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Saturday, March 04, 2017

"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.


Blogger John McElwee said...

Former exhibitor Allen Hollis e-mailed his impressions of "The Art Of Selling Movies":

I received a copy of your new book this past week. I have rarely put it down since. This is a very interesting and enjoyable look at selling movies through newspapers.

One of the best times I had working in the exhibition industry was every Monday afternoon using rubber cement, scissors, pressbooks and layout sheets to build the coming weekends theatre ladder. Having the responsibility of doing that for a 6 plex and triple drive-in, I had a diverse number of titles.

In fact, my interest in print ads goes back to my teenager days in the 60's where I would cut out movie ads and paste them in a scrapbook. I also procured a very old scrapbook that contained many print ads for silent films that played in my home town of Jackson, MS.

Your book will give me many hours, days and years of enjoyment, just as your previous book is doing.

Thank you.

Allen Hollis

4:41 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

In THE CINEMA YEAR BY YEAR 1894 to 2002 I read that in the silent period when A movies were seen in 5,000 seat houses at $2 a seat (over $50 today) over 65% of the public went to the movies on a regular basis. That audience, according to Terry Ramsaye in A MILLION AND ONE NIGHT AT THE MOVIES (1925) was between 11 and 30, primarily between 14 and 25). Today the audience is between the same brackets and attendance is, according to THE CINEMA YEAR BY YEAR, less than 15%.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the dramatic fall off is that showmen no longer seem to know how to sell movies. With all the modern means those figures ought to be way higher. Looking forward to your book. Please let us know sooner when your works are published.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Randy Jepsen said...

Boy, did I ever love looking at the movie ads every day in the newspaper when I was a kid. Especially Wednesdays & Fridays when the new movies came out or the drive-ins changed programs. I`d drool over the horror & monster movies the most. And curse my luck because I had no way to go see the ones at the drive-ins. One of my fondest memories of kidhood.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Ordered my copy last week!

8:35 AM  
Blogger William Ferry said...

I saw the reviews and added this volume to my Amazon wish list on the double! I was tempted to drop you a note last week asking when you were going to start plugging this! You must be psychic - this promises to be as fun a read as SHOWMEN, SELL IT HOT!

8:24 PM  
Blogger brickadoodle said...


12:30 AM  
Blogger Steven said...

I just received your CLASSIC book "THE ART OF SELLING MOVIEs". I always thought that the subject (most beautifully displayed here)was so rather almost completely ignored through the decades of filmdom... until now. It was a subject rarely mentioned in 'movie-land', and it was like I was in an uncharted territory with my collection of ONE scrapbook of ADS from local newspapers. I still get chills/thrills from looking at them every few years or so...I only wish that I went on clipping out those theatre ads, from local newspapers, as they are as scarce as a theatre these days showing a DOUBLE FEATURE! Yesteryear, if the main feature wasn't showing a SECOND "CO-HIT" OR "ACTION CO-FEATURE" or "PLUS", or something else to call a second feature, this kid would pick a theatre that DID HAVE "two giant THRILL SHOWS ON THE SAME PROGRAM (plus cartoons, serial and comedy short which was usually the THREE STOOGES; they were (it seemed) the ONLY short comedies available then. When a VERY popular kiddie matinee DID show JUST ONE FLICK, it was because they would have to show it twice, as the lines were really down the block for favorites like "THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD", "HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL", or A PRINT STILL MAKING THE ROUNDS LIKE 1938's "THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER". SAWYER' And as a "CO-INTEREST" here I would like to ADD this for all of us POSTER LOVERS! Every week TO MY UTTER HORROR AND BEWILDERMENT, I would WITNESS ONE local theatre owner pasting a GIANT 6-SHEET over the previous one from the week before, ; when the thickness of the posters added up over a few months, he would TEAR IT ALL DOWN AND take it to the dump! And since he reckoned I had a crazed interest in them, he would give me a TOKEN ONE SHEET once in awhile which I saved a sentimental few. "What the hell, Steven,"he exclaimed; IT'S ONLY PAPER!" Scene FADE OUT.

4:33 PM  

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