Variety (September 05, 1951)

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Wednesday, September S, 1951 HCTUBES 7 INDIES CONTINUE HACKING COSTS r ' ’ • ■ , • » * '• ' • * sf , ♦ 4 : *' , t- w ■ ■ r , • -t » ' -Jv S *!T V Yank Indies Making Twice as Many Foreign Locationers as Major Cos. COMPO’s Big Trick “Movietime U. 8. A.** may be COMPO's big trick to make the organization stick. There is every indication in that direction. The Council of Motion Picture Organizations needed a real pay- off gimmick to turn the trick, and if "Movietime” doesn’t drama- tize industry cohesiveness and makl the grassroots recognize the values of intra-industry cooperation, nothing will. There are certain fundamentals which are best understood on a feet-on-the-ground basis. The hunger emotion is funda- mental. The boxoffice is the man-in-Film Row’s conception of another fundamental. Celluloid artistry is one thing but in the picture business man can’t live by art alone. “Movletlme U. S. A." reduces all the industry hoopla into one common de- nominator—a shot-in-the-arm for benefit of boxoffice. Luckily for the more lofty aspects of COMPO's industry purposes, the campaign, which has now been extended to a full year's drive, coincides with a flow of film product of high average. However, neither COMPO nor the energies of Messrs. Depinet, O’Donnell, Mayer. Coyne & Co. can ever offset another show business fundamental—the show’s the thing. The Hollywood production line is giving them good shows, fortunately, and it is assumed that the dire results that mediocrity has brought to the boxoffice will keynote, at all times, the necessity to main- tain high parity. . It is true, as one film executive once put it, “Nobody in Holly- wood has a production meeting or a story conference and de- cides. ’Let's set out to produce a stinker’ ”... but it is apparent, too, that harder application of production savvy and story values can minimize the ratio of flops. COMPO's latching onlo the im- proved quality output is the big plus to insure the organiza- tion's future. Abel . ‘Producer-Producer Has the Edge Over Other Producers-Hornbiow The Hollywood “producer-pro- ducer.’’ with few exceptions, has the edge over the actor-producer or the director-producer, because his thinking has to do with basic ideas and subject matter and not with star roles or showy directorial projects which are off the com- mercial beam, declares producer Arthur Hornblow. Jr. Hornblow has written the first of a series of articles by promi- nent members of the recently- organized Screen Producers Guild, designed to acquaint the public with what a producer is. Articles are being sent to general circula- tion mags and newspapers. “The actor-producer, by and large.” Hornblow states In his dis- cussion of producing as a fulltime profession, “picks vehicles for him- self, and here he has mostlv found demoralization and bankruptcy. This is not because they are not intelligent people, but because their thinking had nothing to do with baric ideas or subject matter, but had to do with star roles. “And the director-producers? They are very intelligent and very talented men. Without the direc- tor. we in the guild would be powerless . . . But the curious cir- cumstance is this, and this has been demonstrated in England, for instance, where the director-pro- ducer system has been practiced; the industry there which held a certain amount of promise a few years ago, has gone into almost complete collapse. Why has this happened? I think it is because director-producers think not of subjects or ideas, in the main, al- though some of them do; they (Continued on page 24> NLRB Orders Elections For Paramount Employees Washington. Sept. 4. National Labor Relations Board has ordered bargaining elections to be held the end of this month for (D advertising, publicity and contactmen for Paramount Inter- national Films operating in New York State; (2) advertising, pub- licity and contact people for Par- amount Pictures Corp. in New’ York State; and <3> office, clerical and accounting personnel of Par- amount Pictures Corp. and Par- amount Distributing Co., working at the homeoffice in N. Y. They will decide between Local H-63. Motion Picture Home Office Employees Union. IATSE, and Dis- trict 65 of the Distributing. Proc- essing and Office Workers. Board's order is in line with the recom- mendation of its trial examiner. [ Polyglot Pic Hollywood. Sepl. 4. Twentieth-Fox lot sounds like the Tower of Babel this week, with 60 actors speaking 13 languages in foreign em- bassy sequences for “Five Fingers.” In addition to English, the thesps break out with argu- ments in Greek. Turkish, Rus- sian. Hungarian. French, Ger- man. Italian. Arabic. Spanish, Japanese, Polish and Portu- guese. ‘Movietime’ Gets A Big Surprise: First 2 Gripes ‘‘Movietime U. S. A.” campaign has been getting such unanimous and enthusiastic response from exhibs throughout the country that execs of the b.o. promotional cam- paign have begun to pinch them- selves. This week they ran into assurances that they weren't dreaming, for the first of two squawks—almost welcome under the circfamstances—was heard. One was from the Independent Theatre Owmers of