Red Carpet Theaters?!?
posted by ArchStanton007 on May 22, 2006 at 7:50 am
“Now playing at a Red Carpet Theater near you.”
I rememeber this as a kid in the 1960’s into the 1970’s, then it strangely ended. General Cinema and Century participated in Westchester County, NY. What other chains did and what was the meaning of this designation? Why did it end ?
It was just another one of those promotional things that made moviegoing kind of neat and unique back then. Same when Channel 9, NYC had “Million Dollar Movie.”
TommyR, I don’t have an answer to your question, but I’d like to expand upon it. I too remember the days of Red Carpet Theatres, which seemed mostly to play United Artists and MGM releases. During the same time frame, there were also Blue Ribbon Theatres, which showed primarily Universal product, Showcase Theatres (mainly Paramount), and Flagship Theatres (mostly Warner Bros.). As I recall, the theatres participating weren’t always set in stone. For example, the Wellmont in Montclair, NJ was listed in the co-op ads as a Blue Ribbon theatre when it showed “Midway” 30 years ago, and then was a Flagship Theatre a few weeks later for “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” With TommyR, I ask—where did this designation come from, why did it end, and did this type of promotion occur only in the New York City area?
I recall the Century triplex in Paramus was a Red Carpet theatre, when it was one screen. I know the early Connery Bond reissues were featured at Red Carpet theatres. I would also assume the Pink Panther films, the Eastwood spaghetti westerns were also Red Carpet features. Why they disappeared, I don’t know.
As Claude Kirschner and Clowny would say before a monster movie on channel 9, “ remember kids, it’s only a movie!” Then Godzilla would rise from the depths and stomp on Tokyo! Good stuff!
It sounds honestly like it was just a brand name – perhaps the studios had an affliation with the cinema or a deal to show their pictures. Granted the practice of block and blind booking are long gone, it still sort of exists. In NJ, for example it seems that Ridgewood and Hawthorn (which don’t share movies) often will each show films from the same studio most of the time. While not written in stone most of the time Columbia and Fox films open in Ridgewood, Hawthrorn gets WB and Universal. Now this distinction may have been replaced with “now showing in select theaters”.
I worked for United Artists Theatres (UATC) at that time. “Red Carpet”, “Blue Ribbon” and other such names were given to groups of theatres designated to play sequences of films from the various studios. Those names were used as “Mast Heads” in media advertising.
Red Carpet/Blue Ribbon were what in the industry was called “tracks”. Tracks were an unofficial product splitting arrangement between exhibitors and distributors to run all the films from a given studio. Theatre owners agreed among theselves not to book films from competing studios at a given location, so it kept the print cost down. It also gave the distributor an almost guarenteed outlet for their films. The “track” system fell apart because the US Justice Department filed anti-trust suits agains many of the major players, and at the same time that mutliplexes were taking hold, makeing the entire concept obsolete.
The Red Carpet / Flagship / Blue Ribbon marketing was fascinating if like myself as a kid you followed that sort of thing. It just seemed to bring consistency to which theatres got pictures from what studio. The allocation was more or less UA/MGM / Fox & Warner Bros / Universal and Fox respectively. The print ads were cool and occasionally the theatres (at least in Manhattan) would show the designation on their marquees or poster frames. The Paramount ‘Diamond’ and American International ‘Rainbow’ tracks never had the same traction as the first three. As distribution got wider in the mid 70’s, these limited showcase runs lost these designations.