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January 20, 1940
SHOWMEN'S TRADE REVIEW
Your Battle Too!
In various sections of the country mud'sHnging orators spill their venom on the motion picture industry. Sur' prising as it may seem, the local theatremen, not only do nothing about it but actually seem to derive a lot of fun and pleasure out of seeing the industry which gives them their bread and butter being maligned and crucified.
Any spouting aimed at this industry will always find a welcome audience. Given a little encouragement, it can easily end up in some organi2,ed form of resentment against the whole industry and the local movie theatres as well. When nothing is done to counteract the adverse spouting, the general impression among those who lis' tened is that everything said was true. And thus is re cruited another regiment of industry 'censors.
Many times since the inception of this pubHcation seven years ago, we advocated an agency to counteract and answer at its source the mud-slinging thrown at this industry. The direct way of handling this is for the local theatremen to acquant the counter'acting agency with advance information about so'called forums, lectures, etc., against motion pictures, and failing that, to send them newspaper reports after the forum so that some intelligent answer in defense of the industry can be planted by the local theatremen with the newspapers of the community.
Only through coordinated effort can the wave of resentment and mud-slinging against the industry be met and answered intelligently so that the public will know the true facts and not the distorted nonsense they hear from the rostrum of some, so-called forum which, in reality, is nothing but a soap-box for the rantings of some misguided or disgruntled person or persons.
Fight fire with fire. But, for Heaven's sake, don't let these harmful propagandists go unanswered.
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From advance indications and various rumors from the coast, it becomes more than mere conversation that several of the important major studios will cut their output below forty pictures for next season.
Curtailment of product is bound to result in a better quality if only for the simple and sensible reason that many story properties of questionable box office values will not have to be pushed into production for the purpose of maintaining a top-heavy production schedule.
Should the balance of the major studios follow suit, it will definitely bring about a radical change in policy in many theatres throughout the country. The theatres first affected will be those now operating on a double feature
policy but with any curtainment of product they will have to switch some of their playing time to a single policy.
Several reasons have been attributed to the report about product curtailment. Some claim it is because of the possibility of the Neely Bill becoming a law. Others state that the studios are cutting down so as to concentrate on stronger box ofiice material. Still others claim that it has something to do with the loss of foreign revenue.
Whatever the reason, we are firmly convinced that present production schedules are far too heavy for the health and prosperity of the industry. Fewer and better pictures is an inevitable step for the immediate future. As to its relation to the double feature problem, there can be little doubt but that fewer pictures will automatically eliminate the horrible crime of top-ranking pictures being shown on double feature bills.
So no matter from what angle you view it, the report has pleasant reverberations on the credit side of the ledger. It is our firm opinion, and has been for many years, that the top studios are grinding out too many pictures for the stability of the industry. Fewer pictures will almost immediately solve several irritating problems and bring about relief on numerous evils of our business.
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A Matter of Opinion
One trade writer in discussing 20th Century-Fox's, ''Swanee River," ventures the opinion that ''Harmony Lane," made several years ago by Nat Levine for Mascot Pictures (both pictures were based on the life of Stephen Foster), had human qualities far superior to the present version of the same story. "Levine's picture," he states, "tore at one's heartstrings, whereas some situations in 'Swanee River' move one mildly."
"Harmony Lane" was a tear-jerker of the first water but the tears and the pathos were laid on so thick that it dropped out of the realm of entertainment and left the audience depressed. The net result was that the picture did little business at the box office despite the fact that it "tore at the heartstrings."
"Swanee River" may not do as much tearing at the heartstrings but it seems to be tearing the patrons away from the fireside and radio and dragging them to the theatre box offices wherever the picture plays.
The comparison is plain. "Swanee River" is first-rate entertainment, beautifully produced and doing capacity business. "Harmony Lane" was a sad, dreary affair which was licked at the box office before it ever reached there because entertainment was played down and the depressing features of a maudlin story played up