No Damage So Far, But We Must Learn to Live with Commercial Television 

25 October 2021 tbs.pm/73852

 

Kinematograph Weekly masthead

From the Kinematograph Weekly for 20 October 1955

WELL, ITA has started and we have had an opportunity to assess its opening efforts. Everyone concerned has been busy slapping his colleagues on the back about it all and there appears to be a general sense of smug self-satisfaction. They got the opening programmes on the air without too much trouble and are pleased with their technical achievement.

People in the film trade, for the moment, have also been congratulating themselves. An enormous drop in attendances had been expected in the first few weeks but lo, and behold, our attendances have risen. From every part of the country managers are reporting good business. After all, they are saying, the ITA is only another BBC; we need not have worried as much as we did.

I have always believed that no television screen will ever be able to compete with the best the kinema can offer. Nothing that has happened in the past month has disturbed that belief; indeed, it is strengthened. Just the same, smugness will do us no good at all. It has to be remembered that the direct competition of the programmes is not the only source of danger.

We don’t only have to fight the ITA entertainments — we nave to fight the lure of the armchair on a cold winter night and the weekly payment on the new TV set which leaves less money over for visits to the kinema. While the family purse is feeling this slight financial draught, the TV habit may be formed and, once formed, may prove hard to break.

Danger Exists

No, there is no cause for complacency: the danger exists.

The new television programmes have, it is agreed, been rather poor. There has been little or no sense of showmanship about them, but then television as a medium has certain advantages which, even in the most inexperienced hands, have their drawing power.

Newspapers have found that offering huge prizes of various kinds boosts circulation, and have no doubt that the ITA boys are going to try similar stunts as far as the Television Act will allow them to do so. This could, if it caught on, prove quite an attraction.

Another front on which the ITA is competing with us is newspaper coverage. Here, I think, we now have to accept that certain papers — particularly those which have financial interests in one or other of the programme companies — will devote more and more space to television, and that inevitably means less to the kinema.

One evening paper in particular seems to imply nightly that television — and independent television at that — is the only medium of entertainment now of any consequence.

Think Again

These things will be felt by the kinema by and by. Anyone who still thinks that the ITA is only a transitory phenomenon had better think again. It’s here and it’s here to stay. There are too many financial and political principles at stake to allow the medium to fail, so we ye got it with us and we’ve got to learn to live with it.

The main battle between the rival camps will not take place at the production end. Everything would be easy if it did: our larger films have the edge on TV every time.

No, the battle is to a large extent a social one. The important question is — can we make our audiences sufficiently welcome at our kinemas? And that’s where the manager comes into his own. I have always advocated in the past that the modern manager’s chief function is to make the kinema a place in which the audience feels at home — a place to which they want to come irrespective of the immediate drawing power of the film.

I don’t want to go into this question in any detail again, but I would like to ask managers to give it serious thought. Perhaps, today, the selling of individual films is less important than the selling of the kinema as a whole — and it is managers who have to do the work.

An obvious danger which I fear we will come up against shortly is the appearance on our screens of films of fairly recent vintage which have been sold to television to “re-issue.” This, I think, is a very real danger and we have to work to combat it by stressing the modem techniques which are being used, by plugging the comfort of the kinema, by fostering the “night out” feeling and so on.

Quite obviously, it is too early yet to say with any conviction what the result of the ITA on our takings will be in the long run. At the moment things are pretty cheerful and it is good to see the industry as optimistic about the forthcoming battle as it now is. Confidence is the first thing we need.

But I think it would be unrealistic not to expect that things are going to get a bit more sticky before they finally settle down. It is in this transition period that every manager must pull out everything he’s got and win the battle on his own ground.

 

Associated-Rediffusion and the 'Shadowed Eye' in two TV-screen shapes

 

Keeping the Kids Coming to the Kinema

 

ONCE again I would like to devote a little space to some outstanding recent efforts in the field of Children’s Club efforts. These are, as I think everyone will agree, an increasingly important part of managerial duties. With the advent of the ITA — which is, I now see, devoting a considerable amount of time to children’s programmes — the urgency of children’s clubs is even greater than before. Children form habits very fast indeed, and we want to keep them film-conscious.

