The Exhibitor (1961)

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Pakistan Market Better For U.S. Films LONDON Observations by Jock MacGregor THERE ARE HAPPY FACES around film row. Exhibitors are smiling. The reason? A couple of young men — America’s Elvis Presley, Britain’s Cliff Richards. Despite the weather, “Blue Hawaii” has been big, big, making even the mighty take of “G.I. Blues” look a little puny. Mind you. once one had dared the elements and made the theatre, those magnificent sun drenched. Technicolored South Sea settings provided a wonderful escape from the fog, frost, and slush of the English winter. Even more phenomenal has been the success of Cliff Richards. His British CinemaScope mus’cale in Technicolor, “The Young Ones,” has staggered the staidest veteran on its pre-re¬ lease showings. A domestic distributors’ gross of at least 400,000 pounds maybe even the mythical half million, is anticioated for the initial release. It has made break figures look unrealistic. In one theatre where the manager feels he has had a darned good week if he passes 1200 pounds ($3380), it extended 3000 pounds for its second week. Now this Associated British production, before it has even nlayed the ABC London release theatres, has been booked to play the “third release” houses shortly afterwards — an unprece¬ dented move. Associated British are not risking a thing in their efforts to make this the tops. They are backing it with their biggest campaign. There is hardly a radio or tv program which could which does not carry regular mention of it. And what ingredients they have had to sell. Cliff Richards is one of Britain’s top show biz personalities. Three of the 14 songs are already in the “top ten.” The advance sales of the star singing the title song achieved a monumental $75,000 — more than double the previous record. The disc is tops on the Hit Parade and looks like staying there for a long time. Both pictures have much in common. They star pop singers. The emphasis is on youth. Even if the stories are a trifle corny, the films are fresh, friendly, and above all clean, whole¬ some family entertainments of the type which too many producers in their search for new angles on the kitchen sink are forgetting. Basically, audiences have not changed much over the years. Actually, there is little new about these subjects, but the ingredients have been given a contemporary gloss, wide screens, Technicolor, music with an up-to-date beat, and, above all, virile and gay young artists. Not so happy has been the reception afforded “Babes in Toyland.” It has been replaced at Studio One by the umpteenth revival of Disney’s “Fantasia.” On release, it fared no better. SIR PHILIP WARTER in announcing a 10 per cent interim dividend on Associated British Picture Corporation ordinary stock (allowing for bonus issue, this is the equivalent of last year’s) warned that the record profits achieved in the second half last year cannot be re¬ peated. Financial experts suggest that this results from the actors’ strike affecting viewing and thereby reducing advertising revenue. (Saturday viewers on commercial tv were privi¬ leged to see the Boultings’ long forgotten pre-war second feature “Inquest.”) . . . Nat Cohen is reported as being in negotiation for the Arts Theatre Club to convert to a cinema club. . . . Sometimes I suspect that a different film is shown to the critics or that it is vastly changed by the time it is premiered a few nights later! The reactions of the scribes and the guests are often completely opposed. It was not the proverbial good manners of the guest that were responsible for the warm reception afforded “My Geisha” on its world premiere at the Plaza. A first class entertainment had inspired it. The newspaper reviews in the main were only luke warm. . . . Home work! With a copy of Par Lagerkvist’s “Barabbas” came a note from Columbia: “We would not ask you to prejudge this film ... we would be most appreciative, however, if, based on your reading of the book, you would comment upon the matter of the dissemination of this provocative story to hundreds of millions of people, through the medium of motion pictures.” With that happy thought, I must stop writing im¬ mediately and get reading. British Filmgoing Trends LONDON — Total cinema admissions for 1961 have been provisionally estimated by the Board of Trade at slightly in excess ol 460 million, a reduction of 11 per cent on the final 1960 estimate of 521 million. Gross box office takings are provisionally put at slightly under 61 million pounds sterling, a fall of nearly seven per cent from the 1960 figure of 65.4 million. Commercial cinemas declined during the year from some 3,050 to