Motion Picture Exhibitor Magazine, March 15, 1961:
Pickman Seeks All-Industry Effort to Overcome Resistance to Change
KANSAS CITY, MO – A call for a joint exhibitor effort to "overcome the resistance to change and accept and adopt new ideas, new concepts, new approaches, new attitudes so that our great industry will flourish anew” was issued by at the United Theatre Owner Show-A-Rama Convention by Jerome Pickman, Paramount Pictures vice-president and domestic general sales manager.
“The Task that lies before us” Pickman said “is to take down the sign which states Business as as usual and replace it with a sign that might say Better Business under more Imaginative circumstances".
Pickman noted that in the four months since his appointment as Paramount’s domestic sales head, I have not had discussions with any exhibitors who do not have great faith about the opportunity of successfully and profitably operating their theaters in the future. In all of my discussions with exhibitors who represent large or small interests each and every one of them has been very upbeat and bullish about the future.
The past year and the first two months of 1961 have conclusively proven that there is no box office barrier to the heights that grosses can soar when the attraction is right and is properly sold and presented to the public.
Pickman’s own optimism for the future is not based solely on the knowledge of the outstanding product being released by all distributors, he said. I personally believe that the old bromide that existed in the past If you have a good picture you will do business and if you have a bad picture you will die – is one of the most negative approaches possible and can only result in complacency, indifference and lack of imagination on the part of all segments of our industry.
The one lesson that we at we at Paramount learn every day is that we serve our customers and ourselves best by maintaining and attitude of flexibility, where by exhibitors and ourselves consider and evaluate the product and jointly determine the best method of presenting that particular picture in that particular market – in other words picture by picture, market by market merchandising.
I am thoroughly cognizant of the fact that there is no perfect solution to any problem whereby all interested parties can have everything and give up nothing. However, the present and future successful state of our business, in my opinion, will be based primarily on our flexibility and the flexibility of our customers, so that all of us will be able to obtain maximum results on specific pictures released under specific circumstances in specific market areas.
Pickman said to be more specific, I am suggesting that not every picture made by my company be released in every market area in the United States in the future just as it always has been released in the past. I do not believe that it is specific for any of us to assume and attitude that a picture will do only what it is destined to do by the appeal of the picture itself to the public. Collectively, we must consider methods whereby the same picture, with the same appeal to the public can attain greater grosses for the theatre and, in turn, greater grosses for the distributor, which in turn issues a product continuity of even more important and expensive attractions in the future.
If we could evaluate with our customers each picture and each market and amongst us apply an attitude of fair play with due regard to each other’s problems as well as our own, I am firmly convinced that we can improve the box-office grosses for our customers on the same product that would normally be released and merchandized in the same conventional manner which has been in effect for so many years.
Motion Picture Exhibitor Magazine, March 23, 1960:
Toll TV In Canada, Success or Failure?
NEW YORK – Phil Harling, chairman of the Theatre Owners of America Anti Toll TV Committee, reported at a press conference following a trip to the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke to observe the Telemeter experiment in action, that he and his committee will continue to oppose the invasion of the rights of the public with every means at their disposal. Not only will opposition be voiced to the Telemeter operation, but to any system of toll TV.
Exhibitors everywhere will be urged to get out and seek support of the Harris Bill, which is in committee in Congress, and would stringently regulate all forms of pay TV in the public interest. It will safeguard free TV.
Regarding the Telemeter test, he opined that it was what the public is getting today so why should they have to pay for it? It’s too early to judge whether pay TV will be successful, but he thought that in view of Skiatron and Zenith having indicated a possibility of selling advertising during their presentation, he wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Telemeter also include advertising in a possible search for extra revenue.
Harling said that he spoke to ordinary citizens in Toronto who didn’t know either the experiment was good or not, but most say that it was too expensive and they wouldn’t take it on.
He compared the Toronto experiment to the one in Bartlesville, Okla., which was a failure. He thought that this one would go by the boards as well.
He conferred with theatre organization representatives in Canada. They were very anxious to adopt a pattern of similar opposition there except that they don’t have a regulatory agency on the order of the FCC. If they had better regulation there, things such as the Telemeter experiment would not have come to pass. A possible appeal to public groups may yet see some sort of regulation coming into the picture to help free TV, Harling said.
He didn’t know how the film companies felt about the project despite their providing film for the test. He didn’t think that they were ready to abandon their theatre runs of toll TV at present. The film that was provided so far was not a true test of pay TV versus the theatre because practically all the films had already played theatres in the area. Harling felt that if the Telemeter experiment gets underway in the borough of Queens in New York City, it is expected that pressure will be brought to seek enforcement of covering city regulations. He knows that the film companies are out to make money, but there’s still two and a half billions in vested in theatres. This deserves some protection, he said.
