Variety (Jan 1943)

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January 6, 1943 Thirty-seventh f^fitETY Anniversary PICTURES 9 CONSENT DECREE INFLUENCED QUALITY PIX, BUT WAR REALLY STIMULATED B. O. Nobody Wants Such Transitory Riches As From A War, But That's Been A Prime Factor To Unusual Biz FEWER AND BETTER FILMS Post Mortems of 1942 ^Rhymes Out of the BVay Nursery t[For ^Variety's' 37th Anniversary. By ALBERT STILLMAN 1942 is done, And Ihe 2nd Front's begun. Stalingrad,—it never fell! Stalin now gives Hitler hell. Little is heard from the Little Flower, But lots from General Eisenhower. Willkie made a speech in which he ar- Ticulated wrongly 'reservoir.' Commissions were managed by quite a lot Wlio love to 'fight* where the bullets are not; While those with none to aid or abet 'em Just waited for the draft to get 'em; Backwoods dames with pans seraphic Are daily blocking B'way traffic. Winchcll, to whom the show biz caters. Outclassed his phoney Imitators: The pullers of the. pilfered gag. Who slain the sheets of every rag. Due to the punch Petrillo's packing. The record companies took a shellacking. Nick Kenny, the Literary Giant, Plugged many a p.a.'s paying client. Songs which had both wit and grace: ^trip Polka' and 'Der Fuehrer's Face'; And when Miller bowed out. It didn't hurt 'Juke Box Saturday night.' (Advert.) •Star, and Garter* aims to please,— Gypsy Rose Lee does a swell strip-tease. "Claudia* is still about, But 'Count Me In* was counted out. •Gone With the Wind' is far from gone,— At the local theatres it breezes on. 'Life With Father,* I suppose. 'Will outbloom 'Abie's Irish Rose.' General Montgomery was the one WI>o found out what makes Rommel run. 'Innocent Merriment,'—F. P. A.'s Anthology came out with lays By Shakespeare, Shelley, Swift, and shall • We also mention Stillman, Al? Jack Bobbins, a genial gent and chummy. Forsook the rhumba for gin rummy. What 'Mrs. Miniver' went and done! She took out a license to marry her 'son'! Eleanor. Eleanor, where has she been? She's been to London to visit the Queen. A gal who vanished into thin air Is dear old Jeanie with the 1. b. hair; They now lose their hearts at the Stagedoor Canteen To a gal who was christened—for rhyme'j sake—Eileea. Shostakovich's Seventh Symp. Left his broadbrow listeners limp. Benny Goodman, king of 'em all, Hit a clinker in Carnegie Hall. So it's perfectly fair to be presumin' That even kings are only human. Kirol Flynn got himself in a jam. By playing the wolf with a wee li'l lamb; An incident which by no means louses Vp the attendance at movie houses. Where families flock to witness him In the virtuous role of 'Gentleman Jim.' Cus Eyssell doesn't feel too magenta With 'Stars on Ice' a smash at The Center, Nor does he feel depressed at all •Bout biz at the R. C. Music Hall. Many a lap o' luxury lad .This winter will feel cold and sad, •Cause most of the hotels in Miami Now are housing Uncle Sammy. At Dinty's on Tuesdays all meat is forsaken. Excepting Kosher Calves Liver and Irish Bacon. At Lindy's Rest, that one cup of java By no means limits the line of palaver. ASCAP writers went on a point system (International Business Machines will list 'em), Which simply means that many a jerk. If he wants to eat, will have to work. George M. Cohan, V. S. A , was laid to rest one November day. Just 45 minutes from B'way. **2 is history, •♦S's the mystery; We can solve it right away ".V buying War Bonds now, today; Buy *em now and buy *em often: urive uouT nail in Hitler's cofHn. By ROY CHARTIER No one asked for the war, least of all the picture business >■ which is affected by it adversely in so many directions. But it has brought great prosperity to the boxoffice and the pro- ducer of film. Just the same as no patriot welcomes war, • so does no one witlig|iHiti.sen«e',of' hpjiesty want it because of the transitory riches brought, however. Pictures are making more money for their distributors and for the exhibitors retailing them than ever before, with the possible exception of the comparatively brief period that extended from the development of the talking film and the arrival of depression in 1929. That the grosses have con- stantly climbed during 1942 has been due not only to the boon attendant upon America's entrance into the global con- flict, but in no negligible measure to the fact that there has been a substantial increase in the percentage of quality fllm as compared with other years. The tendency to make fewer features, together with in- creased efficiency and a greater determination to make bet- ter pictures, has contributed very importantly to increased public support regardless of war, the ability to pay and other b.o.