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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thirty Seconds Over L.A. --- Part Two

Hollywood had always been about sweeping out the old in favor of the new. Studios and showmen weren't in business to celebrate history. Sam Zimbalist was self-preserving enough to put oldies in perspective. I believe that only 10 or 15% of the movies sold to TV are really great pictures, and I'm interested in seeing what happens when the lesser product is shown. A lot of those twenty-year-old shows would look "silly and dated" now, said the still active producer. Motion Picture Herald ran with that admission in steel-tipped boots: It's always been painful to look again at old movies that we thought were good, and find out how crude they were. The enthusiasts for ancient films have done more than any others to keep motion pictures in their infancy (Ouch --- They mean us, Greenbriar readers!).

The attack on Hollywood's past was unrelenting. Surviving movie relics amounted to no more than a pox on exhibitor livelihoods. MPH saw broadcasters and their newly-bought oldies  as cut-rate junk dealers: The blunt fact of the matter is that the stations, in order to get one film worth seeing today, will have to buy many which were scarcely worth the price of admission when they were originally shown. Disdain among the trade bled into theatres formerly open to re-plays, as witness hostility toward 1956 reissues Northwest Passage, The Sea Hawk, and others on receiving end of withering showman commentary in back pages of Boxoffice, Motion Picture Herald, varied trades. Lessening receipts from such "Encore Triumphs" was the very reason they'd gone to telecasters, who were grateful and willing to pony meaningful $ for access to them.

It was a no-win fight what with film companies chasing respective windfalls and showmen left holding (empty) bags. Pete Harrison of his weekly Reports warned theatres not to book vintage MGM without a written guarantee that their show wouldn't turn up on local free-vee that very night. As of Fall 1956, the following "Masterpiece Reprints" were labeled smallpox: A Tale Of Two Cities, Marie Antoinette, Mutiny On The Bounty, Boy's Town, others. Even if these weren't actually being televised day-and-date with theatres, they were listed among titles forthcoming to buyer stations in lavish newspaper ads promoting pre-48 MGM's to come. Everyone knew that all came to home viewers who waited. Spokesmen for Metro tried convincing exhibs that the library's sale to TV was a good thing --- after all, think of all that free publicity via alliance with the tube, and "a rise of interest in MGM films." Such was purest banana oil that showmen would not swallow.

KTTV saw ratings drop nearly a third for its next Friday night MGM special. That was Mrs. Miniver. Further erosion came with They Met In Bombay the following week. Viewership was considered disappointing after fantastic numbers posted by Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. One explanation for the decline is that there was less promotion for the subsequent weeks' pictures, said Billboard. Newspaper ad buys had settled down to the quarter-page class. Interesting was viewer fluctuation over the two-hour slots --- Bombay fell off sharply in its second half, whereas Miniver built up almost steadily. Movies on TV were being evaluated by thirty-minute increments, the question being less whether folks tuned in than would they stay tuned in. Still, Colgate was more than happy with "the greatest sales volume in this (LA) market of all time."

It didn't take long for KTTV, and other stations, to figure out which side old movies were buttered on. After a first season of Colgate Theater, trends were clear as Trendex figures confirming them. Said Billboard: The general rule of thumb now is that the action-adventure pictures will get ratings; comedies, musicals, problem or love stories will not (but hadn't exhibitors already known this from reissue experience? --- guess nobody asked them). Here then, was KTTV's Top Ten Metros for its first season of Colgate Theater: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Honky Tonk, Boom Town, Anchors Aweigh (thanks to Sinatra, said trades), They Were Expendable, They Met In Bombay, A Guy Named Joe, Test Pilot, Command Decision, and Homecoming.

It's the he-man type of star which gathers the audience, observed Billboard ... Female stars, except for the Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow type, are poor draws. The kings of TV's boxoffice, at least on KTTV's corner, were Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, he-men both. Comedies and musicals were considered outdated. People just don't dig them anymore, said Billboard. As far as television is concerned ... the best musical may command less (advertising) money than only an ordinary adventure film. Competing salvage dealers meanwhile worked double-time to pull the Metro oldies off their perch. Associated Artists, distributor of the pre-48 Warners library, filed their "Most Honorable Report" trade ad, replete with a bowing Japanese caricature, to declare Destination Tokyo a bigger ratings-getter (at least in Miami) than L.A. titan Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. 1956-57 was fast becoming a My Backlog's Better Than Yours contest.

