The practice of newspapers charging theaters for directory advertising while giving free listings to radio, tv, subscription cable and pay-per-view has been defended by the Newspaper Advertising Bureau in the wake of a complaint by H. Donald Busch, chairman of the National Assn. of Theater Owners.
Busch, president of AMC Philadelphia, claims the inconsistency is discriminatory and that it foists unjustified costs on the exhibitor.
“Although we pay for such advertising,” he says in the current NATO newsletter, “newspapers historically give free space for radio, tv and now cable and pay-per-view schedules. I think that this is unfair and that we are being discriminated against in favor of all other suppliers of motion pictures to the public.”
Busch feels that “It is about time that the newspapers stopped making us pay for that which they give away for free to this competition, so that theatrical exhibition is on a more level playing field with its electronic counterparts.”
Dan Mahan, Los Angeles-based v p.-regional director of NAB, a national organization representing the advertising interests of newspapers, told VARIETY he is willing to meet with NATO to discuss the possibility of partial mitigation of the problem and to explore opportunities for increased cooperation with exhibition.
Mahan, who opposes free directory listings for theaters, conceded that Busch has a legitimate beef.
“Each newspaper has to make its own decision and work with its local exhibitors,” Mahan said, “but I would not personally recommend that newspapers provide free information if they’re not doing it now – unless local exhibition could assure them that their total revenue from motion picture advertising would be the same or increased …”
Mahan said a small percentage of newspapers have provided free listings without reporting resultant loss of overall exhibitor ad revenue. That is offset, he noted, others who have tried free directory ads and experienced a decline in exhibitor ad revenue.