Showmen's Trade Review (Apr-Jun 1945)

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88 SHOWMEN'S TRADE REVIEW June 9, 1945 Exploit Serials Wisely For Sustained Patronage Arouse Interest with Opening-Chapter Plugs/ Make a Play for the Youngsters Although serials rate high in the "bread and butter" class of screen entertainment (ask any small-town or neighborhood exhibitor), they are usually the most neglected from the standpoint of exploitation. Until three or four years ago, when the major producers of chapter plays set up advance tieups and special campaigns, the customary stock one-sheet (with a strip for the title of each episode), a three or six-sheet and a few photos constituted the theatreman's entire kit of serial selling accessories. And while, to this day, this advance activity is beneficial to the exhibitor who will take advantage of it and follow through, it is a known fact that much more money is spent on the exploitation of a feature than on the selling of a chapter play. This, despite the fact that the serial's extended running time — 12, 13 or 15 weeks, perhaps more or less — gives it a long-range drawing power while the selling done on a feature must pay off its investment in the few days of the feature's run. Sell It Vigorously With at least three companies — ^Columbia, Republic and Universal — releasing around three or four serials a year, that makes enough for each of three competing theatres in a town to exhibit throughout the year. Thus the competition is provided that makes it necessary for the exhibitor who wishes to capitalize on a serial to sell it vigorously to obtain the heaviest patronage. The important thing, of course, is to get people in for the first chapter. Once that is accomplished, interest alone will bring back many of the first audience to see the remaining chapters. First on your list of things to do when you start a new serial is to book a program of such strength that a large audience is bound to show up. Aside from that, heavy selling on the feature attractions will undoubtedly help the opening day of the serial as well. Strong shorts on the surrounding program will accomplish the same purpose. Let the Audience Guess For the serial itself, get up a questionnaire, to be handed to the entire audience as patrons leave the theatre. Ask three questions about the action in the next chapter. In other words, let this week's audience guess at what will happen in next week's episode. A simple questionnaire should be prepared for each week, except the last. They are to be handed or mailed back to ALGER'S SERIAL DISPLAY. This lobby display was used by Manager Jack Alger of the LaSalle Theatre, LaSalle, 111., to herald the showing of two Republic serials, the last chapter of "Zorro's Black Whip" and the opening episode of "Manhunt of Mystery Island." A Roy Rogers tie-in was effected by giving away photos of the cowboy singing star to children attending the opening show. you before the next episode is shown. For the best or three best or ten best you offer prizes of free admission for that episode. Thus interest will be maintained throughout the run of the serial. This stunt is good for adults as well as for kids. Fan clubs bearing the name of the hero of the serial can be formed easily. You can use novelty giveaways to keep the kids interested and hold a meeting in the theatre each Saturday just before the show starts. Thus the members of the club will be present in full force when you want them. Discussion of the difficulties the hero got into the previous week can whet interest in the current chapter. Serials should be trailerized as much as three weeks in advance. Trailers should be changed frequently so successive audiences do not get bored by seeing the same trailer repeatedly. It should not be assumed that only the people who attend Saturdays are interested in serials. Those who see your shows on week days will likely attend on Saturdays as well, if you can arouse their interest. Another idea frequently used is that of the punch card. This is a simple card bearing appropriate copy about the serial, with the names of the chapters along one edge. The doorman is equipped with a punch (which makes a hole of individual shape) and each time a kid shows up, his card is punched in the space bearing the title of the chapter for that day. Punches of this sort can be obtained from a railroad supply house ; this is necessary to avoid counterfeiting punches. At the end of the serial or preferably on the first day of the next one, all the kids who attended every chapter and bring in their cards completely punched out, are admitted free. Besides that they should be given some kind of promoted prize, preferably based on the serial itself. Consult press books for ideas of this sort. Every serial has some sort of merchandising tieup for its hero. Party on Opening Chapter A gala party should be given on the first day of a serial. Ice cream cones, or soft drinks should be given to the kids. Promote them jf possible ; if not, it will pay you to at least share the cost in order to obtain as large a crowd of kids at the start as possible. We have run into a situation where mothers were loath to let their kids see a serial because it frightened them. One way to overcome this would be to invite mothers and fathers to the opening, admitting one parent free with each child. It's true this would involve half a theatreful of "deadheads" but nevertheless, it will pay dividends because the parents will be expecting the kids to ask for a dime or IS cents each Saturday to see the succeeding chapters. Two-for-One Idea As a recent example of serial showmanship, we point to the old two-for-one idea with a new twist as used by Jack Alger, manager of the LaSalle Theatre, LaSalle, 111., in heralding the dual showing of two Republic serial chapters, the closing episode of "Zorro's Black Whip" and the opening chapter of "Manhunt of Mystery Island." Alger's new twist involved the distribution of handbills by 36 children, two from each of the 18 schools in the area covering LaSalle, Peru (Continued on Page 104) THESE SCENES ARE 'SERIAL MUSTS.' No producer would dare produce, no exhibitor would dare exhibit, a serial which did not have at least one of the "props" or situations shown above. Some weird mechanical man, masked marvel or reasonably accurate facsimile is a prop of most chapter plays, and Columbia's serial, "The Monster and the Ape," from which the scene at the left was taken, appears to be no exception. Then, too, the hero is always beset, not by one antagonist but at least two or more, as may be noted in the scene (center) from Universal's "Secret Agent X-Nine." No serial queen, or leading lady, is worth her salt unless she too can withstand the diabolical machinations and tortures of the wrongdoers, along with her heroic leading man. And in the photo at right the brave girl seems to be defying the suave villain and his henchman in a scene from Republic's "Federal Operator 99."