Leo's TV Roar Now A Grunt, said Variety in a January, 1957 headline. Seems the Pre-48 Greats yielded a less than great $40 million from sales so far of the vaunted package against expectations they'd collect upwards of $60-70 million. Trouble was paucity of buyers after deep-pocket stations grabbed their marbles. Smaller markets just couldn't afford what Loew's demanded, to-wit a one-million dollar single-station tariff. Recouping that kind of money (an enormous outlay, said Variety) within a seven-year license period would be tough sledding for telecasters in secondary markets. Could they go into profit before time to send the movies back? For stations outside the largest cities, it didn't seem likely. Metro seemed to have priced their "too rich" features out of the market, and humbler outlets made do with lower-tagged product from rival sellers (NC stations were notably shy of Metros until post-48 groups came available in the sixties).

Another Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo story, too good not to mention. Chicago's WBBM premiered it on 1-5-57 after a build-up approaching KTTV's. Their projectionist grabbed three 16mm reels out of the station's time vault just before the Saturday night broadcast. The vault locked behind him and would not reopen until the following morning. To the man's horror, it became clear that Tokyo's final seventeen minutes were on a fourth reel now inaccessible thanks to the vault setting. Came the dawn and debacle ... hundreds of phone complaints, eighty per hour throughout Sunday. In an aftermath Variety tabbed "How To Go Broke-eo With Tokyo," WBBM lost $20,000 making amends, with the final reel playing off on Sunday night, followed by a commercial-free repeat of the entire film. All their regular advertising clients had to be bumped and reimbursed for commercial time lost. It was a disastrous error, said a WBBM spokesman, adding that the projectionist responsible had been fired that day.

One more irresistible footnote, also dated 1957. June of that year saw Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo finally opening theatrically in Japan, Tokyo in fact, and on a roadshow basis. It was a ten-day stand, "disappointing" at the boxoffice, according to Variety: Viewers expressed dismay over the too obvious fabrication of the Tokyo targets. Others claimed they were duped into thinking it was a new film. No protests or demonstrations otherwise took place. The film had been considered for release in Japan four years earlier, but the idea was scotched after it was screened to local dignitaries. Eihai, the firm who'd bought distribution rights from Metro, hoped Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo would gain wickets altitude at venues outside its premiere city to compensate for the Tokyo freeze.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thirty Seconds Over L.A. --- Part One

Among Greenbriar's favorite briar patches is movies' arrival to television, easily forgotten being fact that way more folks first saw pics there than in theatres. Huge was viewership when a biggie saw network premiere, attitudes then being same as now ... why pay for something you eventually can get free? By the sixties and unleashing of post-48 inventory, we'd for a most part chucked theatre-going in favor of short waits at home. Exhibitors poll of patrons found most assumed movies went tele-way within a year or so of theatre play. That wasn't accurate, but neither was it wide enough of truth to propel bodies off sofas and back into paying mode. The horror that was near-collapse of big screen attendance began when Hollywood backed dump trucks to broadcaster doors in 1956, a year that would live in infamy among showmen bitten by hands they'd been feeding.

Up to then, most features sold to TV were B's, British, or bank-repossessed. Major distribs guarded well their treasure and swore home viewers wouldn't pillage same. Old movies thus went unseen but for reissues and 16mm rental, these representing but a fraction of what vaults hid. It was Howard Hughes what breached walls with December 1955 tender of RKO's backlog to tubes. Blows continued landing on exhibition's solar plexus through a following year. Warners sold its pre-48 library outright that Spring, and by May 1956, 20th Fox was leasing fifty-two from its trophy case for airplay. "TV's Box Score," according to The Motion Picture Herald in June, '56, included 2,628 "first-class" US features available for broadcast, including just announced, and most coveted of all, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's pre-48 library numbering 770.

