Variety (March 1956)

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Wednesday, March 7, X956 Ua-riety PICTURES ‘FAMILY’ PIX JUST A MEMORY Sources of Films: ’50-’54-’55 hH~M Following is the breakdown of source material of feature films ap¬ proved in 1955 by the Production Code Administration, along with comparable statistics for prior years. Percentages are in brackets: 1955 1954 1950 Original - Stage Play ... Novel . Biography Short Story .. Mlsc. (inc^tv) 158 (51.8) 23 ( 7.5) 73 (24. ) 4 (1.3) 28 (9.2) 19 (6.2) 177 (58.4) 11 (3.7) 61 (20.1) 1 ( .3) 12 ( 4. ) 41 (13,5) 315 (73.4) 18 ( 4.2) 67 (15.6) 3 ( .7) 10 (2.4 ) 16 ( 3.7) Backlog Deal Timely Extra Coin For WB With Big BR in Unreleased Pix Industry observers attribute -f Warner Bros.’ decision to sell its backlog to television for about $21,000,000 as motivated by pro¬ duction demands on ready cash. While company is thoroughly sol¬ vent and not faced with any seri¬ ous financial difficulties, it has in excess of $45,000,000 tied up in un¬ released negatives. Some bread-and-butter pictures such as (a) the Liberace starrer, and (b) “The Lone Ranger” and several others have not grossed as well as anticipated. Meanwhile, the release of expensive potential blockbuster product has been de¬ layed beyond the originally- planned distribution dates. For example, “The Spirit of St, Louis,” for which WB advanced the pro¬ duction coin, has been in produc¬ tion since last August. In addi¬ tion, multi-million dollar projects such as “Giant” and ‘iMoby Dick,” which also required hefty advances to indie partners, are still on the • shelf waiting to go through the, distribution mill. These three pic¬ tures alone are scaid to represent a production outlay of $16,000,000. Since it adopted its partnership arrangement with indie film-mak¬ ers, WB has had to put up hefty production coin to obtain the.kind of “big” pictures that are success¬ ful in the current market. The policy paid off with “Mr. Roberts.” It was not as successful in the case of Judy Garland’s “A Star Is Born.” The extent to which WB has advanced money to indie pro¬ ducers is noted in its annual re¬ port which discloses a total of $20,- 091,314 in'advances for the 1955 fiscal year. In 1954, the company advanced $18,536,773. Since it is continuing its policy of cultivating important outside producers, WB is believed to be seeking a way to improve its im¬ mediate cash position. Hence, it’s said, it consummated the television deal. Broccoli of Warwick Pix Calls ‘Story Appeal’ Key To Open U.S. Bookings Albert (Cubby) Broccoli, part¬ ner with Irving Allen in Warwick Productions, London, has entered the controversy over the United States playdating of foreign films. He’s strictly opposed to those claim¬ ing that foreign product is “dis¬ criminated against,” and offers facts and figures to support his case. Rather than running into any Yan¬ kee roadblocks, Warwick has made four films in England and in all Instances they were accepted by exhibitors in the U. S. f Broccoli stated. “Paratrooper,” first of the four, played 14,600 dates in the U. S. and Canada, which is one of lar S es t total of any Columbia (Warwick's distributor) release, re¬ gardless of where the production was made. Broccoli made his points in a New York cdnference with report¬ ers. A cold prevented Allen from a as intended. While Warwick has no produc¬ tion formula guaranteeing success, Broccoli believes a film made for rV® I f lterna ti ona l market has a no ads i art with this approach: “The . stories with ingredients basic atheir appeal to people of all na- ons—adventure,, action,, romance (Continued on page. 6) Art of Citation Leonard H. Goldenson, pres¬ ident of American Broadcast¬ ing-United Paramount, has been named recipient of Look mag’s 1955 exhibitor award. He was cited for his “leader¬ ship in helping to bind (sic) movies and tv into a closer working relationship.” . Also: “He has pioneered tv programs presented by film companies to provide an effec¬ tive. means of ’sampling’ new movies.” Goldenson Sees TV No Longer A Theatre Threat By JACK HELLMAN Hollywood, March 6. Film theatres have met the chal¬ lenge of television an ' as long as Hollywood turns out good product there’s not too much to worry about, according to Leonard H. Goldenson, prexy of American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, here on his annual trip to the Coast. He was even more bullish about the future. “Even with the vast backlog of major studios being marketed for video the picture business will be little affected,” he declared. “The public won't settle for old pictures as we found out with most reissues, which havb meant nothing at the boxoffice the past few years. What shows up on their home screens they’ll treat as old pictures and as long as the big ones keep com¬ ing along the theatres will con- •tinue to prosper. Reports from the- atremen who have seen the up¬ coming product are highly grati¬ fying.” There are more theatre seats to¬ day than at any time and the clos¬ ings have been more than equal¬ ized by the drive-ins, said Golden¬ son. Weekend business from Fri¬ day through Sunday has been ex¬ ceptionally /strong and the only real competition from tv on those (Continued on page 16) MARLON BRANDO YENS UNITED NATIONS TALE Hollywood, March 6. Marlon Brando, who launches his independent Pennebaker Pro¬ ductions in the fall with ‘To Tame a Land,” has slated a feature based on the \Vork of the United Nations’ Technical Assistance Program as the second offering of the indie. It will be released by Paramount, which also handled distribution of Danny Kaye’s short “Assignment Children.” However, the Penne¬ baker entry will be a regular com¬ mercial release where the Kaye short’s proceeds went to charity. Brando, producer George Eng- lund and scripter Stewart Stern left last week on a 20,000-mile sur¬ vey of Southeast Asia to gather material for the. feature which ^yill be produced, in 1857. ; • IE (jfAllied Terms to Re-Join COMPO; Coynes Gotta Go, New Control Set Up Except for Universal’s “Francis the Mule” and “Ma and Pa Kettle” pictures, which seldom get a New York firstrun and are not booked in big city downtown houses hardly anywhere, the so-called family-appeal little feature has practically vanished from the American film market. Now just memories are: “Andy Hardy” “Dr. Kildare” “Lassie” “Maisie” “Blondie” “Gasoline. Alley” “My Friend Irma” “Charlie Chan” “Sherlock Holmes” A trade dispute has been gather¬ ing pros and cons for some time in relation to the little family-appeal piqtures. In general the nostalgia has come from exhibitors’ spokes¬ men but studio executives are prone to think the theatremen are more “loyal” to a memory of hap¬ pier yesteryears than theii; cus¬ tomers are interested in a return of Judge Hardy. Three broad questions inter¬ mingled in the trade dispute are: (1) Spokesmen for theatre inter¬ ests, among them Allied’s counsel, Abram Myers, charge the present product is written, staged and ac¬ cented for the world rather than the American market and that this amounts to catering to family trade in, say, Zurich or. Bonn or Milano while neglecting it in Osh¬ kosh, Ypsilanti and Chattanooga. (2) Producers deny that there is any proof o that, family-type series are in demand and argue that tele¬ vision is chockful of this type of fare for those that insist upon it. (3) It has even been debated that the decline of the family-type Series coincided with the rise of Legion of Decency disapproval of product. To this skeptics reply, ‘What year do you have in mind? You can’t contrast the conditions of 15 years ago with those of to- continued on page 20) White Whale Starboard New Bedford, March 6. John Huston flew here via Boston from Ireland for a two- day visit to plan world pre¬ miere, on July 4 of his “Moby Dick.” Preem in New Bedford will take the form of a four-day Herman Melville Festival. Huston spent time at the whal¬ ing Museum and visited with Eleanor Melville Metcalf, granddaughter of the novelist. Huston was feted at a din¬ ner given by Basil Brewer, publisher of the New Bedford Standard-Times. A unique guest at the dinner was Ames Smalley, a Gay Head Indian who is the only living, man ever to harpoon a white whale —a feat he permormed in 1902. O’DONNELL SEES 10% TAX AT $1 AND OVER Dallas, March 6. Elimination of 10% excise tax on . admissions “up to $1 ap¬ pears to be a definite possibility,” R. J. O’Donnell told 300 drive-in theatre owners here. Interstate general manager stated, “I base those hopes on a recent meeting with Secretary of the Treasury. George Humphrey. But it is only fair to add that he has made no definite promises.” Pro-Arbitration Brandt in Plea For TOA Support The board of directors and ex¬ ecutive committee of Theatre Owners of America, currently meeting in New Orleans, has been urged to reinstate its approval of the industry’s arbitration plan. The appeal was made this week by Harry Brandt, head of the In- deoendent Theatre Owners Assn., a New' York area exhibitors organ¬ ization. Brandt, in a telegram to the conclave, declared that volun¬ tary arbitration is entitled to a chance “in preference to continued wrangling in courts and legisla¬ tive halls ...” The ITOA is the only exhib'tor organization to approve the indus¬ try arbitration system. The plan was previously nixed by Allied- States Assn, and the Southern California Theatre Owners Assn., “tabled” by the Metropolitan Mo¬ tion Picture Theatre Owners Assn., and “temporarily with¬ drawn” after earlier approval by TOA. TOA withdrew its okay fol- I lowing an “alliance” with Allied in Uvhich it was agreed to press joint- 1 Iy for all-inclusive arbitration — including arbitration of film rent¬ als — and for Dept, of Justice ap¬ proval for the formerly-affiliated circuits to enter production and distribution. In his wire to TOA, Brandt/de- (Continued on page *16) Hollywood Loves ‘Pre-Sold’ Studios at Present Time Favor Novels and Plays Already