While the reports given below obviously qualify in terms of credits for the showmanship section. I am sometimes chary of regarding the campaigns described only from the point of view of the showman; I prefer to think of them in terms of important communal activities which entail civic responsibilities on the part of managers.

Mr. J. L. Hossack, of the Oxford, Upperthorpe, had a resolution passed by his matinee audience that a telegram should be sent to Princess Margaret on her birthday. He achieved a national press mention with the story, which leads me to wonder if other managers put across the same idea. If not, why not? It seems an admirable idea from every point of view.

Mr. W. Cruikshank, of the Palace, Matlock, sends a news cutting about his club’s entry for the local carnival. This was an excellent scheme carried out with flair and imagination. A large board on a float was headed “What We Do,” and described some of the good rules and activities of the club — an excellent way of discreetly blowing the trumpet. The newspaper coverage states that “this colourful entry won a special prize.” Nice work.

Mr. A. G. Cattell, of the Regal, Torquay, held an aeroplane model contest in association with the showing of “The Dam Busters,” and some first-class efforts appear to have been the result. This sort of activity, which gets the youngsters participating in their away-from-the-theatre time, is always a good idea (especially now that so much home time will be spent at the TV set), and Mr. Cattell is to be congratulated on an imaginative and highly effective effort.

Mr. H. W. Pearce, of the Odeon, Boston, combines various well-tried avenues of children’s club activities by organising a collection of tin-foil and milk-bottle tops to raise money for a guide dog for a blind person and tying the effort in with road safety. (Mr. Pearce, incidentally, is a member of the local Road Safety Committee.)

A road safety exhibition was also held and a longish report of several of the minor details of the campaign ends with a mention of the fact that a competition associated with the exhibition culminated in prize presentations on the Odeon stage.

 

 

A neat idea for a contest was used by Mr. W. G. Fleming, of the Grosvenor, Hillhead, Glasgow. He used a tape recorder to record various sounds associated with a kinema — the running of a projector, the ticket machine in operation, the doorman, etc. The contest then asked the audiences to recognise these characteristic sounds. It may have turned out to be a rather noisy session, but it was a novel idea and one very closely tied in with the theatre’s activities. It must have been much enjoyed by the youngsters.

At Bradford, Mr. W. Ratcliffe, of the Marlboro, has formed a swimming club — which I imagine must have been pretty popular this year — and drawn up an attractive form for entry, requesting, among other things, the signature of the parents. The projectionist has become the swimming instructor and throughout the summer meetings have been held at the local baths. This is just the sort of effort to which I have referred above: it gets youngsters conscious of the kinema club at more times of the week than simply Saturday matinee time.

 

 

Mr. A. McCoy arranged quite a treat for the Minors of the Ritz, Richmond. He gave out vouchers for free rides at the Richmond Fair. The members had to take along the vouchers and, as long as they wore the club badge, the floor was theirs. The reverse of the vouchers read: “The ABC Minors Thank You,” and this was indeed another good way of tying the members’ leisure activities with the Minors’ Club.

Extra matinee performances during the holidays have proved a great success with Mr. G. I. Hall, of the Empire, Clydebank. He reports — and the newspaper clipping confirms it — that a great number of parents have made a special point of calling on him to thank him for the gesture.

 

What became of the cinemas listed above

  • Oxford Cinema, Upperthorpe – closed 1964
  • Palace Cinema, Matlock – closed 1960s
  • Regal Cinema, Torquay – closed 1978
  • Odeon Cinema, Boston – burnt down 1987
  • Grosvenor Cinema, Hillhead – survives as a cinema and arts venue
  • Marlboro Cinema, Bradford – closed 1962
  • Ritz Cinema, Richmond – closed 1971
  • Empire Cinema, Clydebank – burnt down 1959

 

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