The year 1962 will bring a decided de-emphasis on sordid sex themes in U.S.-produced motion pictures, a swing toward the big musical show, a strong lineup of features based on best-sellers and successful Broadway plays, and a rising volume of quality box-office attractions.
The year will not be marked by a trend toward any particular type of motion picture. Variety will be the key. With solid entries in almost every category and, if distributors establish an even flow of their high-quality features to lend year-around strength to the nation’s marquees, 1962 should be a year of good fortune for both the producer-distributor and the exhibitor.
FEW HARD-TICKET SHOWS
While there will be substantial number of pictures with long-run potential – thereby slowing down the process of getting more product into the suburban and small-town situations – the hard-ticket, reserved-seat road show attractions will remain about as limited as they have been for the last several years. “West Side Story” and “El Cid” are the newest entries in this category, and “Mutiny on the Bounty” is scheduled later on. “Judgment at Nuremberg” opened in New York on a ten-performances-a-week basis, but there is no indication that this will be the national policy. Of the holdovers, “King of Kings” is continuing as a hard-ticket attraction, but “Spartacus” and “Exodus” have gone into general release on a continuous-run basis.
CINERAMA ON RISE
Theatres playing Cinerama will get their first production in this process with a storyline, “How the West Was Won,” which MGM is producing for a July premiere. The picture, however, will not play more than 150 theatres this year, a quota which Cinerama, Inc., has agreed to have ready by midyear and which, from all indications at the moment, will be met. For, across the country, exhibitors are rebuilding established theatres and spending from a million dollars and up to erect luxury showplaces designed especially to project the Cinerama image. By the end of the year, between 15 and 20 million dollars will have been invested in these projects by exhibitors ready to back their confidence in the three-projector system with their hard cash. As for product volume, the prospects are considerably brighter than they were a year ago. The major film companies not only have stepped up their own production, but their release charts and lineups of features completed or in late stages of production, are filled with quality contributions from filmmakers in other countries, principally England, Italy and France. At the same time, the independent distributors have moved into the first-run market with a stronger, more varied selection of pictures produced both in this country and abroad, and appear ready to make a determined bid to capture a greater share of playing time on the nation’s screens.
The nine “old line” majors, plus American International Pictures and Continental, have listed 253 features as completed, before the cameras or in an advanced production stage and available for release during the year. The independents, numbering some 35 distributors, have approximately 100 pictures on their 1962 lists, with additional features to be added. Hence, exhibitors will have anywhere between 350 and 375 pictures from which to select the year’s programs.
DE-EMPHASIS ON SEX
An examination of these lists indicates the de-emphasis on the sordid-sex theme. The liberalization of the Production Code to allow pictures dealing with homosexuality has not brought a flood – at least not to the present – of features projecting this theme. True, several have been produced by U.S. studios, but they have been done in what is characterized as “good taste,” and, in almost every instance, have been classified as “morally unobjectionable for adults,” with the understanding that they are to be advertised as adult entertainment. These pictures include the Lillian Hellman drama, “The Children’s Hour,” which the Mirisch Co. has produced for United Artists release: Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth,” which MGM has produced, and “Victim,” an English-made film which Pathe-America is releasing in this country. In addition, there is Otto Preminger’s “Advise and Consent,” the story of political intrigue in Washington which provides a minor reference to the subject. What may create a problem for the industry is that the pictures will be moved to market almost simultaneously and thereby create the impression that the movie industry is being inundated by a wave of homosexual productions.
What will the 1962 selection of pictures include? As usual sports will be ignored – only Columbia’s Little League story, “Safe at Home,” with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, is available. Science-fiction will be at a low of six and, surprisingly, the Biblical category will offer but two entries – Columbia’s “Barabbas,” with Anthony Quinn and Silvana Mangano, and the same studio’s “The Reluctant Saint,” the story of St. Joseph, which stars Maximilian Schell. Paramount has the best-selling “Dear and Glorious Physician,” by Taylor Caldwell, on its schedule but gives no indication that it will be ready for 1962 release.
In all other categories, however, good selections are provided.
The swing to musicals is a surprising development, with at least nine big attractions already on tap. A few years back, many exhibitors were ready to write off the musical as unprofitable box-office fare, and producers subsequently reduced their so song-and-dance productions to a minimum. However, on Broadway, more and more of the legitimate theatres are being leased for big musical shows, in preference to straight drama. The wide publicity given to the hit musicals and the popularity of “original cast” LP albums, plus the presentation of segments of the various shows on television, undoubtedly have played a major role in this return to favor.
