Monday, March 31, 2014

Retro TV Monday - This week in TV Guide: April 5, 1958

When, the cover asks, will we see new movies on television?  Back in April of 1958, could one possibly have imagined that someday you'd be able to pay to see a movie on television the same day it premiered in theaters?  Or that the quality of some home theater systems would eventually rival that of a movie house?  That there would be entire networks that would show only movies, uncut and without commercial interruption (for a fee, of course)?  Or that you didn't even need television, just a machine into which you could put a tape or a disc and watch your favorite film, any time you wanted, usually less than a year after it premiered on the big screens?  This, I think, is one of the biggest ways in which we've changed the way we think about television, as a form of entertainment.  You don't even have to read the article - the headline says it all.

I do read the article, of course - it's part of my service to you, the loyal reader.  And the consensus is: television is hurting the theaters.  As our story opens, theater bigwigs are gathered in Mike Romanoff's Beverly Hills restaurant trying to figure out how to keep "new" movies - defined as those produced since August 1, 1948 - from making it to TV.  The Sindlinger research organization estimates that movie exhibitors have lost $50,000,000 due to movies being shown on TV, and that to release the post-'48 movies would be "'suicide' for the entire movie industry."

TV Guide, of course, isn't so sure about that.  Yes, it's "probably true" that old movies on TV have had an effect.  But there's also the high price of movie tickets (which in 1961 was $0.69), the increasing number of "boisterous youngsters" turning a trip to the theater "into an unpleasant experience," and that movies just might not be as good as they used to be.  And then there's the "dilemma" for talent guilds (actors, writers, producers, etc.) - on the one hand, they'd love to get the revenues that would come from selling newer movies to TV.  At the same time, they fear the effects on their business if television really is that harmful to the industry, so much so that if the studios decide to sell newer movies to TV, the guilds could strike.  In between are the television stations themselves.  They want the new movies, yes, but they point out that with over 10,000 already available, they can afford to wait for awhile.

Who knows where it will all end?  Well, of course, we do.  As I said at the top, I wonder if they could have imagined it?

Read the rest here.  

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