Ohio in its reg- ular service bulletin. The other was a telegram from Charles Niles, treasurer of Allied States Assn., to Hubert J. O’Donnell, chairman of the •‘Movietime” drive. Neither attack was on the pro- motion campaign directly. Rather, they w’ere objections to terms being sought on pix to be distributed during the “Movietime” drive start ing Oct. 1 and to other distrib prac- tices which the beefers in one way or another hooked up with the O’Donnell-led campaign. Neither objection was in any way an official expression of 1TOO or of Allied. Ohio bulletin merely printed the reaction of member Leo T. Jones and asked for com- ment from other members. Or- ganization's board Is to meet Sept. 11 in Columbus to discuss partici- pation in “Movietime” and wants guidance. Niles' telegraphic squawk was purely personal. “Why should an independent ex- hibitor,” Jones asked, “particular- ly one in a small town or city, or one with a subsequent run. partici* (Continued on page 24) TO KEEP APACE One of the moat striking aspects of cost reduction in the Industry in the past three years is the deep slash that has taken place in the average indie production budget. While the major studios have like- wise trimmed pic expenditures, they have been able to come no- where near the cuts the average indie has made. The deep hacking at budgets ap- plies mostly to the true indies— those who dig up their own financ- ing without second-money or guar- antees from a studio. A large num- ber of indies, incidentally, led by Stanley Kramer, have moved into the studio category, preferring to sacrifice some of their autonomy and potential profits for the ease and safety of big company backing. While Kramer particularly, with Columbia financing, is going in for heavier-budgeted product than that on which he built his reputation, the indies who have remained com- pletely free of studio ties have been bringing their costs down to what for them are much more re- alistic levels. That applies to every- one from Samuel Goldwyn, long the bellwether of the lone-wolf filmmakers, to the lowliest lads on shoestring row. Goldwyn a Special Case Goldwyn, of course, is a some- what special case. After going in for big. expensize product for many years, he turned to comparatively light-budgeted (for him) films dur- ing the fiscal scare that gripped Hollywood three years or so ago. With his newest effort, “I Want You,” just completed, he’s hit a level somewhere In between “Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) and (Continued on page 66) Lopert Preps ‘Cry,’ ‘Outcast’ Release Lopert Films is propping expan- sion of its sales organization with- in the next few weeks, in prepara- tion for handling two new Sir Alexander Korda plx this year. First will be “Cry. the Beloved Country.” which will go into re- lease in October, and the second is “Outcast of the Islands.” due for Christmas openings. Lopert has released only one major pic for Korda since its distribution agreement was made early this year. That is “Tales of Hoffmann/’ General salesmanage’- Sidney Deneau has pretty much handled that himself. He’ll appoint three or four reps throughout the country to aid with the new pix and possibly still further expand later. Morris Hclprin. Korda's U. S. rep. recently returned to New York with Ilva Lopert. Lo- pert Films chief, from huddles in London with Korda. Helprin said the British producer has just com- pleted two lesscr-budgeters and has a David Lean production now- shooting. In accordance with the Lopert agreement, these will be offered him first, but no relase is set. The pair just finished are “Mr. Denning Drives North.” with John (Continued on page 20) Bette’s Bit Hollywood, Sept. 4. Bette Davis, an established star and an Oscar winner, has accepted a minor role in “Phone Call from a Stranger” at 20th-Fox. In England It if customary for top names to ap- pear in supporting parts, but not in Hollywood. Actress will play a bedridden paralytic for about 10 minutes. Her husband, Gary Merrill, and Shelley Winters are billed as costars. COMPO Capitalizes On Gallup Survey Of B.O. Optimism An optimistic forecast by Dr. George Gallup on the film indus- try and a summary of a survey by Variety on gross incomes for ma- jor picture companies are included in a story being released by the Council of Motion Picture Organi- zations to financial editors and pub- lications this week. They are part of a quiet—and evidently highly effective—campaign that the all- industry public relations organiza- tion has been carrying on to ac- quaint financial writers with facts on status of the business. The yarn being sent out this week follows a recent luncheon for editors and reporters on the Wall St. Journal. Journal of Com- merce and the financial sections of the daily newspapers. Thy approxi- mately 10 writers present at the Hotel Astor, N. Y., huddle were addressed by Robert J. O’Donnell. Texas circuit operator and chair- man of the “Movietime U. S. A.” promotional drive; Arthur L. Mayer, exec. v.p. of COMPO. and Paul Raibourn. v.p. of Paramount and an outstanding industry econ- omist. Luncheon was arranged by Art Schmidt and Ray Bell, of Co- lumbia. who also were present. Success of