something under 2,800. Seek U.S. Production Hike HOLLYWOOD — Ways of increasing Ameri¬ can film production here, and reducing the number produced abroad, will be the topic of discussion Feb. 1 when representatives of the AMPP meet with members of the IATSE. The meeting, announced by Charles S. Boren, AMPP vice-president; and George Flaherty, IATSE president, originally sought an earlier date so proposals could be sub¬ mitted to the U.S. Congress before it recon¬ vened, but adequate plans could not be made. Poole Joins Rank LONDON — By mutual arrangement, Frank S. Poole, 20th-Fox assistant general sales manager, has resigned to take up a similar post with Rank Film Distributors, announces Fred Thomas. RFD is handling the Rank product, U-I pictures, Samuel Bronston’s “El Cid" and “55 Days at Peking,” Joe Levene’s “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and continental and Mexican releases. General D-l Names Spiess BOSTON — General Drive-In Corporation has announced the appointment of Howard W. Soiess as assistant to general manager Melvin R. Wintman. Spiess will be in charge of theatre and concession operations. SW Declares Dividend NEW YORK — The board of directors of Stanley Warner Corporation has declared a dividend of 30 cents per share on the com¬ mon stock payable Feb. 23 to stockholders of record Feb. 8. NEW YORK — Pakistan has long been an important market for US films in Asia. Dur¬ ing the past year the industry has had to over¬ come many problems in this area, but Charles E. Egan, MPEAA representative covering Pakistan, sees the situation improving under that government’s current five-year plan. The year 1961 has been one of tension and crises so far as the importation of American films into Pakistan is concerned. From it, how¬ ever, has emerged an agreement with the Pakistan Government permitting the MPEAA companies to import a total of 210 feature films, plus shorts and newsreels, during the period from Oct. 1, 1961 to Sept. 30. 1962. To understand the sharp variations in atti¬ tude toward the American industry and which have been particularly trying the last year, one must appreciate the extremely vola tile nature of public opinion in Pakistan. Foreign motion picture interests have ah had difficulties in arranging for a continuing flow of films into Pakistan. Restrictive edicts which upset the normal handling of imported films are announced without previous warn¬ ings and the marketing of films, calculated on one basis, is handicapped by an entirely new set of conditions This problem was highlighted during the last year when Pakistan announced early in the year that the tariff on all imported pic¬ tures was doubled. In view of the fact that exporters of films frequently were out of pocket on the old tariff of 12 paisa per foot, the advance to 25 paisa per foot and a con¬ sequent increase in the sales tax (levied at 20 per cent of the combined total of the film’s cost and freight charges plus duty) compelled exporters to suspend shipments. Through the intercession of MPEAA, aided by the outcries of owners of Pakistan cin¬ emas, the duty was first reduced to 20 paisa per foot and was later brought down to 15 paisa a foot where it now rests. Efforts are continuing to have the 20 per cent sales tax on films rescinded. A feature of the past year has been the government’s agreement to establish a single censorship board (its headquarters are in Rawalpindi) whose rulings will hold good for the entire country. Up until this year there were three boards each acting independently of the others and having jurisdiction over the specified section of the country. There was a censor board in Karachi, another in Lahore, and a third in Dacca, East Pakistan. Under the new regulation a single fee of 40 rupees per thousand for features and 10 rupees per thousand feet for shorts is imposed for the entire country. Pakistan has a population of 93,800,000 peoDle. Although backward economically its economy is showing considerable improve¬ ment under the leadership of President Ayub Khan. According to a studv bv the U.S. Depart¬ ment of Commerce, Pakistan’s balance-ofpayments position at the end of June 1960 showed a surolus of $5,700,000. This figure corrmares with deficits of $65,700,000 and $56,000,000, respectively, in the fiscal years 1959 and 1958. Attendance at motion picture theatres throughout the country is growing, and as the prosoerity induced through the country’s second five-year plan, which calls for an ex¬ penditure of $4,800,000,000 in the five years from July 1, 1960. to June 30, 1965, begins to be felt more widely, new cinemas and higher attendance figures can be expected. 14 MOTION PICTURE EXHIBITOR January 31, 1962