|Moving Picture World, 30-November-1918|
LOSING COULDN'T STOP TEXAS SMILE
By Clarke Irvine
IN spite of the pressure of war economy, higher prices for help, pictures and overhead, and the piling on of nearly the last straw, influenza, the exhibitors of Southern Texas are still smiling and right on the job. This is evinced by the way in which these men took the recent epidemic which caused them to close for over two weeks. Not an exhibitor grumbled; not one seemed to kick and snort because the health boards saw it necessary to put the lid on public gatherings. On the other hand they tried to co-operate, and instead of three-sheeting their houses, they bent their best efforts in selling Liberty Bonds and aiding the city and health authorities.
Just prior to the spread of the disease business was quite satisfactory. Galveston, where I spent more time, was teeming with activity, both military and social. Business was not up to the standard, but it was good enough to cause advertising, competition and the usual propaganda of pictures. Galveston is primarily a seaboard city, and when the submarine war started it dropped to below zero, hence business followed commerce, and likewise the theatres found patronage on the wane. Then the military activity came and it stimulated business. No one can complain, in the face of war, and they all do their best and keep smiling.
Hulsey Head of a Big Business.
The largest firm in this vicinity is the Texas Amusement Company, of which Earl H. Hulsey is president and general manager, and S. T. McDonald secretary and treasurer. This firm owns he Queen theatres in Galveston, Houston and Dallas, three of the finest theatres in this section; also the Zoe in Houston, the Kyle in Beaumont, the Hippodrome in Waco, the Old Mill, Hippodrome and Grand in Dallas. They also control the Grand in Galveston, a combination house, now running big time vaudeville. The Dallas Exchange is also run by Mr. Hulsey.
Until recently Jean Finley, an aggressive young advertising man, had charge of the Queen publicity work in Galveston, but he was promoted to the managership of the Hippodrome in Dallas, then the military service grabbed him, as he turned twenty-one, in time to get into the new draft.
At present Mr. McDonald is running the Galveston end of the Texas interests, and is kept quite busy. He is a pleasant man, an able manager, and a fine fellow. You never can judge the business barometer by his face, for he has one of those smiles that knows no retreat. His grin barrage goes over incessantly. He believes in advertising in the papers, maintaining constant publicity, and advertising the picture rather than the star. This firm is a member of the First National, and runs in addition the big features put out by the larger producers. Business changes here with the seasons ; in summer it is light on account of the beach, which is a counter attraction; and winter brings the folks downtown away from the cool beach winds. The Queen is a modern, well-equipped house with heating and cooling plant, large pipe organ, excellent fittings, and uses Power's 6-B projection on a Gold Fibre screen. It seats about 1-.200.
The next house in importance here is the Dixie Number One, a 650 seating capacity theatre, modern and well equipped, and run by one man who has risen from the ranks, A. M. Martini, who came over twenty-nine years ago from Italy. He landed in this city with $4.80, and today his investment is over $80,000. He laughs when he speaks of his rise, telling how he had no friends, no kin, no job — nothing. He worked, entered the grocery business, then the show game, and now the name of his theatre is a household word.
Making a Dollar Bring Full Value.
Mr. Martini's policy is to give the most possible for the money, treating his patrons as a storekeeper would; and "keeping the American dollar worth one dollar," which is a rather wise idea. He aims to suit the more popular purse, as his prices indicate; yet the show is high class and worth every bit of the money. Mr. Martini is a regular man and a regular exhibitor. His friends believe in him, and his standing with competitors shows that his policy to the world is that of the good old golden rule. I enjoyed thoroughly my interview with this man. In addition the Dixie Number Two, a smaller and nearby house is run by him. Lately he has taken over the Crystal Number One — here they seem to name the houses the same and then number them. His object in having three houses is to suit the purse of all, and he is doing it regularly.
Mr. Martini is a true patriot of America; yet a staunch Italian. He has two sons in the service. His Dixie No. 1 is the only house to display the picture of President Wilson in place of a one-sheet in a handsome brass stand. He regrets that he has not a dozen sons to send across to enter Berlin and spread liberty.
The Palace, Strand, and Lincoln houses are run by the Bell Enterprises, of which G. W. Bell, Jr., is manager; assisted by his father. They operate other houses nearby and are engaged also in the exchange business.
Business Good in Dallas and Houston.
I made a trip to Houston and one to Dallas, and in both places business was good. Of course it is not up to standard by any means, but it is getting by. Everywhere the theatre is greatly aiding the sale of liberty bonds, the purposes of the government, and everything patriotic. It would indeed be sad if anything happened to the picture industry to close, stop, or even modify business as it is. The film industry is here permanently and its progress must not be hampered in the least. The recent closing of the theatres has shown beyond a doubt that the pulse of business is regulated by the theatres.