Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Our Teddy -- February 19, 2019

Moving Picture World, 01-February-1919
Belated happy Presidents' Day everyone.  Yesterday I was participating in a blogathon.

Former president Theodore Roosevelt died at his family home, Sagamore Hill, near Oyster Bay, New York 100 years ago last month, on 06-January-1919. He was only 60 years old. Vice President Thomas R Marshall said "Death had to take him in his sleep, for if he was awake there'd have been a fight."

Perhaps it is cynical of me, but I'll bet the producers of The Fighting Roosevelts, a movie about TR and life before the presidency, were not prostrated by the news. It probably helped business.

Moving Picture World, 01-February-1919
Across the top, we see photos of the real TR giving a speech.  Below we see scenes from the movie, including:
Roosevelt in the Legislature at twenty-three 
Roosevelt applying the law as New York Police Commissioner
Roosevelt selects future Admiral Sims
Roosevelt becomes a democrat among democrats in the far West
Roosevelt tenders Pres. McKinley his resignation as Asst. Sec'y of the Navy and goes to command the Rough Riders
Roosevelt floors a desperado

Moving Picture World, 01-February-1919
"The biggest box-office attraction since motion pictures began."

Moving Picture World, 01-February-1919
Moving Picture World, 08-February-1919
"The public will think it is a war picture..." so they changed the title.

Moving Picture World, 08-February-1919
I like this suggestion for a series of advertisements.

Moving Picture World, 22-February-1919

Manager Shackman, of New York's Eighty-first Street,
Demonstrated the Value of Showmanship in Putting
Over Big Feature in House with Neighborhood Location

APPROXIMATELY five thousand new patrons of the class who rarely attend a motion picture theatre, four days of capacity business in a house seating twenty-four hundred, and a special Saturday morning matinee for school children which brought crowds so great that a detail of nine policemen was required to preserve order, are the results obtained by S. A. Shackman, owner and manager of the Eighty-first Street Theatre, at Eighty-first, street and Broadway, New York City, from an unusual campaign to put over "Our Teddy," the six-reel screen version of the life and accomplishments of Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, made by McClure Productions, Inc., and distributed by First National Exhibitors' Circuit.

Mr. Shackman changes his program twice a week. This gives him a three days' run for the first half, and four days for the second half of each week. "Our Teddy" was booked to open on Thursday and to close on Sunday night, making a four days' engagement. His theatre is in the heart of a thickly settled district, populated by well-to-do families, in the upper West Side.

Moving Picture World, 22-February-1919

Going Out for New Patrons.

For appeal to this class of patronage he has found that dignity and a certain element of conservatism are essential. His regular advertising mediums include car cards on the Broadway surface lines, five line insertions daily in the New York Times as the morning newspaper, and the Evening World for the afternoon publication, with larger space in the Sunday editions of both ; advance slides, and a variety of lobby display cards, hand lettered and arranged by himself. Supplementing these is the house program of sixteen pages, containing current and advance announcements. Occasionally he uses blotters for distribution to out-going patrons and among the apartment houses in the neighborhood. Window card displays in a dozen choice locations complete the list of regular methods of advertising and publicity.

"Here is a chance," Mr. Shackman said to his assistant, Mr. Gerard, after he had booked the Roosevelt picture, "to bring new patrons to the theatre. I believe that this production will appeal not alone to the 'regulars,' but to the thousands who still believe that motion pictures are beneath average amusement standards. There is the opportunity in 'Our Teddy' to interest them in screen entertainment. The possibility of results easily is worth the effort."

Made Study of Subject.

He then proceeded to analyze the production for novel advertising ideas. He had just been advised that a song had been written under the title of "Good-bye, Teddy Roosevelt, You Were a Real American." After reading the verse and chorus he hit upon the first of a series of new promotional plans that added five thousand potential "regulars" to his clientele.

The concluding scenes of "Our Teddy" show Colonel Roosevelt and his four sons in double exposures over a service star. The action pictures the part taken by each of the four boys in the world war.

With this for his premise Mr. Shackman began a search for a quartet of wounded soldiers. Commanding officers at several Base Hospitals in New York were consulted and four wounded men were finally located at Bast Hospital No. 1. They had sung in the hospitals in France during their convalescence.

Put Novelty in Lobby Display.

Beginning with the matinee on the Sunday preceding the opening of "Our Teddy," Mr. Shackman introduced them as "Pershing's Overseas Quartet.". Specific reference was made to the Roosevelt picture, and then the quartet sang the song while announcement and scene slides from the film were thrown on the screen. This was repeated at every performance.

Variety and novelty were sought for the lobby display. The idea finally approved by Mr. Shackman provided for a display portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, hung from the marquee and facing the street. In an apartment house opposite he placed a spot light which threw a strong light on the portrait after dark each night.

