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Thursday, April 29, 2010

There's Always Tomorrow Limps Onto DVD

Hurtling through cyberspace comes news that Universal botched the screen ratio on its DVD release of There's Always Tomorrow, Douglas Sirk's 1956 melodrama that Europeans thought enough of to release in a pair of (done right) special editions. Two questions: For how many buyers does this matter, and who's caring about few that complain? There's Always Tomorrow is part of a six feature Barbara Stanwyck set from Universal. Retail is $49.98. The film was exhibited 1.85 widescreen in theatres (and was, I'd maintain, composed for that ratio). Since 1956, showings have been mostly full-frame and on television. The latter reveals a lot of dead space at the top which was masked out by 50's projectionists. Universal has both transfers but gave us the one that's cropped. The same thing happened several years ago when they loused up The Deadly Mantis on DVD. These were likely oversights the company would consider unimportant. Both are the same movies, after all. Who'd be concerned beyond nitpickers like yours truly and the similarly anal retentive? Bless us for wanting the best, but we'll not get respect for that. Not so long as home video divisions are staffed by those outside hardcore movie life (I'd be fired off Uni staff in a day for constantly second-guessing exec decisions). At least there is compensation of labels that do satisfy. Sony/Columbia's Hammer Suspense box for one. I'm still in disbelief that Cash On Demand and Never Take Candy From Strangers are now available on pressed disc, let alone bunched with four others equally rare.

So as to see There's Always Tomorrow properly presented, I ordered the Masters Of Cinema UK offering. Being Region 2 means you'll have to either get a multi-region player or hack your own to watch. MOC did a fine wide transfer with documentary extras and a forty-page booklet. The movie runs 84 minutes and is black-and-white. Director Sirk was something of a color specialist, that most evident in just preceded All That Heaven Allows, so reverting to B/W for this one comes unexpected. Maybe Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck weren't so big a names (by then) to justify such expense. I perused trades and found Universal's bigger selling guns trained on All That Heaven Allows, with nary an ad for There's Always Tomorrow, released but weeks behind Heaven and surely regarded by press and public as a poor relation. Sirk's melodramas were special for at least trying to intersect more with real life, however overblown general audiences might find them today. I'd be reluctant to watch one with a modern crowd. You need a persuasive host to calm the hyenas in advance. There is tendency to lump There's Always Tomorrow with so-called "women's pictures" of the era when a man's descent into conformist 50's hell is focal as here. Fred MacMurray buckles 'neath combined weight of family obligation and tempting presence of infatuated Stanwyck, middle-aged crises any number of husbands might identify with, but were they attending There's Always Tomorrow or sitting home with shoes off watching Roller Derby?

Douglas Sirk gets a lion's credit for pics bearing his directoral signature, but I note Ross Hunter's participation as named producer on all the best ones and wonder ... how much did he contribute? Interviewed Sirk spoke of "the young man" Hunter who learned a lot (presumably from him) and never interfered. The director's recall was salted with reference to Freud, Berdolt Brecht, and Oedipus, an imposing triad that certainly would have shut me up had I been inclined to press Sirk further as to Hunter's creative input. I don't know of any Hollywood product (let alone out of Universal!) that inspire such serious analysis as Sirk's. He was boxoffice when that paid in the 50's and dedicated artist when cinéastes came knocking in the 70's. You might say he kind of lucked into a brace of atomic age mellers we now applaud for exposing hypocrisies of the time (all of us being so much more enlightened). By sheer chance or maybe design, Sirk (and/or Hunter?) fed our assumptions to come about repression our parent's generation labored under. We all get to feel quite superior watching poor Fred MacMurray navigate indifferent family waters all the deeper for his surrender to Establishment precepts. Sirk characters are like bugs under modern sensibility microscopes. Our lives may suck, but not so much as hapless Fred's in his suburb prison with bourgeoisie bars. Domestic settings in There's Always Tomorrow are an art-directed Alcatraz, all lattice and banister-laden to nail down hopelessness of MacMurray's plight. Children endlessly whine (so that doesn't go on anymore?) and eavesdropping is rife (with layers of misunderstanding to result). There's even Ma Joad Darwell braying about in a maid's uniform. Rays of hope for a finish are but tentative. Sirk said he wanted to strike an even sourer note there. I'd guess 1956 male patrons all but opted for gas pipe concessions either way after seeing There's Always Tomorrow.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Must They Also Be Nice People?