Loew's, Inc. had studied "very carefully" a surrender to TV since February, according to the Herald, but didn't want to sell the farm as had Warners and RKO, despite fifty million having been offered. Lure of half such a windfall had enmeshed WB/RKO in respective devil's bargaining with Associated Artists and General Tire. Despite $ realized, they'd see but a fraction of what pics would earn once syndicating began in earnest (WB cartoons alone were worth many times what the company took for their entire library). Loew's had dabbled in television with its MGM Parade, what MPH called an "ill-fated" (gone as of May '56) venture in partnership with the ABC network. Feelers were out for network unspooling of Metro oldies, but policy as of then discouraged web reliance on feature pics. NBC was ironclad against using them, while ABC had but dipped toes prime-timing a British package to notable lack of success. Only CBS broke bread with Loew's by leasing The Wizard Of Oz for November 1956 airing, but they'd have none of others from Metro's stash.

Competing Los Angeles Stations Display Their Respective Best Of Hollywood ...

Late Shows Suddenly The Hottest Ticket in Town
From beginnings, Loew's sought control. It wasn't enough merely to lease its library --- the company wanted at least part-ownership of buying stations. Stockholder pressure compelled some sort of parlay with television to compensate loss sustained on MGM theatrical output. The opener deal, much publicized, was with KTTV of Los Angeles, an also-ran independent that had been struggling against network dominance, but no more once ties were bound with Metro. Licensing called for a seven-year term of unlimited play. The parties also agreed that MGM's lion trademark could be used by KTTV for promotional purposes. Metro was mum as to how much the station had paid, but The New York Times estimated between four and five million, kicker being MGM's tender of $1.6 million back to KTTV for one-fourth of its stock. We expect many more deals with similarly strategic outlets in other parts of the country, said Arthur M. Loew.

Markets nationwide coveted MGM's library, the question being how many could meet their price. These fabled Biggest Of Big were conceded to be far and away most desirable of movie groups offered so far. KTTV put together a massive ad assault for 10/12/56's roll-out of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, set for 8:00 to 10:30 PM and interrupted but twice for sponsoring Colgate products, each break held to two minutes. The movie would be shown in its entirety. Variety estimated KTTV sunk $100K into promotion for Thirty Seconds, $20,000 of that going to thirty-seven daily Southern Cal newspapers running half-page ads for the Friday night show, figure exceeds that normally spent when a studio opens a top film in a local first-run, said the trade. Choosing Thirty Seconds for an opener was wise --- it had stars still prominent (Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson, a starting-out Robert Mitchum) plus action and much fond viewer association.

Two-weeks' thumping found all local KTTV personalities using toy lion gimmicks on their shows, according to Billboard, along with MGM-supplied trailers for Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and others of the so-called "Great MGM Library." These are the same trailers originally used by theaters, said Metro field reps targeting buyer stations to help out with ballyhoo. Helicopters went aloft touting Tokyo. Colgate was said to be paying $15,000 per week for commercial time and The Colgate Theatre banner over KTTV Friday evenings for a 1956-57 season (Variety estimated the sponsor's yearly buy at $750,000). KTTV otherwise played off its MGM's at 10:15 weeknights, Colgate participating here as well. Ad rates for these berths were $800 per minute, considerably up from $500 KTTV was getting before. Such was anticipated drawing power of the Mighty Metros.

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo duly went through the roof. KTTV claimed over two million Angelinos sat for part, if not all, of the two-and-a-half-hour event. Billboard called it the most auspicious debut any show has ever had in Los Angeles since it became a seven-station market. Those other six were whipped to standstills --- their combined audience wasn't so great as Tokyo's. Head Metro cheerleader Mickey Rooney said oldies would boom the popularity of vet stars: I contend ... that (Spencer) Tracy is bigger today in L.A. than he was before they ran Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo on KTTV. The New York Times wrote of area theatres suffering an overall drop of about twenty-five percent in attendance, a high and wide estimate that L.A. circuit owners immediately challenged. In fact, said several, business was better on Friday the 12th.

TV producer Dick Powell figured KTTV's two million viewer claim for hooey: We're playing a numbers game and don't know how they come up with the numbers. If Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo captured 54.6% of watchers, that meant four million or so people were home in front of their televisions between 8 and 10:30, and yet, said Dick, there were shoppers on the streets and traffic on the freeways. If Audience Research Bureau figures were accurate, to me, it would mean no stores did any business that night; there would be no traffic --- just about everybody would be home watching TV. Variety and theatre executives researched deeper and found that big-screen biz on the Friday night in question was, in fact, ahead of recent weekends: The damaging wallop that was anticipated would be dealt Los Angeles first-run film boxoffice ... failed to materialize. Warner's Toward The Unknown, in fact, had a particularly big opening that night. Within days, The New York Times acknowledged errors in its initial calculation and said that indeed it was premature to call a winner in the KTTV/MGM vs. theatres contest.