The Other Side of the Coin – Novins
Louis Novins, president Telemeter, reported that requests for new installations are still coming in large numbers, with the total already in operation at over 3,000.The only thing holding up further installations at a more rapid rate was a shortage of time and trained personnel, not units, which are in adequate supply. He estimated that come fall, 40,000 units should be in operation.
He expected the Queens operation to get underway within a year.
Novins discounted the reaction of Harling to the Canadian operation stating that he was not exactly unprejudiced in his appraisal. He preferred the competent opinions of qualified reporters, who have termed the operational as successful.
Regarding the rallying of exhibitors, Novins stated that it was about time that exhibitors stopped made into suckers by TV interests which are giving away the product for nothing. Instead, they should look ahead and extend their theatres electronically to include Telemeter’s entertainment at home.
As regards to use of advertising on Telemeter, Novins stated that there is a clause in every agreement covering franchise operations which specifically prohibits the use of advertising.
Regarding the Harling comparison with Bartlesville, Novins opined that if he’s so certain that Telemeter operation will be as unsuccessfully, the why doesn’t he conserve his money and energy for his theatre operations. They two systems, Bartlesville and Toronto, are as different as are motion pictures and television, Novins stated.
Motion Picture Exhibitor Magazine, March 23, 1960:
The Battle Nobody Wins
One of the more unfortunate signs of a troubled business is the continuing practice of exhibitor under-reporting of grosses on percentage films and the resulting unpleasant and embarrassing legal wrangling.
Sargoy and Stein represent distribution in such legal actions and the 30 years we have followed their activity have brought only one court loss to the best of our recollection (and that one was one a “fluke”).
The guilty exhibitor will point to unconscionable film rentals to explain away his crime (stealing is an ugly word, but what else can it be termed). The industry conditions that force men who have made their mark in business and civic affairs to dishonesty are to be deplored, but this is no excuse.
Even more surprising, perhaps, is the fact that after exposing them, distributors continue to sell to the chiseling exhibitors. In any other line of endeavor, such turnabout would be unthinkable.
Universal Pictures at one time refused to sell film to such an exhibitor for a year.
Knowing his situation, his probable gross, his expenses, the honest theatre man makes the best deal he can for a film and still keep his economic head above water. Having done so, he sometimes watches the picture go to someone else whose high percentage offer is more acceptable to distribution.
A man with a lifetime in the business generally knows an unrealistic bid when he hears one. Still, we have been told by exhibitors whose honesty cannot be doubted that they have time and time again been the middle man in such deals, caught in the squeeze of dishonesty and greed.
You would think the experienced distributor would be just as apt to recognize an unrealistic bid. This doesn’t seem to be the case. The exhibitor who couldn’t possible stay alive living up to the contact he has “won” resorts to under-reporting. Enter Sargoy and Stein: exit another chiseler.
The most unfortunate aspect of the whole untidy situation is that these are not dishonest men. With a lifetime of effort devoted to his business, it is understandable that he can rationalize under-reporting into simple business strategy. We repeat that this is no excuse for dishonesty, but it is true, nevertheless.
It is a common practice now to demand 40, 50 or even 60 percent terms for pictures that can’t possibly perform that well at the box office. Demands for double playing time, double week ends, no review, and other sales gimmicks, unless justified by exceptional quality, are just discouraging for the man seeking to keep his business and integrity at the same time. Add that distributor favoritism to selected circuit customers at 25 percent and holdovers at no cost at all at the expense of smaller accounts, and the picture is clearer still. We have seen evidence of this in no uncertain manner.
Who’s the winner when such practices as forced bidding in situations where biding is suicidal become fact? Is it the distributor, with his other eye on a pot of gold at the end of a TV rainbow? It seems to us that more realistic live and let live policies could only add to his film’s playing time and grosses.
High pressure sales terms equals bitterness equals dishonesty. That seems to be the equation of the times. The men who should be leading this industry to its greatest days, at times seem to be pushing it towards its bleakest days.
So Sargoy and Stein keep busy and run up an imposing list of legal victories. Let’s hope that future historians wouldn’t look back at this troubled time and say, “They won every battle, but lost the war.”
The dishonest exhibitor can’t win. The shortsighted distributor can’t win. Against odds like that, cooperation makes awfully good sense.
But doesn’t it always!
Edward A. Sargoy, Lawyer Represented Film Companies
(New York Times, Aug 13,1982)
“Edward Abraham Sargoy, a lawyer who specialized in copyright infringement cases and matters involving motion picture distribution, died Wednesday…. In recent years, he was a consultant to the New York law firm of Sargoy, Stein & Hanft, which he founded in 1945 as Sargoy & Stein. During his career, which began in 1925, Mr. Sargoy represented almost all of the major companies in the motion picture industry…”