The recent Danny Kaye conversation has me pondering an issue that's come up time and again in my mind. Do we love our favorite comedians more for being nice guys offscreen? Or better put, will we laugh less for finding out they're not? I admit it colors my perception, having spent far more hours reading about the lives of clowns than watching their movies. It's not that I expect them to be off-set Father Christmas' buying ice cream cones for every fan they meet. Buster Keaton, for instance, was never like that and I wouldn't have wanted him to be. It's just disillusioning to know that a happy face on screen is a sour one away from it (like Danny Kaye's, by most accounts). We set a higher standard for comedians' behavior in private life. They're a little like B western stars in that respect. I've read Hoppy had his bad days, and Rocky Lane could be downright truculent. But since cowboys and clowns appeal to the youth in all of us, it's vital they respond kindly when we meet, even if it's vicariously through fans of long ago. It pleases me that Oliver Hardy took time to sit a child on his knee and Stooges Moe and Larry invited fans to visit. I've belatedly gravitated to those latter boys partly for learning they were warm and friendly in retirement. There are sites devoted to correspondence between Moe Howard and admirers, including photos where they met. Larry liked receiving guests at the Motion Picture Country Home in spite of diminished health and seems always to have had time for autographs. The roll of honor among comedians is indeed one I'm constantly updating, and yes, it matters how they would have treated me had we crossed paths.

First off, there's the difference between "on" friendly and normal friendly. The "on" setting was one a Red Skelton maintained. He was said to do twenty minutes just for encountering fans at a hardware store. Would that have been fun or just alarming? Red also made hash of his writers. So did Jackie Gleason. One scribe remembered Bob Hope tossing paychecks from the top of a spiral staircase just to watch minions scramble for them. Not much to admire in that. But we're talking less about how they abused employees than how they'd treat us. I sometimes imagine myself going back and meeting clown idols, so to that extent they're still an ongoing presence. Would Lou Costello wave me off at a time travel'ed Jersey premiere of 1952's Jack and the Beanstalk? Like everyone who's read about them, I have conflicting emotions about Bud and Lou. Especially Lou. He was probably nicest to little kids. Costello's This Is Your Life reveals a lot. It's probably his most humanizing moment before a camera. The same program did as much for Laurel and Hardy, although their kind offices were never in doubt. Yes, Babe was more aloof, but we attribute that to a private nature. Stan was perhaps champion swell guy of the lot, the sort who answered every fan letter and maintained an open door policy at his Oceana Apartment of final residence. I've known admirers who dropped in there and/or spoke to Laurel on the phone. On each reported occasion, he was graciousness personified. Is it any wonder this is the comedian I'd most like to have known?

They say Buster Keaton was easily distracted, especially by a television he liked to play loud (to compensate for hearing loss). Keaton would sign or answer questions, but seemed bound to ponderings of his own. Small talk didn't interest him. Adept hands at Bridge claimed most of Buster's spare hours during later years. Otherwise, he'd be near as silent as his screen alter ego. What then, of those whose private persona contrasted most sharply with images we enjoyed on the screen? There's Jerry Lewis for extreme example here. How many youngsters came away heartbroken from disillusioning introduction to him? I've met several among wounded on Jerry's battlefields. He's one I'd be loathe to meet, or maybe afraid is the better word. Being not so ardent a fan helps in this instance. Groucho Marx is another I don't regret having missed. Some fans say it was an honor being insulted and dismissed by him. I confess to finding this a dubious one, but who's to say what distinction memory would accord to having once been rudely brushed off by Groucho? His brothers are a mixed group as potential acquaintance. Harpo was a recognized sweetheart (or pussycat, as Jerry might call him), while Chico remains a largely unknowable presence beyond gambling toward crisis at a thousand card tables.

