The Moving picture world (October 1922)

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October 21, 1922 MOVING PICTURE WORLD 663 Karzin's "Bulge" on Circus Man Got Him His Start as Exhibitor Founded World Dream onOdeon's Harvest of Nickels and Pennies N a crisp, sunny day in Oc- tober, 1905, Harry Miller stood in front of Miller Broth- ers' Nickel Odeon, 1528 Market street, St. Louis, and watched the frantic crowd trying to get in and out of his 120-seat picture palace through a single store-door entrance. He saw a number of would-be patrons pass up the pleasure of depositing their jitney to see the single reel of thrillers because they couldn't successful- ly buck the line. And then, for the stenth time, Miller invaded the precincts of the adjoining restaurant to induce "that Greek" to sell his lease and move another door east so that Miller Brothers could open a penny ar- cade exit for the Odeon. "That Greek" was a business man. Although the class of pa- trons that the Odeon, under the Miller management, was attract- ing hurt his restaurant business, he didn't admit it to Harry. Of- fers to pay all his moving ex- penses and refund him the dif- ference in the rent of the two stores proved unavailing. They argued pro and con for many minutes. Principally con. Finally the restaurant proprietor suggested that Miller take him in as a partner on the nickel odeon and penny arcade venture. Miller at last agreed to the prop- osition and that is how John Karzin, present owner of the Ca- sino, Olympia and Lincoln The- atres, St. Louis, and dean of the St. Louis exhibitors^ entered the film game. Miller previously had worked for J. Goldgrabber, the first man to open a movie in the Mound City. Goldgrabber started the World's Fair year, 1904, operating a 90-seat house on the north side of Franklin avenue between Broadway and Sixth street. Later he opened another "pic- ture palace" on Sixth street. Karzin put up $750 for a half interest in Miller Brothers' Nickel Odeon and the new penny arcade. They rented 150 penny machines from John McAllister on a 60-40 basis and went to work. During the winter they did a nice business, sometimes crowding 250 to 300 patrons into their 120-seat house, while they reaped a harvest in pennies as the movie fans were shoed out of the odeon through the arcade- It was an ideal arrangement. Miller was a circus man and in the spring the call of the tan- bark and elephants proved too much and he took to the road, leaving Karzin to operate the picture show. But no provision was made for a salary. John did all the work, put up half the cap- ital and got but the same profits as Miller, who was looking after his other business interests. Karzin protested. He thought he ought to get some compensa- They're Off! Mr. Karzin's is the first nomination for the honor of being recognized as the oldest exhibitor, in years of service), in the country. His film career began in 1905. Who do you sug'gest as the Daddy of Them All? Come one, come all. tion. Miller was astounded. Wasn't Miller Brothers' name over the door worth something. He was a showman ; Karzin only a fryer of eggs and biscuits. But John thought otherwise. When Miller returned from the road in the fall, Karzin renewed his demands for wages. He worked from 8 a. m. to 12 mid- night daily. He politely informed Miller that unless he got some- thing he would open a house of his own and let Miller arrange for a new manager. Miller laughed and told him to go to it. John did. On October 17, 1906, he opened the World Dream, a 140-folding chair house, at 1413 Market street. Standing room was provided for 200 additional spectators. Miller was furious, but Karzin pointed out that his partner had other business in- terests. So they arranged to em- ploy a manager to conduct the Miller Brothers' Nickel Odeon while Karzin devoted all his time to the World Dream. The latter house got the cream of the Mar- ket street business and its re- ceipts steadily increased, while the old house slipped backward. In 1908 Karzin decided to ex- pand. He went to Springfield, 111., and opened the Casino The- atre in a store room at 621 East Washington street. His rent was $90 a month, while he paid $4 for a rented piano and $8 for chairs. His operator also acted as janitor and received $12 a week. His cashier received $3.50 weekly and the piano player, the "orchestra," $8. Karzin had to educate Spring- field to pictures. It was a hard uphill struggle, but he sowed his seeds well and today the Illinois capital is regarded as one of the best movie cities of its size in the country. During his opening week his receipts ran $3, $3.14 and $4 a day, while Saturday set a record with $9. Film for the Springfield house