Accepted by Public ' Hollywood-; which at one time used, its own brainpower to create screen entertainment, is relying more than ever on the pre-sold appeal of popular novels and plays in picking its scripts. Decline of the original, which as recently as 1950 still accounted for 73.4% of the feature pix ap¬ proved by the Production Code, is emphasized by the Code's rundown of source material for 1955. It shows that, last year, only 158 of the films approved by the PCA were based on original scripts. That’s 51.8% of the total. The comparable figure for 1954 was 177, or 58.4% of the total. In 1953, there were 227 originals (64.i% of all pictures submitted). As originals dropped, the num¬ ber of features based on novels and plays was up sharply. Code statistics reveal that, of the 305 features approved during 155, 23^- or 7.5%—were* based on plkys and 73 (24%) on novels. In addition, there were four biographies (1.3%); 28 short stories (9.2%) and 19 mis¬ cellaneous sources, which includes tv scripts. By comparison, the same totals for 1954 showed T1 films based on plays (3.7%), 61 on novels (20.1%), one biography, 12 short stories Until Robert W. Coyne, execu^ tive-counsel and a member of the governing trio of the Council of Motion Picture Organizations, is ousted from his post, there is little chance of Allied States Assn, re¬ joining the all-industry group. This is one of the conditions the exhibi¬ tor organization has set even be¬ fore it considers associating itself with COMPO again. The Allied position is contained in a letter from Allied general counsel Abram F. Myers to COMPO’s triumvirate consisting of Coyne, AI Lichtman and Sam Pi- nanski. With Coyne out of the pic¬ ture, Myers suggests that commit¬ tees representing COMPO and Al¬ lied explore other phases of the in¬ dustry's group activities in order to make COMPO a more useful or¬ ganization. He lists three points of discussion: / (1) Employment of a person of stature to serve as executive vice president and perform the duties of that office as provided by the by-laws. (2) More frequent meetings of the executive committee, and spe¬ cial meetings when warranted, with a written agenda to be circulated among, the members at least 10 days in advance of every meeting. (3-S Specific authorization of all activities and projects other than office routine by the executive com¬ mittee. Myers’ letter, authorized by Al- • Hod's boar/at its meeting in Cleve¬ land two weeks ago, is a reply to a request from COMPO for Allied ta list the changes it would like made (Continued on page 16) Coyne Offers Own Head To Appease Allied But COMPO Refuses Sacrifice Robert W. Coyne has submitted - his resignation as special counsel of the Council of Motion Picture Organizations but non-Allied States member groups of the all-industry association have refused to accept it/ . , Coyne, according to sources in distribution, offered to bow out as a means of achieving harmony in the COMPO operation. Point was made that the exec has been under the fire of Allied, particular¬ ly Abram Myers, board chairman and general counsel of this theatre uhit. Coyne, noting that Allied has refused to renew its membership in COMPO because of his role as bop-salaried officer and member of the three-man governing board, professed to feel that his exiting COMPO would pave the way for Allied to re-enter the fold. However, other association mem¬ bers countered that any concession anept Coyne would only lead to other demands by Allied and, in the first place, Myers’ objections to Coyne are not particularly valid. Further, Coyne offered to dis¬ cussed the situation with Allied but this was rejected. One film company official under¬ lined that nearly all policies de¬ cided by the COMPO high com¬ mand had the acquiesence of an Allied leader, notably Wilbur Snaper, a former member of the triumverate in control. In any event, Coyne is remain¬ ing on the job, devoting much of his time in Washington in connec¬ tion with COMPO’s current cam- (4%) and 41 miscellaneous sources ; paign for repeal of the 10% Fed- 03.5%). j eral admissions tax. ' One immediate result of the I —— - gradual decline of the original is that Hollywood must adapt/ itself to standards that are essentially not its own and thus, increasingly, runs the risk of criticism of groups that have long felt that the film- makers are departing from the straight-and-narrow. It's pointed out that it is obviously more diffi¬ cult to subdue certain story ele¬ ments to pacify the Code,'and, in some cases, possibly the Catholic Legion of Decency, than it is to write a story that, from the very start, recognizes basic restrictions. U OWNERS’ANNUAL IN SCREENING ROOM Annual meeting for owners of Universal takes place March 14 in the seventh floor screening room of the New York homeoffice. It has a capacity of 75, small by modern stockholder turnout stand¬ ards but adequate since U is wholly-owned by Decca Records. President Miltoi} R. Rackrail will preside. •' x