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Saturday, November 02, 2013

Showmanship's Science For Serials


Hooking Them For All 12,13, or 15 Weeks

Serials were for Saturdays, or so books say. Fact is, our Liberty had two serials running at any given time during chapter-playing peak, on Saturdays and Wednesdays. For instance: the week of June 26, 1938 saw Fighting Devil Dogs from Republic pulling a mid-week plow, chapters renting at $6.50 per, then an oldie, Mystery Squadron, filling the weekend berth, each installment of that Bob Steele aerial actioner yielding $5.00 to owning Mascot Pictures, or whoever was heir to their product after closure of said firm. Serials were a mainstay to small towns, and neighborhood houses elsewhere. The ads here are for incoming cliffhangers that Cleveland's Lincoln Theatre hoped would hook small-fry and inspire their loyalty for a next twelve or more weeks. What I've noted from such promotion is fact that theatres pushed serials hardest when first chapters were rolled out. That's where larger ads got used. Afterward they'd just mention the title and chapter number, youngsters having fallen prey to the needle and not requiring further inducement. But for one week at least, as here, The Master Key is the lead attraction, and Gene Autry/Mary Beth Hughes will occupy a back seat. When The Master Key came to its final inning, there'd be not only that serial's climactic chapter, but a bonus first installment of succeeding The Purple Monster Strikes, thus lock-in of addiction for fifteen more weeks. Showmen in those days, themselves cliff-hanging onto weekly overhead, left nothing to chance.

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