"Showmen" Begets Another Book
Making A Case For Ads As Art
Now that Amazon has evidently re-stocked, I'll mention The Art Of Selling Movies, my second go at a book. The "Art," I propose, is that of theatre ads published in newspapers from movie inception to late 60's when print began slide toward near-vanish point of now (why promote in papers when there is internet's limitless means to hypo?). More about the book is at publisher GoodKnight's site, plus there's been coverage by DVD Savant, at Leonard Maltin's page, and in the latest Film Comment magazine. A lot of people (most?) would consider old film ads to be so much yellowed, brittle junk. Being lifelong champion of the obscure, I say they are precious relics of time when showmen had to generate a crowd week after week by sweat of brow and urgency of time, with limit of budget always a challenge. The book was culled from thousands of ads I collected over a period of fifty plus years. Best of those are here, my argument being that exhibitors at their most creative were folk artists who never got recognized for beauty they lent to an otherwise purely commercial field.
There have been a few compilations of movie ads, for most part drawn from pressbooks, or reproduction of posters and lobby cards. The Art Of Selling Movies goes 100% with advertising from newspapers, which for decades was prime line of communication between a theatre and its customers. The Art Of Selling Movies is spread like an art book, mostly captioning to ads after GPS fashion, this after an intro chapter to set up background and format. Back in day, there was plentiful advise in trade mags to aid exhibs with their pitch. Showmen's Trade Review laid out the scheme in a book, Showmanship In Advertising, published in 1949. Ad makers otherwise had to learn on the go, w/o benefit of instruction beyond what brother showmen could share. Ambitious, or plain hungry, management eager to master the craft could put his/her boxoffice in the pink, and competition to rout, by applying extra effort to ads. Such handiwork is what The Art Of Selling Movies is here to celebrate. Uphill push was to restore oft-distressed ads to just-off-press luster, this achieved by GoodKnight design and layout staff. Amazon has The Art Of Selling Movies. Where they have to back order, the wait isn't long. I'm told there is fresh supply now after exhaust of copies over a last couple weeks.