-plus factors. There is little doubt but that the consent decree, forcing the screening of fllm before it could be of- fered for sale, has encouraged the producers to exercise greater care in turning out their merchandise. At the same time, the decree was responsible for the release during last season, 1941-42, Its first, of fewer pictures than in former years. So far on the current (1942-43) season, first four months of which are in the rear, the decree method of selling has tended to further reduce the number of pictures sent on release. However, other factors have figured and will in all probability carry much greater weight from here on in with regard to the quantity of fllm to be provided a ready and eager market. Not the least of these is the rationing of raw stock, now standing at an average of 25%. Taking this into consideration, as well as priorities on ma- terial, growing lack of manpower, deflection to the armed forces of star and other talent, the Wage Stabilization pro- gram and other contingencies, the producer-distributors are unlikely to dump everything on the market that they have wrapped ready for use. Instead, the inclination Is to load up on as much product as possible to meet possible exigen- cies of the not distant future and force the exhibitor to get along on as little as he can. It Is hinted in some sales circles that for the 1943-44 season starting this conriing September, released features may be 50% less in number than for the current fllm year. In this connection, it is pointed out that the theatres of the country may be able to get along under such a drastic reduction in the merchandise they jnarket. Mounting grosses and extended time is making film go much farther now. That the peak in gross levels during World War II and the maxi- mum possibilities in added playing time have not as yet been reached are widely predicted. Of course, continued high quality of fllm must be taken into consideration since the public still is not willing to buy what it doesn't want. However, there is an offset in that, many pictures of average or poorer grade are getting more than they would have two years ago, being carried along by the momentum of wartime spending and a more pronounced predilection of the public to seek escapism by seeking entertainment. I GROSSES UP 50"/. | Grosses started on the upgrade in 1941 during the pre- Pearl Harbor defense era and but for seasonal declines have steadily risen since then until innumerable theatres are claimed to be doing 50% better than a year or two ago. Tak- ing into account the operations that have shown but moderate betterment in gross business, those that remain static as result of adverse local factors and the houses that are losing money or are critically near to that stage, the average would probably run between 20 and 25%. While stagnation of local business enterpri.<:e and the de- population of towns as result of the loss of men to the armed services, as well as some women, and to a great ex- tent the migration of both sexes to defense-production areas, has crippled many smaller theatres, the position of numerous such houses is strengthening. Among other things, the in- ability to operate cars or obtain adequate transportation by other means, L; keeping many people at home. Unless they hibernate for the duration, or sit around twiddling thumbs that long, they will seek some amusement and. as noted in the trade, about the only place that it can be had in many towns and villages is the local picture house. In larger cities, also, people are patronizing their neighborhood the- atres to a greater extent, a practice which in the face of gas rationing, dimouts, etc., is expected to increase. In exhibition quarters it is also pointed that the condition of many theatres in hard-hit towns or hamlets is likely to grow progressively better since relatives going into the serv- ice or into defense industry are starting to send money home. As the number of men and women serving Uncle Sam away from home rises, the amount of money coming back to the distressed towns will gain proportionately. Thu.s this becomes an indirect and foreign aid to such communi- ties. Circuits whose operations are spread over several towns or extend to two or more states are in a far more advanta- geous position than the exhibitor who is localized since while they may have some losers, other houses in the chain are doing so much better that the proflt for the circuit, when considered as a unit, is away up. The operator with only one house who is doing poorly has no way of realizing an offset except through the exercise of strict economy or pos- sibly