Notes on a New Major: New Concepts In Sales, Merchandising
by Elsa F. Shain
Cinemation Industries, Inc., a new film distribution and production company which is putting into effect flexible and imaginative sales concepts in dealing with exhibitors, will soon announce a unique method of financing. The company, it was stated, is considering plans to apply at some future time for listing on one of the major stock exchanges. CII is not a conglomerate and has no mergers in the offing.
Cinemation Industries’ shares are traded over-the-counter presently. Their published trading range last week was 4-7/8; 4-1/2; and 4-1/4. In contrast, last week’s published accounts of trading prices of shares of Cinerama and Allied Artists Pictures, both of which are listed on the American Stock Exchange, were Cinerama (96,000 shares) – 4-/14; 2-7/8; and 3-3/4; Allied Artists – 3-1/8; 2-7/8; and 3.
Jerry Gross, Cinemation’s 29-year-old president and Harold Marenstein, vice-president, sales, conducted a luncheon meeting with the N.Y. trade press on Friday (28) at which the company’s emergence as a major distribution-production company was stressed and organization and policies were delineated. The meeting was also attended by Jess Wolff, financial v.p.; John J. O’Rourke, director of advertising, publicity, and exploitation; Alan M. Schachter, exploitation manager; and other company staffers.
Cinemation is at present in operation with 30 features, representing a negative value of about $10,000,000 for release in the year ahead; and plans for about 20 features a year with $3-$5 million being invested for current and future production. The company, which headquarters at 250 W. 57th Street, N.Y.C., has set up six division headquarters with more branches to follow as needed.
New Sales Concepts
“Our emergence into a major company is a significant factor in taking up the slack being felt by exhibitors as established majors retrench, reorganize, and severely cut production output,” Gross declared at the press luncheon.
“Will you elaborate on the statement that the company hopes to achieve a closer working relationship with exhibitors and that your structure and sales concept are different. What’s so different?” asked a reporter.
“My association with Cinemation is the culmination of 35 years of dreaming of having a perfect sales force,” replied sales chief Marenstein. “I started with the majors, then went with the independents…I always dreamt of some day having six to eight professional and experienced film men who know their territory, know every exhibitor, would be prepared to deal with each exhibitor and discuss his problems with him. Many of the problems in our industry are due to lack of communication. Sometimes the terms have been too onerous, and the exhibitor had to devise methods to protect himself against them. My idea was we would acquire a series of pictures; would work with the exhibitor and put a picture on the screen, play it, then sit down and talk. If he is hurt, we will discuss it; we are not going to demand before he plays a picture that he commit himself. Our men are ready to sit down with an independent or circuit exhibitor and discuss each picture individually. We are here to help the theatre man, not hurt him."
Not a One-Shot Company
GROSS: We are not a one-shot company – a company that has a picture and forces its terms upon exhibitors. I don’t know of any other industry where there is so much infighting. We have to make for a relationship which is more cohesive. We are producing pictures for a mass market – an audience of 35 million; those 35 million people don’t make one audience. They are fragmented into four or five groups. We don’t make pictures that can cover the broad spectrum of all audiences. Except for a James Bond picture, very few pictures run the gamut of all audiences. Very few pictures do well in all parts of the country. We figure each picture has a definite audience we aim it for…Sexploitation pictures are definitely on the decline. The general audience is still interested in seeing a picture with basic story values that are entertaining.
Q: You mean you are going out of the sexploitation business?
MARENSTEIN: Basically, we are staying in the motion picture industry. You have seen our industry go through many cycles. American taste changes constantly. The policy of Cinemation Industries is to try and determine what the public wants and be there fastest with the mostest. You won’t be able to go back to the standards of 1927 and have films that ignore sex – but you no longer can sell sex per se. It must be inherent in the plot. “Inga” and “Fanny Hill” were probably at the peak of the cycle of sex-art films. Large American audiences reached out for something they hadn’t seen before. The real reason for the success of foreign films was that they treated sex and human relations more honestly than American films did at that time. Films are international.
Production Plus Acquisitions
GROSS: Of approximately 150 features to be released in the next nine months, about two-thirds have been produced outside of the U.S. There are many reasons for that, mostly economic.
Q: When you say you will follow with 20 pictures, I assume you will acquire some.
GROSS: Yes, we are involved in negotiation for several pictures now. Seven or eight pictures will be our own production; seven or eight will be acquisitions or co-productions. $5,000,000 doesn’t seem like a lot for 20 pictures, but with some, complete financing is not involved; $3-5,000,000 is our share. We intend to make our pictures predominantly in California. Alan Riche (executive in charge of West Coast production) is currently dealing with 10-15 writers. Three productions are under way. A “horror” picture is shooting now. Budget? About $200,000. Two other productions are ready to roll with budgets of $400,000-$500,000.
Q: In other words, in 1970 your company is going ahead with its own production for the first time?
GROSS: We have been in production with five pictures since 1965 – three currently under way, eight all ready to go.
Q: Do expansion plans also include a change in your philosophy of film-making?
GROSS: We really do run the gamut with all types of films from classic, prestigious items to “Fanny Hill” – even animation with “The Magic Bird.” We will be doing pictures that set trends and follow trends.
Youthful Cinemation president Jerry Gross is himself a film-maker and film buff. He has risen to his present position the hard way. At 18, he was a stevedore; at 20, a truck driver; at 22, with his own savings of $7,000 plus $50,000 he was able to raise, he made “Girl on a Chain Gang,” which he sold directly to theatres and finally to a film company for $150,000. His associates praise his business acumen and showmanship and his retentive mind, which has an apparently infinite capacity for storing away relevant figures and facts concerning the film industry. He has demonstrated a canny aptitude for acquiring a film everyone else has turned down – such as “Inga” – and, with the addition of new sequences, re-editing, shifting sequences around, changing the music score, making it into quite a different product. “Inga” has grossed $1,800,000 to date. Others: “Fanny Hill,” $4-$4,200,000; “Female Animal,” $1,200,000. Cinemation is reissuing “Africa Addio” under the title “Africa Blood and Guts.” The original running time of almost two hours has been cut to 82 minutes. Gross has edited out all political sequences, leaving the meat of the film – the “blood and guts.”
“Basically, my policy is we open pictures, and even in the opening engagements they are to be considered as test engagements,” Gross explained. “We re-edit and re-cut a picture after it’s out in release.” Even “Whirlpool,” which is a hit at the Cinerama Theatre, New York, may undergo minor changes.
[International Motion Picture Exhibitor, 9/2/1970, p. 13-14]