Motion Picture News (Jan-Feb 1922)

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375 January y , 1922 Cohen Calls tor Concerted Action in Solving Problems of Screen yj Would Have All Branches of Industry Unite in 1922 to Remedy Evils I N a letter addressed to William A. Johnston, editor of Motion Picture News, this week, Sydney S. Cohen, president of the Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America, points out the need of co-operation on the part of all divisions of the motion-picture industry in solving the problems of the screen, calls for some helpful stock taking on the eve of the New Year with a view to effect reduced picture costs, voices a plea for the elimination of : profitless advertising, emphasizes once more the influential position of the exhibitor in relation to the screen's public, and concludes with a denunciation of any and all efforts to create a monopoly in any of the branches of the industry. Mr. Cohen’s i letter to Mr. Johnston follows : “ Dear Sir: “ On the eve of the New Year, permit ; me to congratulate you on the constructive policy evidenced in recent editorials in your paper. I am satisfied such work, if followed up, will advantage the industry as a whole. “ The work of the Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America has always been to give the fullest possible measure of proi tection to the exhibitor and safeguard in every practical way the interests of the entire industry. “ The suggestions you make of lines of co-operation between the different elements of the motion picture business, should be received with favor by all concerned. Looking into the future as the year 1922 approaches, there are many matters of concern to our industry which will require us to present a united front. We must stand against the agencies and the processes formed and designed for the ; purpose of driving the motion picture the! atre out of business. “ Take one of the principal events set down for 1922 : the Censorship Referendum in Massachusetts. That affects the ' entire nation. The people of MassachusI etts will vote upon the question of a censor board to handle motion pictures. Already a strong organization has been formed in Massachusetts by those who are opposed I to our industry. We must meet that situation there, beat censorship, and in that way strengthen our situation all over the nation. If censorship meets with the favor of the people of Massachusetts, it will give a ! great impetus to this un-American embargo on motion pictures in the nation. “ Then there are certain interests in New Jersey, Ohio and other states who are advocating all manner of restrictions on the motion picture theatres and have accumulated millions of dollars with which to carry on their propagandas. “ I hope the need for effective defen sive organization will appeal to the men of vision among the producers and distributors of motion pictures. We are opposed to all efforts tending to trustify the industry, but we are prepared at all times to co-operate fully with any and all other branches of the industry in defending our common interests against foes from without, as well as in the effort to adjust amicably any differences of opinion which may exist on the inside. We stand always for helpful co-operation. Because of the exhibitors close association with the public and constituting the only outlet for the producers’ product, an organization of exhibitors is always essential, first, as a positive measure of protection to the exhibitor and, then to stabilize the industry by checking all menacing tendencies, and securing the necessary measure of public confidence. “ It is of the utmost importance that something definite be done to help all exhibitors during these trying times of depression. Many theatres are closed now and more will close unless the prices of pictures are reduced. Reasonable men in the business must realize that exhibition values must be reduced if the industry is to survive. There may be a few people in the producing division who see a chance to make big money on some forced break in our business, if they can be the wreckers and control the salvage processes, butr that kind of criminal folly does not appeal to sensible people who appreciate the ever growing importance of the motion picture and the danger to the American public of anything like a centralized control. “ Every person connected with this industry must recognize that, no matter how personal some elements of advantage may appear to them, there are certain fundamental features which must be safeguarded or the industry as a whole will suffer. We must get together on these phases and act as a unit. This can be done. You and others similarly situated can aid this line of necessary co-operation very much. Ours is a great business, with a future so tremendous as to challenge the attention and admiration of thinking men and women all over the world. Those in present charge of the different divisions of the motion picture industry must measure up to the high public and business obligations their positions impose upon them. Unless they do this the industry must certainly cut loose from them or they will drag it down. This we cannot and will not permit. All producers are impersonal to us. We aim only to protect the exhibitor and the industry. “ Beginning a new year affords proper occasion for some helpful stock taking. There are many conditions associated with the motion picture business which must be changed. Our business admits of the application of the Golden Rule, the same as any other line of endeavor. We are all fullgrown, with adult minds, and manifest injustices and rapacious practices of all kinds upon our business must be forced into the discard. When we apply the Golden Rule, it must be so fixed that it will carry advantages to all concerned and not be ‘'golden” for a few and just a mere “ rule ” for the many. “ Extravagance and w^ste can be set aside and much of the antiquated machinery of production and distribution, now ruinously costly, must be scrapped. An honest, open policy with fair contract provisions all down the line, must supplant the present secret, deceptive and unsatisfactory process forced upon the industry by certain producing and distributing elements. Their plans are easily discerned, even though laid in seeming secrecy, and they are tooling no one, though injuring all and threatening the very life of the industry. Plain talk may help them see the error of their way in time. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars are expended annually in advertising processes which yield no returns and constitute a needless charge upon the Industry. Correspondence received from exhibitors at the National Office of the Motion Pic_ ture Theatre Owners of America, and the persdnal observations made by myself and others on organizing and convention trips, prove conclusively that advertising placed in some National trade papers is absolutely worthless. One trade paper especially, the editor of which is foolishly assuming a proprietary control of the publicity field, is practically useless to the producer as an advertising medium. I am interested in this matter, as President of the Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America, because the exhibitor is paying this bill as all costs are tacked on to the price of the picture. Hence, I feel this needless waste of money should be stopped. Producers profit only on advertising in trade papers read by exhibitors where such perusal leads to the acceptance of pictures they would not otherwise take. Unless this occurs, the money spent on any particular advertisement is wasted. It is of no value for the producer to read his own advertisement or that of some other manufacturer, or for the editor of the paper to read it. That sells no picture and brings no results. The exhibitor (the purchasing power) must read it and consider it favorably, and that alone makes the situation profitable. ■“It is not claimed that the public gen( Continued on page 380)