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The Times (16/Jul/1919) - Drastic Film Boycott Proposed

(c) The Times (16/Jul/1919)



A largely attended meeting of exhibitors and others interested in the film Industry was held at the Holborn Empire yesterday afternoon to consider the situation created by the dispute between the Cinematograph Exhibitors Associations and the Famous Players-Lasky Film Service.

At the conference of the Association in Glasgow last month a resolution was unanimously adopted refusing to book any films or enter into any contract with the company unless the council of the Association was satisfied that the company was not tied to or allied with any concern formed for the purpose of promoting companies for the building of cinematograph theatres in this country. Yesterday's meeting unanimously decided to support the Association in carrying that resolution into effect, and also adopted other resolutions declaring that the Government should be asked to give their hearty support to British film production on a larger scale, and requesting British capitalists to refrain from investing in any picture theatre under foreign control. The British public were also invited to join in the demand that while this country is so short of dwelling-houses, no cinema theatre controlled by other than British subjects should be erected, while the American people were appealed to to reciprocate by showing British films in their country. Mr. A.E. Newbould, M.P., presided, and be was supported by Sir J.D. Rees, M.P., Mr. J.A. Seddon, M.P., and Mr. R.C. Buchanan.

The Chairman remarked that there was a general belief that the film industry was in a very flourishing condition in this country. That was only in part true. The popularity of the cinema was certainly greater than it had ever been, but during the five years of war the industry had been unable to develop. Many of the studios had closed down for a time during the war, and its future prosperity entirely depended upon the developments of the next five years. They did not fear legitimate competition, but they intended to prevent anything in the way of a monopoly in the industry.

Mr. R.C. Buchanan (Edinburgh) said that the effect of the present move must ultimately be the entire elimination of the exhibitor from the business. British films were never credited with their real origin in the United States. They were always attributed to the American firm which exhibited them. In this country there were fewer than four thousand cinema theatres. Yet we sent back to the United States anything from £3,000 to £15,000 for every picture, upon which a good profit had already been made on the other side of the water. The United States had 20,000 picture theatres yet in only one instance, so far as he could find, had they sent back even £6,000 for a picture, while the average return on the few films they had deigned to purchase worked out at something under £800. The American market was practically closed to British films, despite the fact that this country had produced many films equal to the American best. Now they had a firm proposing to produce American films in this country, and in case the picture theatres declined to show their work, they would build theatres of their own, but with British capital. If it was in their power to prevent it, not one of those American controlled theatres would ever be opened in this country. The Famous Players-Lasky group had only one object in view, to go past the exhibitor and get directly to the public. The picture theatres of this country had over 20 million patrons every week. In this campaign they would appeal to them by means of the screen and tell them exactly what the new American move meant. They would also circulate pamphlets, and the picture theatres would be visited by a hundred speakers.


Mr. Seddon, M.P., said that he had been told that the new company had already got its capital. Major David Davies, its chairman, was a profound believer in the League of Nations and he was convinced that at the back of his mind he was concerned with the company not so much as a financial success, but as an agency whereby the work of the league could be helped. This country had nothing to learn from the United States, either in the production of films or in the building of the theatres. They merely asked the Famous Players to stick to the production of films.

Sir J.D. Rees, M.P., said that if they had not learned in the past five years to keep the British markets for British people, then this country would never learn anything.