an increase in admission prices. However, scales can be boosted just so much, depending on what the traffic will bear. Stage Door Canteen United Theatrical War Activities Prexy Reviews Its Achievements By BERT LYTELL What can one add to the numerous notices that have made the Canteen the smash hit of NcW York? Irving Berlin has given us one of the best songs of the year, 'I Left My Heart al the Stage Door Canteen.' In addition, one of the high- lights of his great Army show is the Can- teen sketch revealing to the public how carefully the Canteen is run—no dates permitted — its hospitality emphasized, etc., etc. But has anyone told the story of how the Canteen was started—how-Show busi- ness, all o/ it, pitched in and contributed the greatest amount of free work hours e'ver donated? Stagehands, electricians, wardrobe, women, artists transformed a dingy basement into a night club. Jane Cowl and Selena Royal, as co-chair- women, announced the opening not know- ing where the money was coming from, but confldent they would get it—and they did! The food committee, headed by Helene Dumas and Nancy Douglass, has received weekly donations from the merchants and res- taurant men of New York that set an all time high in genr erosity. Kermit Bloomgarten, the Canteen manager, and his committee have perfected an prganiaztion of volunteers, with everyone working for free. 1 Bert LyteB BIG NAMES HAVE APPEASED AT CANTEEN And to top it off, the greatest names in the amusement world from the Metropolitan, Hollywood, radio, Broadway theatres and night clubs have appeared at the Canteen. For instance', one evening I arrived just as the Duchess of-Windsor was flnishing autographing dozens of cards. $he was followed by Helen Hayes, then Olsen & Johnson and their show, then Danny Kaye, followed by two name bands, a night club floor show, Lawrence Tibbett and a midnight visit from Mrs. Roosevelt to top it off. So here in the heart of Times Square, just off Broadway, the magical street these boys have all read about, the theatre holds open house nightly to capacity crowds of lads from all the United Nations. But the greatest contribution to the Canteen has been made by the people who elect Presidents and win wars—the little people. It is the little people of the stage and radio who wash the dishes, wait on table, turn up night after night witb no publicity, no acclaim, just serving loyally in the ranks. Our girls, who literally dance themselves into a stale of ex-. haustion, have made the place so popular that boys from nearby Posts come there at every opportunity. It has be- come a veritable club with regular members, and it is the little people who have given it this home-like atmosphere— who have made Broadway as friendly as Main Street. A bow to all of them—they've done a magnificent job. Francisco Lauds H wood Hollywood, Jan. 3. Coordinating being his bir.; Don Franci.sco, director of radio for Rockefeller's Inter-American Affairs outfit, passed around encomiums along those lines on his visit here for the holidays. Hollywood Victory Committee drew a ccncroos helping for its cooperation with the setup, and Jack Runyon, who directs the Coast activities for CIAA. also came in for a pat on the back for the job he has been doing. Francisco expressed him- self as being so pleased with results of CIAA's radio division, east and west, that he believes in another year Axis shortwave propaganda beamed through the other American republics will be relegated to bush league calibre. The picture isn't a pretty one yet, Francisco admitted, what with the Nazis directing come-on from 100 trans- milters in Germany and their satellite nations through- out Latin-America, as against England's 54 and our 14. Soon to be added to our string of shor.twavers will be 22 more. Just how the CIAA is pouring it on to overcome prej- udices against this country aroused by Axis propa- gandists was cited by Francisco with the following data and figures: two tons of transcriptions are shipped via air express weekly; 35 programs broadcast weekly through South America by NBC and CBS; daily load in all categories and blanketing nearly all s'tations approxi- mates 16 hours of Spanish programs, seven.hours Portu- guese and eight hours English. Hollywood Victory Committee was commended by Francisco for giving such fine cooperation to Runyon's office here in clearing picture stars for. transcription and shortwave broadcasts. American actors are highly popular with the Latin-Americans, declared Francisco, and programs from here naturally rate first considera- tion. That means Hollywood shows attract large audi- ences and that's highly important to our campaign.