They say Jack Benny was wonderful. A soul of generosity to fans, cast, crew ... everybody. Don't any of you correct me here with stories of Jack behaving unkind, for I'd want him to stay pristine. He's like Stan Laurel for being an icon minus even toes of clay. Some comedians were so rich as to be forever removed from the hoi polloi of fan intercourse. How many autograph hounds got to Charlie Chaplin after wealth and worldwide success swallowed him up? I once considered writing CC at that Swiss chateau, but figured one of a hundred servants would intercept my mail. Maybe Charlie sat around waiting for letters that never came, wondering if we'd forgotten him. Harold Lloyd had his palace closer to home. He strikes me as a hail-fellow-well-whatever with a glad hand for admirers, especially ones wearing Shriner hats. College students found Lloyd delightful when he brought silent backlog to campus auditoriums. Private life Harold seems to me to have fulfilled all the ambitions of his screen character. My own college years didn't miss HL's campus visits by very many, even if his did take place states away from where I attended. To go back (much) further, what would meeting Roscoe Arbuckle have been like? That seems to me like an encounter with Lincoln or Mark Twain. Still, I think Roscoe would have been good company. Navigating his vanished era might be something else. I'd be busier noticing stiff collars, straw boaters, and elegant modes of transport (his Pierce-Arrow!), taken aback no doubt by how people lived so rustic then. There'd be stopover to visit Mabel Normand, who'd be receptive enough based on what books say, but would I spend greater energy trying to warn she and Roscoe against calamities to come? What puts most of these personalities within realms of fanaticized access (excepting Mabel and Roscoe of course) is the fact of their lifetimes overlapping my own. Face-to-face encounters were at least conceivable, even if none came to fruition. The fact is I never met or exchanged mail with any of them. Perhaps some of you did. If so, I'd like hearing about it. No such thing as too many anecdotes about comedians we all enjoy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Doug's South Seas Adventure

8mm is where I go for serious living in the past. There's such delicacy to little Blackhawk boxes and films that came in them. They bespeak a time when people who remembered the silent era took pains to collect artifacts from it. There's not many left above-ground to tell us what fun Douglas Fairbanks was in theatres. We have to take written word of gone-to-reward fans like Alistair Cooke, who penned a thinking man's tribute for The Museum Of Modern Art soon after Doug's passing (1939) and remained a vocal champion from there on. Blackhawk was operated by grown-ups who looked back on Fairbanks with a child's fondness. They kept his best features available on 8 and 16mm. The company listed a condensation of Mr. Robinson Crusoe, Doug's late-career talker from 1932 that was his penultimate offering. I watched those nine minutes lovingly edited and narrated by Paul Killiam, a longtime evangelist for early cinema. He spreads gospel for this athletic star whose enormous popularity we'll never fully grasp for not having been there in his prime. Mr. Robinson Crusoe was something Fairbanks knocked off between golf games and tiger hunts. His dedication to filmmaking drooped once sound came in and took joy out of stardom. I wonder if Doug didn't do Crusoe mostly to satisfy product quota for part-owned United Artists. Blackhawk's souvenir made me want to see the whole of Mr. Robinson Crusoe, so deeper I plumbed into laser disc depths for an Image release that probably sold no more than a hundred copies. What with Fairbanks silents offered on DVD or Blu, why not his four talkies? Taming Of The Shrew, Reaching For The Moon, Around The World In 80 Minutes, and Mr. Robinson Crusoe would make a compelling set. UPDATE 4/8/2022: We are twelve years later and that Fairbanks talkie set has not happened yet, me not optimistic it ever will. There is however Mr. Robinson Crusoe all over You Tube, being PD, plus streaming at every place one could imagine. I found instance at YT courtesy The Film Detective that looked OK, as in passable, but wouldn't it be nice if the Museum of Modern Art loosed its original elements, donated during the thirties by Fairbanks himself. Crusoe's standing could use such a hypo, for based on quality as it stands, there is little chance the film's reputation will enhance except among fans (how many left?) who applaud Doug in whatever context or circumstance.

To call Crusoe's a narrative by customary definition would be inapt. Home movie is more like it. We open on prosperous Doug aboard a yacht boasting to sportsman friends of how he could survive ... no, thrive ... on an uninhabited island they pass. Lickety-split they exchange bets and off he leaps into the surf. Join Crusoe two minutes late and you'd miss its whole set-up. No other personality could have gotten away with so little exposition. The fact this is Fairbanks makes it only natural he would engage such a challenge. American pluck is understood to clinch success of his island venture, bringing modern ideas to wrest of the wilderness. Doug handily constructs a working radio from scraps he finds on the beach, believable if not to us then easily to 1932 watchers many of whom had built their own receivers rather than bearing expense of ones store-bought.  Does Fairbanks being forty-nine at the time lessen credibility? Not for the shape he's in here and tricks he performs.

