BRITISH FILMS ATROPHY: A co-operative plan for their immediate revival
By Iris Conlay CATHOLIC HERALD Film Critic
YEAR 1939 has seamed to me a vintage year for the films (which is not saying that it was nemsarily a vintage year for the Idustry and its employed). A year +WI has not so much produced single rilliant films but which has seen an
II-over-the-world levelling up of stenards. A year in which the films have
icicle* grown up. A year of romises, if not of achievements. . . .
Which brings us right up to 1940. That of films in this year which opens war? Which offers more difficulties , producers, to exhibitors, and to idiences than has any other year for any past? Already war conditions have made the iestion of the supply of films from nerican problematic and atrophied e British production units.
So worried is Mr Sidney Bernstein on this subject that he is scheming for a co-operative basis for producers and exhibitors which he feels may be the one solution to the film industry in this country,
▪ RAPHICALLY he explains the
7 scarcity of films,
there are 4,500 cinemas in Great Rain. In order that these may operate ecessfully 600 long 'films a year are suired.
the number of long films registered this country since 1935 has been : 1935-6-721. 1936-7-746. 1937-8-829. 1938-9-579, April-Sept., 1939-228.
Assuming that the supply of films from September of last year until March of this is equal to the Drat half's supply (altogether too optimistic) only 458 will have been received, which is 144 short of requirements.
AND the scarcity is not merely in the foreign field. British production wheels have nearly run down. And filmgoers in this country, says Mr Bernstein, want British films, in many cases preferring them to foreign films.
Even in districts where British films are not generally popular, the public requires a " seasoning " of them. During the war this demand will become stronger, since foreign films will necessarily be less in sympathy with the everyday lives and experiences of British people.
Again, both at home and abroad, films must be produced which implicitly or explicitly will put the British case.
Scenes of everyday life in England, against English backgrounds, must he recorded. Such Alms can have a profound effect on morale at home and in neutral countries.
DESPITE the war, therefore, production in Great Britain must go on. According to Mr Bernstein it can.
He has ascertained that there is sufficient studio space and that the technical staff is available for the production of 200 films a year. These, he says. will not be 200 " epics," but they will be " honestto-goodness " films about British life which the cinema-going public badly needs.
And the chief things that film producers require in order to make films are 1. Finance at normal banking charges.
2. Guarantee which will allow them to prepare a continuous programme of pictures and thus carry the risk of some failures.
3. Studio space, distribution and production costs at economic rates.
THESE things Mr Bernstein believes the exhibitors can help to provide by guaranteeing playing dates for a group of films so that continuous production can be planned; by getting credit facilities and by controlling basic costs.
In turn, Mr Bernstein would give the exhibitors a supply of films which even If they were not suitable would not in sum damage their business, and would help to maintain rentals at figures which would have some relationship to takings and operating costs; a share in the profits; the re-establishment of British film production and the ensuring of a source of supply beyond the control of the distributors of foreign films, with a consequent safeguard against possible monopoly and price increases.
T HUS does Mr Bernstein work out his I scheme for a co-operative production effort between exhibitor and producer.
The exhibitor, he says. can get hie credit for " first moneys " (the main charges of a film production which have to be met with cash down, such as the services of technicians, studio workers, minor artistes, film sets, costumes, etc.) by booking in advance the completed films—minimum, 12 productions over a year. The value of these bookings would need a figure to cover " first moneys." Armed with these the producers could get credits.
As a safeguard, the exhibitors would have to approve story, director, leading artistes, costs of production and distribution.
In fact, for the first time in film history the exhibitor would be asked to play nearly as important and eras. tive a part in the industry as the producer himself.
Vhill this plan work out? It is for the Industry to decide. We wait to see if it will be given its chance.