Tokyo fallout lingered, the threat of its success affecting TV series producers as well as theatre-men. Bill Self was a former actor (for MGM, among others) whose Schlitz Playhouse Of Stars "was murdered" (Variety) by Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. We make a show for $30,000, and we're lucky if we get a star. Against this, we face a Metro picture which costs millions and has big names, to which Self darkly added, I think the move is suicidal for the majors too. MGM veteran Sam Zimbalist, whose own producing credits included Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, was reached by Variety's Dave Kaufman for post-broadcast comment: My own emotions were mixed --- I was pulling against the film because it was on TV, and I was very upset because it was so good. Zimbalist was surprised how well Tokyo played after twelve years: Some may say the emotions in the picture were corn, but it was honest corn.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Where Monsters First Walked

Broadway's Rialto Theatre was whole-hog on horror. Owner/manager Arthur Mayer designed the place to showcase mayhem and his entrance drew patronage like flies to a light bulb. Collegiate Mayer kidded Rialto selections, a go-to wit for trade columnists appreciative of this clear genius who didn't take himself, let alone the biz, too seriously. Most chillers world-opened at the Rialto because its staff was hands-down best at promotion. Front and lobbies were laboratories for how-to selling down the line. Ideas that worked best worked first at the Rialto. Distribution/exploitation staff from RKO/Universal H.Q.'s walked mere blocks to see and learn how best to merchandise Bedlam and House Of Frankenstein. Often the two worked in tandem toward most effective monster marketing. What clicked here was figured to do so for customers nationwide.

It's happy days when Rialto front stills surface. Each is art to my palette. Mayer didn't hang displays personally, but vetted final result. There was staff who designed and built ballys, these customized from gaudy sheets of big-head anarchism. Specially built archways loomed over patrons arriving, as here for Bedlam. Mayer took his cue from fairgrounds --- all the venue lacked was sawdust flooring. Folks could enter off the street or walk up from subway platforms. The place exuded more crass than class, Broadway's black sheep of first-runners. I wish I'd been on hand to roll out file cabinets when they closed, as chances are there were photos taken of every campaign done. What can be salvaged from trades has, and will continue to be, posted here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rocketman Is Still King

History counts out the chapter-play after mid-fifties stoppage of production, but parts of the country kept getting them well into a following decade. NC theatres used serials for kiddie mornings until TV's Batman rendered them laughable. The last I found in close-by ad morgues was a 1966 Greensboro run of The Purple Monster Strikes at one house's Sat morn "Circle K Club" meets. There was also Col. Forehand's sentimental journey that same summer with Panther Girl Of The Kongo at the Liberty, a punk sampling, but maybe all he could get by that time. Plenty surreal was watching a PG chapter with latest out of Hammer and AIP, then arrival home in time to catch the week's installment of Mysterious Dr. Satan on Channel 12 out of Winston-Salem, this hosted by genial station personality Bob Gordon, who, being bereft of sponsors, passed arid afternoons teaching us how to make bow ties out of dollar bills, a pointless enterprise as those so flushed would likelier trade the skin for Aurora's latest monster kit.

King Of The Rocketmen had distinction of once playing Channel 12 and a downtown Winston-Salem hard-top at the same time, which must have thrown home viewers (let alone admission payers) for a loop. Now it flies nowhere other than gray-market dealer tables and under (online) radars, a loss ongoing as Rocketman is among super heroism's great low-tech creations. We're misled from main titles, what with King Of The Rocketmen implying armies of same answering to a "king" among them, when it's actually Jeff King in lone possession of the flying suit and except for one chapter, the only cast member to don it. Such was amiable deception practiced by Republic upon fans. Both knew limits of resource available to serials. Gratitude for fanta-crumbs in a barren 40's marketplace would forgive many a shortcut (Republic's reliance on stock footage) and outright cheat (much of what Columbia chapter-plays tendered).

