Published Date

August 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 27: What Is the Future of Television? (1945)

Every movie producer has some interest in television, even if it is only indirect. Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century-Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and other film companies are watching television development with a careful eye and laying their own plans in a very hush-hush way. The film companies are interested in television because they have much at stake in the production of motion pictures, in their ownership of theaters, and in their relations with independent theater owners.

Many film producers will not sell or rent their pictures to television broadcasters at all. Some movie companies are asking as much as $400 for a single showing of a feature picture that is eight or ten years old, even if it is only going to be viewed by a few television set owners.

Their reason for this action can be seen in the following resolution passed by the Independent Theatre Owners’ Association: “Be it resolved, that the Independent Theatre Owners’ Association is unalterably opposed to producers or distributors of motion pictures allowing any of their product to be used for television production in any way, shape or manner, inasmuch as reproduction would be in direct opposition to motion picture theatres with no admission fee being charged and would thus consist of unfair competition.”

Television is still in its infancy as far as programming is concerned, and in time these theater owners may change their views toward the use of motion pictures in television programs. Without letting the exhibitors know too much about it, the movie studios are going ahead to develop television on their own hook, through experimental operation.

The president of NBC has declared that if the movie studios do not cooperate with television, the broadcasters will set up their own film production units and make feature pictures especially for television use. This is probably a long way off, however, since as yet there is no heavy money backing the development of such an organization among the broadcasters.


Television in theaters

The war has halted progress in theater television. The Roxy and Paramount theaters in New York, however, as well as theaters in other key cities already have made plan’s to in-stall equipment for showing television pictures after the war.

Much of the “know-how” of theater television has been developed in Great Britain by the Scophony Corporation, Ltd. For a number of years this firm has been giving theater demonstrations of television. About five years ago they televised a prize fight on a screen 18 feet wide in the Odeon Theatre at Leicester Square in London. More than 2,000 persons jammed the theater, paying about $5 each for their tickets.

In 1942 NBC televised a prize fight between Billy Soose and Ken Overlin at Madison Square Garden. The giant television screen was set up on the stage of a legitimate playhouse, the New Yorker theater. Horse races have also been televised in this country.

At the frequency allocation hearings of FCC during the fall of 1944, a representative of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers appeared on behalf of theater television. He requested a total of 75 clear channels, each 20 megacycles wide, for theater television—a space in the spectrum 1,000 times as broad as the 106 present standard broadcast channels occupy.

He stated that theater television would be presented to the public in black and white, with the picture quality about as good as that possible on 35-millimeter film. He also stated that color television, when perfected, would be used.

In its May 1945 frequency allocations, FCC did not allocate any space in the spectrum for the regular and permanent use of theater television. Experimental use was allowed, however, on the understanding that the lower experimental frequencies would be reassigned to television broadcasting if and when needed, in which event theater television would move farther up the scale.

Television is faced with a vicious circle as far as entertainment is concerned. Until enough sets are sold, important money-spending national advertisers will not be too interested in buying time or sponsoring costly television programs. But until such programs are telecast, entertainment on television will be mediocre, and television sets will be slow in selling. As time goes on, more people will become interested in television, however, and the entertainment you will be able to pick up will gradually improve.

Are the independent theater owners farsighted in their standon television? Are the movie studios playing fair with the theaters by going ahead with television development? Will the movie theaters lose business when television-be-comes popular? Would you buy a television receiver if the only entertainment you could get on it was motion-picture features five to ten years old?

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