Mid-West Exhib Says ‘Barretts,’ Rothschild,’ Pimpernel’ Among Best Grossers in Silo Belt — Musicals Lame and Story Tops Star as a Draw
STARTING TIME IDEA
Hollywood, July 16.
Current visit to Hollywood of Joe Kinsky, theater operator for the Tri-State Amusement Corp. of Davemnport, Iowa, is an educational for producers who have regarded exhibition as a foreign language.
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There are 77 theaters in the Tri-State circuit, located in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Their biggest town is Omaha, with 225,000 population, smallest Moline, with 28,000. Throughout Illinois, manufacturing is diversified, with the buying public coming from all walks of life. In the other sections, it’s mostly a rural public with the exception of Omaha which contributes a lot of railroad people.
Kinsky caters to the average American. His territory is, to a great extent, typical of a cross section of the country.
Kinsky made some observations and also kicked around a lot of ideas fostered by Hollywood, did likewise with a few pet contentions of the critics. For instance, two of the biggest grossers in his territory were ‘Barretts of Wimpole Street’ and ‘Scarlet Pimpernel,’ both touted as class entertaimnent, best suited for class audiences.
Katharine Cornell, while on the road with ‘Barretts,’ two seasons back, did her biggest single gross for one performance at Des Moines, Ia.
‘Monte Cristo,’ ‘Ruggles of Red Gap,’ ‘Rothschild,’ ‘Copperfield’ and ‘College Rhythm’ were Kinsky’s other outstanding grossers this past season.
In Tri-States territory, Kinsky contends, musicals are lame ducks. Last ‘Goldiggers’ did below average. If the musical has a back stage story, it’s almost impossible to sell. ‘Folies Bergere,’ ‘George White’s Scandals’ and ‘Sweet Music’ were other disappointers. ‘Devil is a Woman’ was a washout, with ‘Imitation of Life’ and ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ trailing behind. Mae West’s ‘Goin’ to Town’ was below her previous efforts.
Marlene Dietrich and Garbo are both poor prospects in the middle west unless they do a modern picture, Kinsky declares.
Unusual is the fact that both the Zane Grey and George O’Brien pictures get first run bookings.
Kinsky finds they are a relief to patrons. George Arliss brings a class of people who only come to see Arliss. In this respect, Kinsky believes that picture companies would help their business by an advertising campaign to educate fans to see pictures from the beginning, instead of hopping into a theatre at any time.
To substantiate this contention he argues that his theatre telephones are always busy when he has a picture the public wants to see. Phone calls are all for the same purpose, to determine when the ace feature starts.
With the exception of the Charlie Chan pictures, all mysteries get B showings in Tri-State houses. Kinsky claims that the Chan pictures are prime favorites, have strong followings in his territory.
He did not attempt to tell Hollywood how to make pictures, just tried to tell those he met what was what in his theaters. Patrons like down to earth stories with a minimum of risque subjects thrown in out and out dirt and sophistication are shunned. Too much dialog is the death knell of a feature. His patrons want action of the G-Men and gangster type but all come in cycles and are quickly ready for the embalmer.
Editing the News Reel
Farmers are not intertested in farming pictures, but when a ‘State Fair’ comes along they pack the theaters. Reason for this, says Kinsky, is that ‘State Fair’ would be a good story if the locale was a boiler factory. Story counts, despite the names in the cast. Stars are draws only when they appear in stories that are worth while.
Kinsky’s treatment of newsreels is to re-edit them so that they will build like a vaude show, trying, if possible, to spot the laugh subject as the last clip. According to his observation, little effort is made by the newsreel outfits to build to a strong finish. To this extent he puts the minor subjects at the beginning, holds the laughs and spectacle to the end. He claims that it has aroused interest in the news clips so that individual subjects are now billed in his advertising, 70% of which is confined to newspapers.