Picture-Play Magazine (Mar-Aug 1926)

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The Movies Conquer New Worlds of Money "The Four Horsemen" has earned "The Covered Wagon" is expected to equal "The Ten Commandments," the greatest approximately $5,000,000. the record of "The Four Horsemen. " money maker to date, may yield $6,000,000. in the $1,000,000 class, including, among others, "The Mark of Zorro," "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," "The Old Nest," "The Three Musketeers," the Harold Lloyd pictures "Girl Shy" and "Hot Water," and his newer film "The Freshman," Gloria Swanson's "Manhandled" and "The Humming Bird," Syd Chaplin's "Charley's Aunt," and First National's "The Lost World." Of the present season's attractions, "Stella Dallas," "The Big Parade," "Don Q," "The Sea Beast," "A Viennese Medley," "The Pony Express," "The Merry Widow," "Little Annie Rooney," and one or two others, are being hailed as probable million-dollar attractions ; and judging from their reception where they have already been released, they will not disappoint their producers. What explains this grip that the cinema has got on the more or less nimble dollar during the past several seasons? Wherein do the money -making possibilities of pictures, at least of big pictures, differ from what they were a few years ago? Mere natural growth, of course, does not completely answer this. There are certain conditions whichseemingly have brought about the amazing expansion. A few years ago, when pictures were made at an average outlay of $50,000 to $100,000— this for the better class of films — a producer considered himself lucky if he could count on a definite return ranging from $100,000 to $200,000. The theaters in which pictures were shown were in most cases small, and many of the cheaper productions failed to return this figure, but at the same time, there was occasionally one that far surpassed these expectations. Until five or six years ago, the pictures that had cost more than $100,000 could almost be counted on the fingers of two hands. D. W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" actually cost only $100,000, while "Intolerance," which barely returned enough money to cover expenses cost $350,000 and was considered a monumental extravagance. To-day, the really big feature seldom costs less than $500,000. There are just as many pictures made for $100,000 as in the past, but there is also a greater percentage of "specials," so called, which must return close to a million dollars to show a clearance. In the old days, practically every big feature was played as a road show. That is, theaters were especially engaged for the screening of the film, under the direct supervision of the producer, and he took his share of the profits after paying the rent, advertising charges, and so forth. All other pictures were released through the regular distribution channels so called — that is, they were rented to theaters for so much a week or a day, depending on the length of the run, and the theater owner, instead of the producer, took whatever share of the profits was left over after he had paid for the film, the upkeep of the theater, the salaries and the musicians and ushers, and the necessary splurge of advertising, provided he advertised at all. "Ben-Hur" must bring in $10,000,000 "Way Down East" was one of the first pic "Over the Hill" was another picture to be really profitable. tures to exceed $2,000,000 in earning power. said to have earned $2,000,000.