Variety (Dec 1941)

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Wednesday, December 3, 1941 PICTUBES SELLING PRESSURE GROWS WB and Par's t and RKO'sUpped Rentals Stalemate Minn. Buying Minneapolis, Dec. 2. Twin City Independent exhibitors' buyers strilte continues as film com- panies refuse to back down on their allegedly .'exorbitant' demands and Northwest AUied holds protest meet- ings at which the irate theatre owners threaten all, sorts of dire things. The Minneapolis and St. Paul In- dependents' infurlatlon hit a new high when Warner Bros, revealed Its Twin City deal calling for three pic- tures at 50%, five at 40% and the balance flat at approximately 10% high«r than a year ago. The Twin City boys hitherto always have bought flat from all companies ex- cepting Metro and are on record to resist percentage to the last ditch. With Paramount remaining ad- amant on its demand for two at 50%, four at 400^ arid two at 25%, and rentals for balance at 50-100% high- er than a year ago, and with RKO upping its prices from 100-300% over a year ago, the Twin City in- dependents, who sponsored the state anti-consent decree law under which all the companies excepting M-G now are selling, are finding t\;:at they have anything but a bed of roses. In fact, they question whether they'd be any worse buying under the decree in blocks of Ave than under the law which requires the distributors to sell their entire sea- son's product subject to a minimum 20% cancellation privilege. 20th-Fox, UA.Vnannonnced .20th-Fox and United Artists haven't announced their terms for the Twin City independents—yet. Metro still hasn't applied for release from the decree to permit it to sell In Minnesota. All of the companies now selling claim that they're land- ing contracts as fast as they can write them out-of-town, although Noithwest Allied leaders assail these deals oltered to the trade in the •tate's smaller towns as 'brutal.' : In the meanwhile, the product sit- . uation gets increasingly worsB every day for the Minneapolis and St. Paul lndependcn(^ houses. "Many of them now are forced to use 'B' and lower group pictures and repeats even on Sundays and business, while much better downtown than a year ago, la far off in most of the neighbor- hood and suburban situations. Sbowlnr New-Season Produot Because Minnesota Amus. Co. (Paramount) had a M-G franchise. It has been showing the new-season product for more than a month and many Metro pictures would be al- most Immediately available for the Twin City neighborhood and subur- ban spots if the company starts sell- ing and the exhibitors will buy. Par also will* be available in a tew weeks and then, the trade points out, it will be interesting to see it the Independents still will refuse to buy. In the case of th« other com- panies, it's indicated that downtown protection may be waived tem- porarily because of the emergency situation in order to help out the neighborhood spots, providing that deals are made. Branch managers apparently are not disturbed by the Twin City in- dependents' threats to go to double features and reduce their admissions to 11c,'Using whatever minor prod- uct'they can pick up, or to close up entirely. They think th« exhibitors are bluffing and assert that the lat- ter won't cut their noses to spite their faces. Miscast Then Pre-Xmas Opposish Minneapolis, Dec. 2. There's a new sort of opposition this pre-Christmas period. Free shows in some of the loop store display windows use SRO. Brief dramas are acted out by ani- mated dummies in the windows and a p.a. sytem carrlei the dialog, from hidden records, through the plate glasa. Metro'g current reissue of 'Mata Had' Is- shocking the 'Andy Hardy' fans. They're aghast at finding pa- triotic Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) was the chief of the Ger- man spy system during the last war. WB $5,429,302 DOUBLES 1940 Warner Bros, net pro&t of $6,429,- 302 for the fiscal year ending last Aug. 30 not only nearly doubled that of the ,1040, but was the greatest for the corporation in 11 years aside from the bullish year of 1937 when Warners' profit reached $9,876,183. Amount was right in line with Wall Street expectations, representing $1.36 on the common compared with 63c in the fiscal, year ending Aug. 31, 1940, when operating profit was $2,747,472. WB AN'Nl/AL EARNINGS, 1930-41 Net prfilU. 1930 $7,074,631 1931 •7,918,605 1932 »14,095,054 1933 •6,291,748 1934 '2,530,514 1935 674,159 1936 3,177,313 1937 5,876,183 1936 1,929,721 1939 1,740,908 1940 2,747,472 (1940 by Quartere) First quarter $642,120 Second quarter 376,368 Third quarter 032,216 Fourth quarter 796,759 1941 $5,429,302 (1941 by Quarters) First quarter $1,276,316 Second quarter 1,506,228 Third quarter,........ 1,650,901 Fourth quarter 909,857 •Deficit. [ DEEMED CEDIAIN Product Moving Too Slow, Under the C o n • e n t De- cree'* Machinery — Some Exchange* Radically Un- der-manned to Contact All Pro*pect* REPEATED CALLS Because of the burden placed upon the selling forces of the con- sent decree companies, whose new season's films are moving slower than anticipated, they may have to Increase the number of salesmen in the various exchanges or at least some of them where the pressure is becoming too great. Some branches of decree distributors are said to be well enough stocked with sellers while others are trying to get along with short stafts, the same as under the old system. The decree has placed an added heavy burden on the branch man- agers as well as the Qlm peddlers working under them, with the men in charge of offices going out on a lot of deals themselves, especially where trouble is being encountered. Additionally, the district managers are tearing up the rails and the roads getting Ground to the ex- changes under them and to the larger accounts. Pace Is Kllllnr Salesmen themselves say the pace Is. killing, worse than they had an- ticipated