cost Karzin nothing. In those days the exchanges were not so strict, keeping but a slight record of reels taken out and not caring much how often a film was shown so long as it was eventually re- turned. So when John bought a reel for his "World Dream" he later took it out to Springfield for the Casino. Karzin recalls those early days with much amusement. Original- ly he rented his film from Eugene Klein at Chicago, paying $25 a week for service and once or twice $35. It included four reels daily. Today he pays $150 a day for features for the Casino. The old operator cost $12 a week. Now he must employ two oper- ators at $50 a week each. When O. T. Crawford opened his exchange in St. Louis with eleven single reels, Karzin trans- ferred his patronage but again returned to Klein because Craw- ford opened an opposition odeon to the World Dream. Later, Bill Swanson opened a branch in St. Louis and in 1908 Wagner Broth- ers and the Western Film Com- pany opened exchanges. Karzin says that in those days an ex- hibitor walked into an exchange, examined the list of subjects on display and picked out enough to Old-Time Fronts In our search for the oldest exhibitor in point of continuous service, we have dug up a rarity in photos of the old theatres run by John Karzin, of St. Louis, including the World Dream Theatre, then the only exclusively picture house in St. Louis; the first "nickleodeon" to pioneer for the wonderful structures now stand- ing. In 1906 this was a fine theatre, but times have changed since then. Other pictures are included in the list, and through the courtesy of Mr. Karzin these will be published in an early issue. Don't miss this feature. It will take you back to those good old days when the "manager" was also ballyhoo man and puller-in, and perhaps sang the "ill. song" as well. Exploitation in those days was a mechanical organ or player piano and the "feature" running more than 1,000 feet was apt to be sent back to the exchange as being too long. Can you re- member the row they raised when Edison put out "Frankenstein" in nearly 1,200 feet, and was accused of trying to grab off an addi- tional $20 from the exchanges? Maybe next week, but anyhow, pretty soon.—S. S. complete a reel, which a girl pieced together. In 1908 he sold the World Dream and concentrated his ef- forts in Springfield. He pre- viously had disposed of his inter- ests in the odeon-arcade to Harry Miller, who closed the place sev- eral weeks later. It was in 1908 that Gus Kera- sotas, present owner of the Strand and Roy^l Theatres, Springfield, III., entered the movies. He was running a candy store in that city when Karzin approached him to become inter- ested in a new theatre he planned building at 204 South Sixth street. Kerasotas consented, and that year the Royal Theatre opened its doors. It was a handsome house, with marble front and nice statues in the lobby, and represented an in- vestment of $6,000. Later, when Karzin learned that an opposition house was planned in the vicinity of the Casino, he stole a march on his would-be competitors by opening a new house himself, known as the Bijou, at 724 East Washington street. He operated it for eight or nine months, los- ing $2,500 on the venture. He ex- plained that he wanted it to prove a failure to convince oth- ers there wasn't room for two houses in that vicinity. The Casino burned down in 1909 but was rebuilt as a 220-seat house, opera chairs being in- stalled while the walls were beau- tifully decorated and the front entrance finished in marble. In 1912, Al Bernstein opened the Capitol Theatre, with 500 seats, four doors west of the Casinc Theatre. Karzin was afraid that this opposition house would put him out of business, but, instead, his patronage was increased. He later disposed of his Springfield houses at a handsome profit. On February 2, 1912, he met William Tamme, owner of the Casino Theatre, 1624 Market street, who announced he was looking for a buyer for that house. Karzin agreed to pay $1,200 for the theatre and $300 for the lease and Tamme con- sented. John spent an additional $1200 in improving the house. William Flynn owned the Royal Theatre directly across the street but refused to sell, holding out for $10,000. But under Kar- zin the Casino's business mounted upward while the Royal steadily lost money. On December 23, 1912, Flynn sold the Royal to Karzin for $800. That same year Karzin leased the Easton-Taylor Theatre, a vaudeville house, and converted it into a picture theatre. In 1914 he built the Majestic Theatre on Franklin avenue at a cost of $22,000. This house is op- erated by the McKinley Amuse- ment Company in which Karzin is still interested. Karzin inter- (Continued en following page)