A melancholic undercurrent beneath the bravado make Doug's adventures resonate with me.
It was often present to some degree or other. Do I sense clouds more for having read about his sometimes depressed mood? Darkness fell unmistakably over much of 1927's The Gaucho and parts
of two year's later The Iron Mask, both late travelers down silent avenues that Fairbanks sadly realized were dead ends. After these, he took to wandering continents both alone or in company of restless chums (but seldom with left-at-home Mary). Doug had sense to know his ways were finished in Hollywood, and so steered wide of it. Mr. Robinson Crusoe was really just Fairbanks letting us observe what he'd do if left to primitive devices in paradise. Why bother with plot beyond a simplest of concepts? This and preceding Around The World In 80 Minutes were snapshots brought back from Doug's vacationing, and if you wanted to call him cynical in fobbing them off for paid admissions ... well then keep your nickels, because Fairbanks
had all of those he'd ever need. Not to imply that Mr. Robinson Crusoe is in any way morose, for Fairbanks is cheerful to a fault throughout. All hardship is readily surmounted, Doug talking to himself for much of an opener act and crediting his ease of survival to the fact he had been a Boy Scout, and further, read a book once on skill as practiced in the wilds. 
Mr. Robinson Crusoe seems in ways a Fairbanks riposte to Tabu and others that took bleaker view to what Doug regards as paradise pure/simple. I wonder if he ever considered retiring to such a setting as depicted here. Surely it would have suited him better than what Hollywood had become.    

Mr. Robinson Crusoe
 sort of cheats as to content and execution, being very much a barely working holiday for Fairbanks and crew. He took along those he thought congenial, many if not most serving as court jesters if not meaningful collaborators. More than one writer of then-prominence looked back upon trips with Doug as bizarre rambling where work kept a back seat to distractions where they could be found. Fairbanks by this stage needed distraction. Could be he needed a therapist more, though to his credit did not self-medicate and go down drunk and dissolute. If age was now obvious, Doug cut a dapper figure through travels, a public ready always to hear from his ports of call, if not movies he made.

Mr. Robinson Crusoe
has movement and energy thanks to stunt ready Doug, who leaves modern sensibilities as to race and gender distinctly up a tree. DF makes a near slave of a captured man Friday and brings native squeeze Maria Alba (a Fairbanks side-dish during location shooting) home to entertain on Broadway a la Kong (did Cooper and Shoedsack get ideas here?). There is also Doug pals animal hunting elsewhere as the star pursues his island conquest. They shoot down a striped tiger as pretty as utter insensitivity might please, modern gasps insured should 
Mr. Robinson Crusoe rear its head again in revival (chance of that? Pretty near zero). Third worlds for Fairbanks was terrain to be tamed, and he was the guy to do it, in fact did at whatever native spots he descended upon. Ever hear about his and Mary's Euro and elsewhere tour? They honestly feared being consumed by crowds, nothing left but a hat and scraps of clothing. Novelty of fame was long spent for Fairbanks by the early-thirties, his trips as much escape as recreation. Had there been flights booked to other planets in his lifetime, Doug would have been among first aboard. Mary too, were she not content behind shut doors of Pickfair.

Alfred Newman contributes an almost wall-to-wall score to 
Mr. Robinson Crusoe 
that was real advance on mute tracks accompanying most features to 1932. His music previews themes he'd reuse effectively in The Hurricane, Son of Fury and other south-sea exotics to come. Doug devised Crusoe's story and undoubtedly called most shots, though Eddie Sutherland is credited for direction. What little we know from behind those scenes was imparted by Sutherland in a late fifties interview. He said recording equipment went on the fritz soon after they dropped anchor and most dialogue had to be post-dubbed back home. You can see the out-of-sync truth of that clearly enough. Crusoe plays handily sans talk. Many subsequent prints jettisoned dialogue altogether and added explanatory titles. Sutherland didn't sweat such complications. He was more party animal than committed helmsman (at least according to one-time wife Louise Brooks) and doubtless got his kicks among relaxed environs of Doug's luxury yacht the crew lived (and partially filmed) on.

Mr. Robinson Crusoe
came and went in 1932, critics and public knowing this was far from Doug's best, embarrassed for
his investing too little effort in it. Had Fairbanks been cast among casualties of talk? 
He probably would not have argued the point. Mr. Robinson Crusoe had a negative cost of $287K, took $387K in domestic rentals, $373K from foreign, which suggests it showed a profit, but nothing to compare with Fairbanks in lush days. The backlog had to have some sort of value, for hadn't folks once loved Doug and his works? An independent producer named Benny Harris was moved to find if maybe they still would --- in 1953 he would lease Mr. Robinson Crusoe and The Iron Mask to reissue. Lopert handled distribution, a sub-corporation of United Artists so this was sort of old homecoming, even if the pictures went pretty much nowhere in theatres. Greater returns would be had from television, where Fairbanks oldies next went. A bad reputation can come of forty years spent in so-called Public Domain Hell, a final stop unfortunately for several late Fairbanks titles. Mr. Robinson Crusoe hasn't been done justice since Blackhawk issued their long-ago reverent highlight reel (that catalogue listing above), which among other things, gave narrating Paul Killiam opportunity to quote from Alistair Cooke's appreciation. Blackhawk could cram a lot of film tutelage onto a five-inch reel. So doesn't Crusoe and a talking Fairbanks deserve at least as much recognition in a twenty-first century DVD marketplace?