Made Use of Spot Light.

This received a great deal of attention from pedestrians on the opposite side of Broadway, and from a heavy automobile and surface car traffic. A similar portrait, draped with flags, was hung in the center of the marquee above the sidewalk for the attention of passers-by on the theatre side of Broadway.

He used a different style of lobby display, alternating the arrangements of material in the cards so that it appealed both to his regular patrons and to the new clientele he was seeking. Some of the frames contained lobby display photographs, while others were mounted with newspaper and magazine clippings, surrounding large portrait photos of the former President. These latter displays were given preferred position in the frames facing the streets at either side of the lobby.

School Campaign Well Planned.

The public schools were considered for a semi-educational and semi-entertainment appeal to the pupils. Mr. Shackman learned that within a radius of ten blocks of the theatre were schools with a registration of ten thousand children. A personal appeal was made to the principal of each of nine schools, and permission was obtained from them individually for the distribution of ten thousand blotters, announcing a special school children's matinee at 11 :30 o'clock Saturday morning.

To add interest to the occasion he extended an invitation to the New York Council of the Boy Scouts of America for its members to attend the special matinee as his guests. The New York Council has a band. He sought the leader, and arrangements were made for the band of thirty-five pieces to give a short patriotic concert as an overture for the picture. This fact was made a part of the copy on the blotters sent to the schools.

"A surprising feature of the school plan," said Mr. Shackman, "was the marked willingness of the principals to co-operate with me. They looked upon the production as something that every school pupil should see, and the fact that I was arranging a special matinee seemed to them to be the ideal way of presenting the picture to the children." There is an established rule in all New York public schools prohibiting the distribution of advertising matter of any character to the pupils, either outside the school or in the class rooms. Mr. Shackman's blotters were given out in the class rooms, at the direction of the principals, by the various class monitors.

Used Blotters to Advantage.

A cartoon by R. M. Brinkerhoff, picturing in entertaining style his impressions of the production, was the illustration used on the blotters, which were printed in two colors. The blotters were distributed on Tuesday, two days before the picture opened its four days' engagement. There was a practical legitimate purpose in this. Mr. Shackman was confident that every pupil would preserve the blotter for personal use, and that every one of the ten thousand would be certain to tell their parents about the matinee.

He was right. They did both; more effectively than he had dared to hope.

As a further effort to win the "once-in-a-whiles" Mr. Shackman increased the size of his newspaper space in a four days' campaign, starting on Wednesday, and continuing until Saturday. He used ads two columns by two inches in the Times and the Evening World. The copy was written to interest all classes of readers. Small line cuts of the situations drawn in cartoon by Brinkerhoff were used to illustrate the text.

Moving Picture World, 22-February-1919

Making Music Do Its Share.

Walter Davidson, musical director for the Eighty-first Street Theatre, arranged a musical score which included the "American Patrol" for the overture, various other patriotic airs, including "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," and an orchestral accompaniment of "Good-bye, Teddy Roosevelt, You Were a Real American." The enthusiasm of the audiences during the first half of the week satisfied Mr. Shackman that the "Pershing Quartet" would contribute to the atmosphere of the production by singing this song as an introduction, and again with the closing scene.

Got Capacity Opening.

The production started on Thursday to capacity business. On Friday the treasurer notified Mr. Shackman that the advance sale for Saturday and Sunday was far above normal. On Saturday morning, with the special matinee scheduled to begin at 11 :30 o'clock, Mr. Shackman arrived at the theatre at 9:30 o'clock to find the lobby and street jammed with children.

Moving Picture World, 22-February-1919
By 10 o'clock the crowd had grown to such proportions that it was becoming unmanageable, and he telephoned to a police station for assistance. Nine policemen responded, and they were kept busy for nearly two hours.

Sees Hundreds of New Faces.

"The production proved a truly wonderful attraction," said Mr. Shackman. "Mr. Gerard and I watched carefully at every matinee and evening performance, and we saw hundreds of new faces in line at the box office, people whom neither of us could remember ever having seen in the house before. I had arranged the remainder of my program so that these new patrons would be thoroughly pleased with the entire show. I wanted to convince them that the Eighty-first Street Theatre would be well worth their future consideration.

Children Were Home Advertisers.

"Undoubtedly the blotters distributed in the schools sent into the homes of thousands of families the news that the life of Colonel Roosevelt would be told in motion pictures at my house. I am positive that hundreds of fathers and mothers and older brothers and sisters of the school children came to the theatre before Saturday to satisfy themselves.

"It is too early yet to say how many new patrons will result from the campaign and the production, but I am satisfied that the number will be sufficient to more than justify the attempt."

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