc are getting bigger and the actually movie theater stuff: screens, cleanliness and seats are shrinking or disappearing? Sorry for the long comment...but your post and ads got me thinking!

9:14 AM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

By the way fellow blogger buddy Kanecitizen had an interesting post regard the MPAA and Jack Vanlenti when the VCR first became popular.
Here is the link: http://newsonthemarch.blogspot.com/2006/07/valenti-on-vcr.html

9:16 AM  

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