Cinema advertising tricks from the 1920s

09 September 2010 | 0 comments

In lovely “everything from the past is just like everything from the present, except when it isn’t” news, All Movie Talk provides scans of an amazing 1929 Film Daily Yearbook. It’s aimed at cinema owners, and it’s full of completely ridiculous tricks for marketing every possible sort of film.

The stunts seem to alternate between things that make you go “huh, that’s definitely a precursor of things people still do now”…

The latest development in treasure hunts is newspaper co-operation in which the newspaper provides daily clues in cross-word puzzle form. Another version of this buries the clues among the individual ads in a double truck co-operative ad page. This latter idea has the advantage of getting revenue for the newspaper through the sale of the co-operative page.

…and stunts that make you go “no, wait, what?”…

Run a Saturday morning show, and advertise it extensively as a Potato Matinee. Any child is permitted to see the show upon presentation of a potato at the box office.

The whole ten-part series is worth reading (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), if only for the bewildering number of proposed competitions: ukelele contests, drawing contests, “most popular girl” contests, longest hair contests, oldest married couple contests, “see whose thumbprint is most similar to the star’s” contests (yes, really), “see whose leg measurements are most similar to the star’s” contests (again: yes, really). But here are a few of the highlights:

For a mystery film: “After several reels are shown, the house lights go up and small printed slips are distributed to the audience. The slips contain a list of the cast, and opposite each character is a circle. The announcement requests the patrons to put a cross in the circle opposite the character which is thought to be the criminal. This stunt can be tied up with merchants in awarding prizes for those who successfully solve the mystery.”

For a children’s film: “A little girl seated in crowded street car talking to supposed grandfather, who holds ear-trumpet in order to hear while the little girl says loudly: “Grandpa, have we reached the Strand Theater yet, where such-and-such a picture is showing?” She does this at intervals-while people listen. At certain points, they leave the car and board another car, doing the same stunt over again.”

(Compare, perhaps, current concerns about peer-to-peer marketing among children).

For a romance: “Throwaway cards on white stock are numbered consecutively with a limited number of duplicates printed in another colored stock. This stunt is only good for schools or colleges where the cards can be distributed on the campus or school grounds. The cards read: “Find the person who has the duplicate of this card number, and come to the ….. theater as our guest to see (name of picture).” The white cards are distributed to the boys and colored cards to the girls.”

For a film involving treasure and adventure: “Locate a treasure chest in lobby. Advertise that during the showing keys will be distributed throughout city, and that one lucky key will open the lock of treasure chest. The announcement further states: “Any keys-your key from your personal key ring may open the lock of the Treasure Chest. Come and find out if you are carrying the lucky key.”"

(Compare The Latchkey Project).

For a crime film: “Have facsimile of legal subpoena printed, summoning the public to attend the attraction. The “subpoena” winds up with: “And for failure to attend you will be guilty of not witnessing a tense drama that will entrance you with the remarkable acting.”

(Compare the Advertising Standards Authority-disapproved “Stitch Up a Mate” campaign).

(Via Metafilter).

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