No death of a private citizen in the history of the U.S. ever had an effect on showbiz in all its manifold operations as that experienced over the weekend as the nation mourned the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But then King was more than just an individual; he was a symbol of civil rights equality to all men of good will.
Although the most dramatic, the cancellation of the Academy Awards program scheduled for tonight was only one of many entertainment world activities that were affected throughout the country. Theatres which remained open reported sharp declines in business Friday night through yesterday. Some were darkened as result of rioting that broke out in Chicago and Washington. Broadway firstrun film houses reported attendance off as much as 30 to 35% as people forsook usual pleasures to honor the memory of Dr. King.
The Oscarcast has been postponed until Wednesday (10) and the Governors Ball completely cancelled, first time in the Academy’s 40-year history either has happened.
The announcement was made Saturday (6) by Acad prexy Gregory Peck after an emergency meeting of the governors of the Academy. The 26 governors voted unanimously on the move after consulting with ABC, which will simulcast the ceremonies, and Eastman Ko- Co., sponsor.
Peck said of the postponement and cancellation that “we all felt it was the only proper and appropriate action to take.” He added that the show itself will remain as before, played strictly for entertainment, except for opening remarks he would make as president of the Academy.
Four Negro performers who had bowed out of the program before it was decided to postpone it, are back in it. Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll will be Awards presenters. Sammy Davis Jr. and Louis Armstrong will sing Oscar-nominated songs.
Cut ‘Dinner’ Dialog
Meanwhile plans of a committee headed by Marlon Brando, Publicists Local 818 prexy Vincent Tubbs and director Gordon Parks to spearhead a picture industry memorial scheduled in memory of mKing have been discontinued heels of Academy postponing its Oscar ceremonies and cancelling the ball. Brando and Tubbs will attend Dr. King’s funeral in Atlanta tomorrow, as will Armstrong, Poitier and Davis.
Columbia Pictures’ global veepee Mo Rothman was on the telex all Friday (6) morning instructing 81 U.S. exchanges and 65 foreign branches to clip out some dialog in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner,” In respect to the martyred Dr. King. It’s a witticism wherein Katharine Houghton tells the family maid to prepare dinner for yet another guest and the maid wearily answers, “Who’s next, the Reverend Martin Luther King?”
ABC Sked Changes
Rothman was one of the few key execs left in New York with the top brass already on the coast for the Academy Awards. Incidentally, Rothman had to cancel a personal visit with his son Keith to Dartmouth for possible matriculation there. The 16-year-old by his first wife resides in Rome with his mother, but is a frequent visitor to the U.S.
Events connected with the assassination of Dr. King Jr has forced ABC-TV to make more changes than the other networks, as far as could be learned yesterday.
In addition, of course, to switching the Oscarcast, ABC-TV also skedded live coverage of the Memphis march today from 9 a.m..- 1 p.m. Tonight, it will carry its regularly- scheduled “Cowboy In Africa,” 7:80-8:80 p.m., followed by “Move Over, Darling ,” the “Wednesday Night Movie” that was bumped by the Academy Awards. A special on Dr. King will follow at 10:80 p.m., with the Joey Bishop memorial show for Dr. King that first was aired April 4 to be repeated at 11:80 p.m. tonight.
Tomorrow, ABC-TV plans to cover Dr. King’s funeral live from Atlanta, from 7:80-9 a.m.
CBS-TV had a re-run of an old “Smothers Brothers Show” last night, instead of a new segment, and will repeat a “Red Skelton Hour” episode tomorrow night instead of a segment that was to have guestarred Nipsey Russell.
(Above: The cover of Variety’s weekly issue on April 10, 1968)
Cosby Cancels Gigs
NBC-TV reported no primetime program changes.
Bill Cosby cancelled advance SRO gigs Friday, Saturday and last night which would have concluded a one-niter tour. He plans to do them later at Ohio State, Providence and Hartford. Promoters Lou Robin, Al Tinkley and Irving Granz are now trying to tie up same spots in about two weeks.
Earlier last week Cosby grossed $29,200 in two shows in Buffalo, $28,100 in one in New Haven, $44,600 in two at Univ. of Illinois Fieldhouse, $25,800 in two at Univ. of Kansas, reports Robin
. Screen Gems producer Jackie Bamett halted today rehearsals of Ella Fitzgerald spec in deference and rehearsals will resume Wednesday.
Gala costume preem, complete with prizes to have been held at the Fox Bruin in Westwood yesterday for Mirisch-UA’s “The Party” was cancelled in deference to President Johnson’s proclamation that the day be one of mourning for the slain Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Peter Sellers starrer will begin its regular run today.
Hillcrest Country Club did not open yesterday, in mourning for the martyred civil rights leader.
Circus Cancels In N. Y.
New York, April 7—Today and tonight’s as well as Tuesday night’s performances have been cancelled by the circus at the new Madison Square Garden.
Legit theatre attendance was mildly affected Friday night and Saturday matinee and night by the racial unrest following Dr. King’s assassination. In most cases, tickets for the performances had already been sold, so even if the holders preferred not to be out at night, the box office receipts were not reduced. Only the weakest draws, which had unsold tickets, showed a decline as last-minute buying dropped off.
Another factor in the situation is that most of the public disorder occurred in Harlem and Bedford- Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, both miles from the midtown Manhattan area. There were only isolated incidents, quickly put down, in the midtown district. Business may have been slightly more affected at off-Broadway theatres, but it’s difficult to obtain reliable information from such sources. The expectation is that attendance may be a trifle down on Monday and Tuesday, but that conditions will be back to normal for the Wed. matinees and that night’s shows.
Early reaction to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. provoked instances of rioting and looting in New York’s Harlem Thurs. night and additional incidents were reported on Friday. Tension was high on Friday and many home office and network personnel were dismissed early to allow employees to get home before dark. Aside from isolated incidents over the weekend, New York was generally calm, although business generally suffered on Friday and Saturday nights.
The riot on 125th St. left stores (radio-tv, men’s furnishings, pawnshops, liquor, jewelry and other stores) with their supposedly defensive iron gates ripped asunder. Punctuating the scene were two marquee displays, one on the Apollo, the lone straight vaudeville theatre left in the country just west of 7th Ave. It heralded “Memorial Services, 8 p.m. For Dr. King.” The other marquee atop the Momingside Theatre, a bit further west on 126th and Momingside Ave., more ominously displayed “Berserk” and “An Eye For An Eye,” two-thirds of a triple bill which included “Easy Come, Easy Go,” a Presley pic.