Monday, April 19, 2010

1953's Was A Beastly Summer

It hadn't taken television long to beat Hollywood down to the canvas. So many more people were now watching at home than going to theatres, those numbers arched ever upward with each survey taken. Distribution came to realize that promoting movies in living rooms was a surest route toward filling seats downtown. This worked most effectively upon kids propped bug-eyed in front of tubes. 1952 was transitional year for easing movie ads off newspaper pages and onto cathode sandwich boards. RKO pushed its King Kong reissue with territory targeted TV spotting and hit a jackpot no one expected (a spectacular $1.608 million in domestic rentals). Others got the wake-up call and began exploring video campaigning of their own. Gimmick shows were thought best for such high-powered appeals. MGM told Daily Variety in March 1953 they were set to test pulling power of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from 1941 in tandem with the same year's A Woman's Face. The pair would be sold as exploitation chillers after RKO's example, with ads getting right to horrific point (as illustrated above). Films ... will be supported by an extensive ballyhoo campaign similar to that credited with making "King Kong" a tremendous boxoffice reissue winner, said the trade. Metro's electronic tub-thumping was already in evidence with February's release of Jeopardy, a black-and-white suspenser hardly noteworthy other than as stalking horse to show what TV could deliver in added ticket sales. Daily papers squawked as advertising revenues were redirected to broadcasters. MGM was spending between $9,000 and $10,000 for station blurbs in Los Angeles and seeing profits way beyond norms for Jeopardy's kind of pic. Sobering was the fact receipts dropped significantly during a second week when TV advertising was dropped, while towns out of LA stations' range reported very ordinary business for Jeopardy.

Televised selling was nothing new. It had gone on since 1950 when Paramount put toes in water for Sunset Boulevard. Prior to that, Disney/RKO went to the vid well with Ichabod and Mr. Toad. The difference since was King Kong and sensational results directly traceable to lures planted at home. RKO's man who delivered here was exploitation director Terry Turner, buoyed into free-lance demand now that others realized his was a Midas touch. Turner got MGM's commission to push Jeopardy and the horror duo, while Paramount retained him to whisper War Of The Worlds into our rabbit ears. RKO was meantime squaring away for a Summer's repeat Ape-A-Thon, with 1949's Mighty Joe Young straining at the vaults. A test engagement during January 1953 in Minneapolis was promising. Trades exulted over the enormous mechanical figure of an ape ... set up on the sidewalk, fringing the curb, and facing the boxoffice. Teamed with 1951's The Thing, Mighty Joe Young gave that city's RKO Pan Theatre a splendid seven days. Boxoffice magazine's smart money prediction: Undoubtedly, RKO will make the reissued pair available generally.

Warner Bros. was enjoying a lucrative 1953 Springtime with 3-D chiller House Of Wax. Quick-pacing grosses were through the roof. They'd never made this kind of money so fast, let alone on a horror movie. With a sales force primed to move novelty product, it seemed prudent to try again with a stunt attraction geared to the fastest possible play-off. Independent producers Jack Dietz and Hal Chester had completed The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, about a rejuvenated dinosaur on the loose, and were looking for distribution. Ray Harryhausen, who did the special effects, remembered $200,000 it cost to make Beast, the negative sold outright to Warners for twice that. The company thereby got their Summer saturation experiment ready-made, but for approximately $184,000 it took to lay on a David Buttolph score, add footage here and there, and generally polish the film to expected Warners standard. Trade announcements in early May promised a coast-to-coast television and radio campaign to blanket all the distribution areas of the nation, an expansion beyond more limited spending and saturation RKO had put forth for King Kong the previous year. WB was determined to begin and finish Beast's run within the three months students were on break, using television as principal hook. Kong/Jeopardy marketing whiz Terry Turner was brought on board to ramrod exploitation. June 17 would be lift-off date for territorial video pummeling. Within a month, they'd have this Beast roaring on nearly every TV station in the country.