the * session is un- doubtedly best illustrated by a mar- ket report issued a couple days (Continued on page 24) Finkelstein Quits Lopert, Joins Weiner Edward Finkelstein. executive as- sistant to Ilya Lopert. prez of Lo- pert Films Distributing Corp., for the past four years, resigned this week to join Sanford Weiner in setting up a new distribution firm. New company will handle product for both theatrical and TV markets. Finkelsteln-Weiner's initial the- atrical release will be William L. Snyder's “The Emperor’s Nightin- gale.” Czech import recently wound up a 16-week run at the Trans Lux 60th St. Theatre, N. Y. F-W outfit reportedly Is also pre- pared to partially finance indie the- atrical TV production. CHI THEATRE SHUTTERS IN IA STAGEHAND SNAG . Chicago, Sept. 4. Several weeks old labor dispute involving the North Center Theatre and International Alliance of The- atrical Stage Employees ended tem- porarily last week with shuttering of the theatre. Hassle started when the house dropped a stagehand from its pay- roll because of economy. Dis- missed stagehand, a member of IATSE Local 2, had been carried on the payroll under a union edict making it mandatory that all erst- while vaude houses keep stage em- ployees regardless of present policy. Demand followed by Local 2 that sister guild. IATSE Local 110. operators union, walk out in sym- pathy, a request which Gene At- kinson, operators chieftain nixed. Atkinson's refusal to pull out the projectionists was later remanded by IATSE prexy Richard Walsh. Many local film houses are still carrying stagehands. Among them are several nabes which at one time had stage activity, plus a ma- jority of downtown houses. Independent American producers will turn out almost twice as many fpreign locationers this year as the majors, an analysis of overseas film-making disclosed this week. More than 20 features will be made abroad either in whole or in part by indies to outdistance the top Hollywood studios in point of global lensing. Bulk of the foreign shooting will come from such indies as Irving Allen, Alexander Paal, Robert L. Lippert, Julian Lesser, Mort Briskin, Joseph Kaufman. Albert L e w i n, Benagoss Productions (Henry Rogers Benjamin-Germaine Gossler *, Norma Productions (Harold Hccht-Burt Lancaster), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Peter Cusick, George -Breakston-C. Ray Stahl. Orson Welles and Sam Spiegel. Prime reasons for the indies' tendency to roll their films abroad, trade observers feel, are the obvi- ous ones: lower costs and an op- portunity to capitalize upon natural backgrounds. Majors also effect similar budgetary savings in over- seas shooting, but in contrast to the indies, they have huge studios to maintain and a sufficient quantity of product must be made at home to keep down the domestic over- head. Now before the camera in Japan is Breakston-Stahl's "Geisha Girl.” Breakston previously made “Tokyo File 212” in the same country, and RKO now has it in release. Sam Spiegel's Horizon Productions is winding up “The Africa Queen” in a Britain studio. Most of the Humphrey Bogart-Katharine Hep- burn starrer, however, was lensed in Africa. Tleups with James Carreras' Ex- (Continued on page 28) UA Starts Sales Drive, Instead of Oct, to Take Advantage of B.O. Hike Because of the*\ipbeat nature of the current market, United Artists set its national sales drive in mo- tion over the weekend, dropping original plans to launch the cam- paign in October. Switch was decided upon at the series of field meetings last week between a trio of homeoffice execs and district and branch managers. William J. Heineman, distribution v.p.; Max Youngstein, ad-pub v.p„ and Bernard Kranze. sales man- ager, conducted the sessions in Chicago, San Francisco. New Or- leans and N. Y. Sales push.* 1 which runs to-Dec. 31, will depart from traditional in- dustry policy. Intead of honoring any individual, as is usually the case, drive will carry only the company's banner. Each branch manager will more or less set his own rules. Company will have had a total of 41 features in release by the end of the drive. Youngstein i will serve as coordinator from the I h.o. Also marking a departure. UA’s | big selling pitch will be without cash or other prizes. UA is oper- ating in the black but still has heavy losses incurred early in the year to overcome. Goldwyn, Golding Talk David Golding, newly-appointed ad-pub director for Samuel Gold- wyn Productions, left N. Y. last night (Tues.) for Coast huddles with Goldwyn. It will be his first meeting with the producer since Golding joined I the outfit. Hemsing Joins ECA For Europe Trade Union Pix Albert E. Hemsing, film division director for the Textile Workers Union of America and the Amal- gamated Clothing Workers of America, resigned the post last week to become film adviser for the Economic Cooperation Admin- istration's Labor Information Pro- gram for Marshall Plan countries. ECA plans to produce a number of pictures aimed at European trade union audiences, as part of its goal to increase industrial pro- ductivity and combat Communism. LIP is headed by Harry Martin, prez of the American Newspaper Guild. Hemsing will act as Mar- tin’s film adviser.