Mid-Sixties Catalog from NTA Offers Republic Serials For Televised Syndication Use

How flight was managed seems childishly simple, so why was just Republic able to achieve effects so well? Part of explanation was brothers named Lydecker who oversaw FX and could make rigged dummies on a wire look like sky-staged ballet. Why couldn't TV's Superman give us as much? Budget crunch diminished all things airborne by a late-40's (and certainly 50's) serial decline, and I'd like knowing just what it did cost to make Rocketman fly. Somewhere I read the whole serial finished at a mere $165K. Block-and-tackle assist got down Jack Mathis' Valley Of The Cliffhangers (still the heaviest book I own) to supply back of camera info. Turns out Republic's major concern was possible Rocketman overlap on characters having taken prior wing, including Superman, Captain Marvel, and others of super humanity's brotherhood.

Republic's rocket suit is stripped down to barest essential ... just a flight jacket, back-strapped propulsion cones, and a bullet-shaped helmet (or, as Ann refers to it, a galvanized bucket). Operation is simplicity itself. There's up, down, slow, and fast, a concept youngest watchers understood and imagined they could master. Therein lies much of Rocketman's eternal appeal. His fans grew up to recreate the costume (in minute detail) and build models for display at sci-fi and serial cons. I wonder how many amateur Rocket remakes were done on 8mm. Tristram Coffin played Jeff King. He also did single line character work, often uncredited, for the majors when not soaring off at Republic (Tris is glimpsed in The Fountainhead, released within months of starring as Rocketman). A 1976 cowboy clutch in Nashville found me elevator riding beside TC with ample time for him to sign the Chapter One lobby card I'd brought. Could he have imagined in 1949 that Rocketman would confer him immortality?

Like many previous chapter-thrillers, King Of The Rocketmen dabbled in kooky science. There are explanations, given in haste, of what power varied death rays possess and how one might level a major city. The "decimator" is KOTR's locus of conflict. Rocketman Jeff has it and Doctor Vulcan wants it. Momentum flows thus for twelve installments at thirteen minutes apiece, Republic serials having shrunk appreciably since a war's end and a peacetime curb on spending. This decimator is a device powered by double-talk, or more specifically, "high-frequency thromium waves radiating through the coil resister." I Google'ed thromium to see if there is such a thing. Apparently, it does have something to do with atomic power. One of the links was in Chinese, so it's possible I've stumbled onto top secrets and now they'll have to liquidate me.

There's no better fortification for serial heroes (or villains) than autos they drive. All look like tanks. Tris pops the trunk and suits up, then stunt magician Dave Sharpe bounces off the trampoline and away Rocketman goes. Most fisticuffing is between Tris/Jeff and revolving henchmen, his alter-ego helmet making it near impossible for heavies to get a decent lick at Rocketman. The latter's great in flight, but slugging aground tends toward the awkward, one of myriad reasons far-out costuming could hobble a hero. Doctor Vulcan, unmasked during the next to final chapter (itself an anomaly), scores total victory in #12 by flooding New York City with the stolen decimator, perhaps the only cliffhanger occasion where a criminal mastermind not only achieves his nefarious goal, but surpasses it. NY's destruction is conveyed by way of knockout footage borrowed from 1933's independently produced Deluge. Republic had used the segment before and knew it would make a stunner pay-off for King Of The Rocketmen, but what of their title character's failure to stop the calamity in time ... did youngsters circa '49 figure Gotham had it coming?

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Back In The Art Shop

Been trolling theatre ads again, a habit ingrained since kindergarten (I used to paste them on the front of the family hi-fi ... what sense did that make?). Each tell a story, no two are alike, and there's not a better indicator of selling policy in towns small or big. Speaking of which, the mid-west Mystic wish-fulfilled 1935 patrons by hosting the alleged still living badman Jesse James four times daily at fifteen cents tops (Bob Ford having back-shot him was the bunk). Would you pay a nickel times three to see Jesse finally emerge after hiding out fifty-one years? I'll say I would! Depression rurals revered bandits among them, finding much to admire in John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, others. Were movies (specifically newsreels of the day) to blame for making folk heroes of such criminal element? No telling how many ersatz Jesses toured through the first half of the century, each answering a need folks felt to reclaim the bandit what make chumps of still hated banks and railroads.