RKO meanwhile wasn't napping. They had Mighty Joe Young aimed for July 15 dates and saturation bookings to be repeated across territories nationwide. Four years old MJY was head-to-head with Warners' brand-new Beast, but wasn't there enough school's out money for both? RKO hedged bets with a co-feature to accompany the gorilla, Isle Of The Dead, which had laid dormant since 1945 but had Boris Karloff to decorate marquees. Also there were Joe Young masks, way more ferocious in appearance than the gentler ape on screen, along with jungle village cut-outs supplied to thousands of chain markets and drug stores (RKO claimed to have generated one million giveaways). Grass roots selling wasn't ignored by either distributor. Warners emphasized that newspaper coverage would be strong for Beast, with large directory ads to run in Sunday editions announcing all theatres playing the film within circulation vicinity. Radio spots were emphasized for areas out of TV station range, as there were parts of the US still without access to vid signals. While WB budgeted $175,000 for the saturation blitz, insiders predicted spending would climb to $200,000 (RKO, on the other hand, slated $35,000 for Mighty Joe Young's TV promotion and $20,000 for co-op newspaper ads). Market penetration for Beast would commence nine days ahead of playdates. For the first time, kids had themselves a big monster show running not only in their own hometown, but in scores of others surrounding, day-and-date. It's hardly a wonder that Beast From 20,000 Fathoms provoked such must-see fervor among them.

There were ten different TV spots for Mighty Joe Young and sixteen for Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, this to avoid repetition of the same spiel and risk of tiring home viewers. It was unanimously felt that televised saturation campaigns were best suited to so-called "scary" and thrill attractions, their audiences described by critics of the day as having the mentality of 12 year-olds. Noted too was the fact that, as with King Kong the previous summer and MGM's Jeopardy, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms did not perform nearly so well in areas not canvassed by TV promotion. Still, there was sock business for situations where advertising word was properly coordinated. Broadway's opening was, unlike elsewhere, exclusive to one theatre, in this case the Paramount, where stage accompaniment included The Marco Sisters, singer Don Cornell, and comic Frank Fontaine. Beast also beat the combined total boxoffice of three features playing in 3-D among Los Angeles opposition houses, extraordinary for a "flattie" in black-and-white. WB was in fact reporting money from its initial 312 engagements as exceeding any of the company's product released over the last three years with the exception of House Of Wax (surprising even to some Warner officials, said The Motion Picture Herald). Saturated dates for Beast would eventually number 1,560. 1953's turnstile heat melted whatever ice encased this dinosaur. Business was looking more like the atom explosion that turned him loose. Columbus, Ohio's RKO Palace had to stop selling tickets several times during their run due to what management called jammed houses. Among attention getters was a ten foot high Beast figure (above) that moved, growled, flashed light, and belched smoke, all at modest cost of $16.50 to showmen who purchased the display. If vacation 1953 had a movie-going fad sensation, it was surely The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

This leviathan strode swiftly across the US marketplace. June 17-23 was concentrated in the Central and Western territories, then to Southern venues on June 24 (our local Allen Theatre played it June 28-30), with Eastern saturation beginning July 1, and so on. Most theatres kept it a week, striking while irons were hot from the TV assault. Holdovers were discouraged as WB had promised exhibitors in succeeding waves that prints would be available to them, necessitating rapid turnover from one region's dates to the next. Exhibs on the tail end complained that Beast did nothing for them, but there's what came of missing the televised express. RKO's Mighty Joe Young locomotive moved slower and with less cargo, but still performed admirably. It's initial 250 bookings in the Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, and Cincinnati exchange areas scored grosses about the same as obtained from "King Kong" in the same areas last year, according to Showmen's Trade Review. Among (many) other ballys, RKO was arranging for milk trucks to include the Joe Young masks with morning deliveries, while kids at grocer checkouts received aforementioned jungle cutouts with Mom's foodstuffs. From these successful dates, it was Joe to Boston and surrounding areas for an August 13 open with 175 theatres participating. I don't have figures for Mighty Joe Young's ultimate take, but if it did half what The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms realized, RKO would have been happy indeed. Warners ended with $1.735 million in domestic rentals from Beast, plus $915,000 more foreign. A profit of $1.3 million established a record subsequent WB monster pics, including Them! and The Black Scorpion, would not beat.
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