under the decree; that they ai-e still being underpaid, in the opinion oT sources familiar with the situation; but added that if a call suddenly goes out for additional men, they aren't going to be easy to get. Chances are the exchanges would draw on booking departments as much as possible or might go further with the student-salesmen plan instituted by Metro and RKO a Muple years ago to train men from the bottom up, graduating their salaries as they advanced. A seller explains what Is happen- ing by pointing out that where com- panies formerly sold full-line, closing for an entire season in one swoop, now if a salesman has 100 prospects to cover, It amounts to Canada Frowns on Upping B.O., Where It'Costs the Public More; But Also Freezes Rentals Ceiling Now It's 'Commando' Recent news stories about England's 'Commandos,' troops specially outfitted and trained to invade foreign shores under the most difTicult conditions, have brought on the usual fiock of registrations of film titles based on the idea. Companies laying claim to 'Commando' as a label include RKO, Paramount, Selz- nick, Universal and Metro. Last year's tave in this cate- gory was 'Burma Road.'. FRIEDL CHAIN BIZ UP 10-12% Minneapolis, Dec. 2. John J. Friedl, MinnesOTa^Smui. Co. (Paramount circuit) head, re- ports that the chain showed a 40% business increase during the week before .Thanksgiving this year, com- pared to the similar period a year ago. Theatre business improvement In the territory, as far as the Minnesota circuit Is concerned, has been 'gen- eral and notable' since July 1 and 'Is continuing,' according to Friedl. He believes. that the 1941-42 gain, over 1940-41 will be from 10-12%. March of Dimes Set C. C. Moskowitz and Harry Brandt, co-chairmen of the film business committee for 1942 March of Dimes, and Oscar A. Doob, national publicity chairman, were in Washington yester- day (Tuesday), to attend a meeting of 48 chairmen representing the gen- eral March of Dimes committees from each state. Campaign plans for the industry were outlined. 1,000 where a total of 50 pictures are being sold on the year. Companies employ from 100 to 125 salesmen, an average of only be- tween three and four to an exchange. 36th ANNIVERSARY NUMBER of To Be Published Late This Month USUAL ADVERTISING RATES PREVAIL Special Exploitation Advantages Reservations and Copy May Be Sent to Any Variety Office NEW YORK HOLLYWOOD CfflCAGO LONDON 154 W. 46th St. 1708 No. Vine SL 54 W. Randolph St. 8 St. Martin's PL Apparently the Canadian govern- ment will not permit exhibitors to shift hours of price-change in the face of the freezing provisions re- cently instituted above the border. In sounding, out the Price Control Administrator having jurisdiction over theatres. J. J. Fitzgibbons, pres- ident of Falmous Players-Canadian, was told that there could be no jug- gling 'If it was to cost the public more.' A further restriction, but one which pleases the theatres operators, giving them a probable offset against inability to raise admission scales, calls for the freezing of film rentals. The likelihood is that rental levels for last season (1940-41) or the prior semester (1939-40), but more likely both rather than cither ot these sea- sons, will be used as the basis vfor the freezing, although from the distribu- tor point ot view maximums on rent- als might cause hardships. Where a distributor may not have had good product the past two seasons, being forced to accept lower terms, this year th^it dislriB might have pictures entitling him to a much higher rental. S|g^l5—Oct. II Average In arriving at boxotflce admission levels, the Canadian government waited until after Oct. 11 and then took the scales charged between Sept. 15 and that date as the freezer. What was in Fitzgibbons' mind when he took the matter up with the Price Control Administrator was whether price-changes could be altered so that, for instance, where a theatre formerly had been getting 25c to 1, it could. get .25c to noon and then move into its 35c matinee price, also possibly dropping that at 5 instead of 8. p. m. in order to go into an eve- ning 50c admission bracket. While there has been no official ruling, doubted that this can be done. Fitzgibbons, in New York last week, stated that business above the border is running somewhat under normal and that In provinces benefit- ing by defense, they are not, making up for the defection in territories not so benefiting. British Columbia is making the poorest showing at the present time, the FP-C president added.. In addition to looking in on home office Paramount • executive.^ Fitz- gibbons was down on negotiations with Universal for its product where not in conflict wtih Odeon, which has already bought U for its towns. FP-C has long-term frai^chises with RKO and 20th, while already closed for this season are Paramount, War- ner Bros, and Metro. United Del In UA Deal, Latter Abandons Dicker For RKO Downtown, Del Detroit. Dec. 2, Signing of a deal by United De- troit Theatres, which operate.i' three of the first-run houses here, tor the new United Artists product has washed out the latter company's dickering (or a downtown house. Interest had been centered on the former RKO Downtown, in more re- cent usage a nitery. While UA had been scouting the possibilities of di- rect house ownership, the strategy in Detroit had been to give the com- pany a first-run outlet in the loop should the deal with United Detroit tail to materialize. The deal with UA was the second put through by the extensive United Detroit chain here, the only other one having been closeu being with Columbia. As yet the chain has not signed for any of the films under the New York consent decree terms. There is no unusual blockade In the first-runs anticipated here, since De- . troit, with few exceptions, rates Itself slightly off the national pace on openings and the situation here U an annual repeater.