(Long) before there was football on television, the only way you'd catch grid action was on movie screens, and games rousing wide enough interest might even merit top-of-bill placement, as here. I dug around the net for data on the Chateau's featured Minnesota-Washington match-up, a hotly anticipated clash for sure, as Minnesota had gone undefeated for twenty-four games prior (back-to-back national titles in '34/35) and Washington was regarded as formidable. Here was a contest worthy of two reels commemoration, sport mavens having pored over the weeks' newspaper details of the Golden Gophers (Minnesota) victory. And Last Of The Mohicans turned out to be pretty good for a chaser. Might have been fun at that to watch football highlights in a crowded house, even if I never bothered over the game beyond catching ends of televised fourth quarters to see if Charlotte's Channel 9 might fill in the last hour's balance with a Laurel and Hardy (which often they did).

Well, here it is 1950 and we're still chasing pigskins. "Big-Screen Theater Television" was oft-rival to the free box at home, but suffered grievous in comparison with crisp 35mm projection. Customers wondered why images looked so rotten, gripes frequent enough to doom wide-spreading of TV in auditoria. Large-screen sets have only recent achieved quality-enough levels to compete with theatres, reason why so many have settled permanently at home to watch movies (me included). Once again, film noir we call classic fills a crowded bill to first-run patronage, this time in Chicago. Minus a first-rank star lead, thrillers like Panic In The Streets needed at least a co-feature to sweeten pots. Here it's football plus on-the-fade Mickey Rooney in another of his independents, The Fireball, supplied by distributing 20th Fox to prop up Panic, the latter ultimately leaving $312K of Fox's red ink in the streets.

Here's a fairly nutty early-60's bid to recover some of the loss from Alfred Hitchcock's circa 1949 Under Capricorn. You'd figure the title was "Murder Will Out" short of closer perusal, this being, of course, the merchandiser's whole idea. But note smaller print ... the distributor is "First Division Pictures, Inc." of a re-release "by Balboa Film Distributors." Quite a thicket so far as rights-holding. Of all matured Hitchcocks, Under Capricorn is the one we see least nowadays (there was a DVD from Image in 2003). Wonder if Ingrid Bergman enjoyed being tendered as "A Woman Driven By The Demons Of Hell" (though some would say Rossellini was nearly that). This ad being for a Los Angeles engagement splashed all over their papers, there's at least possibility she came across it. As to money's worth or not, I'd have gladly sat for Under Capricorn plus Some Came Running even at risk of a numbed rear-end resulting from the bill's 254 minute run time.

The Joie was an Arkansas house, tucked the Lord-knows-where in 1933 backwoods when Disgraced! arrived to afford glimpse of high and low life urbanites knew. How many locals would have gladly traded ginghams for chic outerwear such as Helen Twelvetrees dons while sipping precode champagne with Bruce Cabot? "Double Crossed By The Double Standard" was effective bait for the hook wherever you dropped it --- makes me want to see Disgraced! right now (but where?). The Joie's stage show is the ringer --- a Hollywood Fashion Revue tied in with a local clothing merchant and Photoplay magazine to display "exact copies of the dresses worn by Helen Twelvetrees and Adrienne Ames ... on living models." All this plus recital staged by presumed local "Dorothy's School Of The Dance." A quarter bought the whole show before 6:00, a whale of a bargain today, but less so perhaps in Depression-socked Arkansas where as much would have near filled a bag, if small, of groceries.

Finally, another bid to pry patronage away from televisions. This was early 1951 and every effort was made to differentiate moviegoing from the home-viewer experience. The social aspect of theatre patronage was now being emphasized. Be A Part Of It! After all, The Audience Is The Thing That Adds To The Enjoyment Of A Movie. We know there's truth in that, having watched favorites in solitude and with a crowd. The crucial difference between us and those of Golden Age attendance was fact they saw nearly everything in groups, often as not large ones. My encounters with Dallas (a favorite) have been lone from the beginning. How much more would I enjoy it with eight hundred folks sharing? We imagine having it made with DVD and streams off the Net, but I'd trade all that to walk into packed sites of yore where these pics really came to life.

(4/7 --- 12:50 pm) Reader Allen Hollis just sent along the above photo of the Joie Theatre, 1933 host to Disgraced!, along with explanation of its whereabouts and further info: The Joie Theatre was in Ft. Smith, AR and lived from 1921 to about 1954 when a fire backstage ended its life. Though locally owned most of the time, Malco Theatres operated it the last five years of its existence, it was part of the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit in the 20’s and also had stage shows in the 1940’s, but was a first class, first run theatre through the 30’s and 40’s. Thanks a lot for the image and data, Allen!
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