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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Place Your Bid For Crosby's Latest


Paramount Goes Euro-Shooting For Little Boy Lost (1953)

1953, and exhibition was plagued with the "pre-release." This was big company trick of replenishing loss of given-up theatres, that mandated by court decision circa late 40's. If showmen wanted popular pics now, they'd bid and like it. A presumed hot ticket like Little Boy Lost was put before competing venues on winner-take-all basis, reward being exclusive run for set period. Paramount spoke terms as Little Boy Lost went for auction: Eight weeks minimum booking for key openers and all bids in by midnight 7/13/53. Exhibs interested would be shown the movie in advance, no pigs in poke here. Los Angeles saw a winner in the Wilshire Theatre, with engagement to begin September 2 on $2.40 reserved seat basis. You could purchase admission at the boxoffice, ticket agencies, or Paramount studios.


This was how pictures perceived as important were launched in that era when folks needed compelling reason to leave their TV and pay way into pic houses. Para could hardly reserve seats to a latest Martin and Lewis, but those went up for bids as well when new, so as not to let any dollar go amiss. There was prestige to Little Boy Lost as had been for earlier-in-'53 Shane. The George Seaton/William Perlberg production was offbeat blend of drama with music for Bing Crosby, him as battlefield correspondent gone postwar to France in search of a child he fathered there with a French wife now deceased. This was not unlike mission engaged by Alan Ladd in Captain Carey USA or Dick Powell with Cornered, except those were noir-inflected, if not revenge-motivated, and Little Boy Lost was for heart-tugging with song. In other words, $2.40 times four or more to accommodate the family.


Seaton/Perlberg filmed on location, so Crosby, not a double, takes to Euro backdrop, a distinct plus before Cinemascope and Vistavision made such a necessity. Seaton wrote of filming challenges for Variety's anniversary edition; he'd been an ace scribe before directing, but kept a hand in by applying personal touch to sales. So did Perlberg, who took to roads and drove a print of Little Boy Lost to "every exchange center in the country," said Variety. Here was how to hands-on sell, even if it took weeks of the producers' time, and goes far to explain ongoing success of the Seaton-Perlberg team. They made an economy job of Little Boy Lost: $1.2 million in negative cost even with French filming and Crosby overhead. Domestic rentals of $2.8 million clinched profit all the more with whatever foreign revenue factored in, that probably equal if not more thanks to oversea setting of story. Little Boy Lost isn't available on DVD (should be), but streams on Amazon, as does much of the post-49 Paramount library.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

"Binky!" Shameless stuff, but this is one that always gets me, and my wife and I have seen it many times. As I recall, Crosby made this one right around the time of his first wife's death, and his performance does seem to have an extra depth missing in most of the singer's other films.

Great research, John, on the aggressive bidding process.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Fortunately for exhibitors, blind binding was eventually made illegal.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Joshua said...

I thought blind bidding was still legal in some states. I don't know how much it actually takes place, though.

1:00 AM  

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