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Friday, April 12, 2019

Another Ad To Sum Up The Business

Castle Management Gives Us What We Want

The best of theatre ads reflected the character of folk that designed them. A manager's philosophy of what a show should be was reflected by how he sold it. Here is 1922 laying out of elements needed to make a good program. After ninety-five years, I think it still holds. Those closest to a paying audience knew best what was wanted in exchange for admission. "The story, the backgrounds, the acting, the humor" --- well, that was "everything" by Castle Theatre reckoning. "A real picture for real people" sums up what movies should be, then or now, because "real people" are the ones that return profit. A crass and philistine policy to many perhaps, but the man who embraced it kept meat on his family's table, and what really mattered beyond that? Clown-face Larry Semon understood, so well in fact that he drew his own image to accompany the Castle's ad. Larry put being an artist second to pleasing the mob with slapstick unnerving for even a 20's public inured to roughest of play. The Sawmill is around, here/there and You Tube. Semon looks as though he's being killed in every shot. Should we rebrand the 20's as the era for taking punishment? Watching comedy like this makes me think yes. And fights! I like how this ad makes a sentence of it --- Fights! Preferably "rattling good ones." I'll guess that House Peters as The Man From Lost River is itself lost now, like so much else of the period. Even a "most powerful and red-blooded" show had little defense against nitrate decay and changed tastes.

6 Comments:

Blogger Unknown said...

People today can just google for yesterday we had to pay big bucks for. Did we value it more? Yes, I think we did. We re living in a golden age like no other for access to materials that just fifty years ago were near impossible to acquire. Thought of that while I googled up THE SAWMILL.

5:57 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

No mention of "The Art of Selling Movies"? One of my favorites from that was from the 1950s, when one showman felt the need to enhance an ad for "Love in the Afternoon" with art of Gary Cooper in gunslinger garb.

I grew up in an age when copy was terse, except for big first-run shows, and even those ads were studio crafted with review quotes. A weird exception was "Murder by Decree", a 1979 Sherlock Holmes movie with a supposedly factual solution to the Jack the Ripper murders. A long paragraph, full of spoilers, pushed the line that this was no mere period pic but the real historical dirt on Jack. Some years before, an art house run of "Hound of the Baskervilles" had a blurb positioning it as a long-suppressed precode, referencing the then-bestselling "Seven Percent Solution".

The second-run houses, in their crowded daily ads, would offer a tiny halftone logo from the press book, sometimes with a second under the words BIG CO-HIT. In Morgan Hill, maybe a half hour from the big Century domes in San Jose, the modest Granada would offer a monthly calendar on colored paper, laying out two and three-day runs in similar manner. No additional copy, although our vicar received one with a hand-written apology from the theater owner during a month with a lot of R-ratings.

Except for art / revival houses, most theaters today treat the films themselves as pre-sold. Ads and marquees emphasize showtimes and price ("All Seats $6 Before 4PM"). Art / revival houses, showing less publicized fare, still pass out newsletters with stills and descriptions.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Those month long schedules have never worked for me. People posted them on their fridge, marked the ones they'd like to see and came to none.

I found the best way was and is to keep the cards close to my vest so people have to pay attention.

Now with Blu-ray, dvd, vhs and the internet where everything can be downloaded I developed theme programs that can't be bought or downloaded.

People always (with, naturally, a few exceptions) responded favorably to my talks with the films. The things that are unique to us are what sets us apart. Been at this since the mid-1960s. Love the people I meet through my work. Learn a lot from them.

5:59 PM  
Blogger TodBrowning said...

As someone who learned about silent movies from books, I have a question. How did the above mention Larry pronounce his last name. Did it rhyme with Lemon (short e) or Seaman (long e)?

11:57 AM  
Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

Tod, long e.

11:43 AM  
Blogger TodBrowning said...

That's how I always referred to him, but was brought up short by a rather patronizing blogger who insisted that it rhymed with "lemon."

11:47 AM  

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