INCREASE IN MUSICALS
Led off by “West Side Story,” the Mirisch Co. production being released through United Artists, the 1962 class will include “The Music Man,” the Meredith Willson hit show which will star Robert Preston, Shirley Jones and Buddy Hackett in a Warner Bros. release; “Bye, Bye Birdie,” a current Broadway package, which will star Janet Leigh and an abundance of “new faces,” a Columbia release; “Gypsy.” with Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood, a musical based on the Gypsy Rose Lee family, a Warner release; “Billy Rose’s Jumbo,” a circus-life story, in which Jimmy Durante will play the role he created on Broadway some years ago, from MGM; “Gay Purr-ee,” a novel animated story of cats trying to run Paris in the 1890s, with the voices of Judy Garland, Robert Goulet and Red Buttons, a Warner production; a big-scale production imported by Magna, in which such internationally known entertainers as Cyd Charisse. Moira Shearer and Maurice Chevalier present four approaches to love through dance and music; and the 20th Century-Fox updated production of “State Fair,” with Rodgers and Hammerstein music and Pat Boone, Bobby Darin and Alice Faye as stars.
There also is a decided interest among the filmmakers in providing attractive comedy fare, and the pace set early in the year by “One, Two, Three,” “Bachelor Flat,” “Lover Come Back” and “Pocketful of Miracles” will be maintained throughout 1962. MGM is teaming Paula Prentiss and Jim Hutton in a pair, to follow their debut in “The Honeymoon Machine”—”The Horizontal Lieutenant,” which deals with a bungling lieutenant assigned to a cleanup operation in the Pacific, and “And So to Bed,” about a girl with an overwhelming urge to help anyone in trouble and a penchant to get herself inextricably involved. Kirn Novak, moving over to the MGM lot, will be seen in “Boys’ Night Out,” in which James Garner, Tony Randall and several other lively young males, as commuters, hire a female “housekeeper” to springboard some fun.
COMEDY TREND GROWING
The Debbie Reynolds fans will find her following up “Second Time Around” with a brace of comic efforts—from the Columbia lot, with Jack Lemmon as costar, in “Try, Try Again,” a title which refers to the trials of a newlywed couple, and from Paramount, “My Six Loves,” about a star who adopts six orphans. Paramount will be especially active on the comedy level during the year. Among the features in this category will be “The Errand Boy” with Jerry Lewis; “Who’s Got the Action?” with Dean Martin and Lana Turner, based on a story about a Park Avenue matron who turns bookie in a wild scheme to reform her horse playing husband; and “Come Blow Your Horn,” a current Broadway comedy hit.
Recruiting from abroad, 20th-Fox has moved the English comedian Terry Thomas into an American setting in “Bachelor Flat,” in which he plays the role of an English professor in a California college, who becomes the idol of the young girls until his fiancée turns up and pretends to be a delinquent. In another 20th-Fox comedy, Marilyn Monroe will be starred in “Something’s Got to Give.”
Both comedies and dramas are included in a strong lineup of features adapted from Broadway plays, providing strong star billings for marquee play, and the names of well-known playwrights and widely publicized titles to promote. Tennessee Williams will gather in still another screen credit with .”Sweet Bird of Youth,” starring Paul Newman and Geraldine Page, an MGM production. Anne Bancroft, who was unable to work her way out of B pictures in her first bid for Hollywood fame. Will return to the screen as the star of “The Miracle Worker,” the story of Helen Keller’s early years, under the UA-Mirisch banner. From the 20th-Fox studios will come “The Visit,” by Fredreich Durenmatt, with Ingrid Bergman as the star. Another overseas, as well as Broadway, hit will be offered by Columbia, “Five Finger Exercise,” with Rosalind Russell as the star. New York critics voted it the best foreign play two seasons ago.
The hit-play category also will include “The Chalk Garden,” by Enid Bagnold, a Universal production starring Hayley Mills; Arthur Miller’s “View From the Bridge,” a Brooklyn waterfront story, which, strangely enough, arrives as a foreign entry under the banner of Continental ; and a pair of comedies, “Critic’s Choice,” with Bob Hope playing the role of a critic assigned to review a play written by his wife, a Warner Bros. release; and “Come Blow Your Horn,” a still current Broadway success, with Frank Sinatra starring in this Paramount release.
NUMBER OF BEST-SELLERS
From the best-seller list, the studios have picked some of the most important books published the last several years. Among them are “Advise and Consent,” by Alien Drury, from Columbia; “Act One,” the Moss Hart reminiscences which Warner Bros. will release; “The Chapman Report,” the Zanuck production which the producer will release through Warner’s; “The Devil’s Advocate,” by Nathaniel West, also from Warner’s; “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” by Harper Lee, a Pulitzer Prize winner, from Universal; “The Ugly American,” with Marion Brando, also from Universal; “Light in the Piazza,” by Elizabeth Spencer, an Olivia de Havilland-Rossano Brazzi starrer, from MGM; “The Enemy From Within,” Robert F. Kennedy’s book on labor racketeering, which 20th-Fox will release, with Paul Newman and Robert Mitchum starred; and “The Happy Thieves,” based on “The Oldest Confession,” a Richard Condon novel, on the United Artists slate.
CLASSICS NOT FORGOTTEN
With all the modern-day material available, the producers have not forgotten the classics, reaching back into Grecian mythology for beloved stories and characters, both real and imaginary. Charles Schneer has turned to “Jason and the Golden Fleece,” which Columbia will release, and MGM is bringing the classic tale of “Damon and Pythias” to the screen. From the days of Knights of the Roundtable, Universal has created “Lancelot and Guinevere,” and from the land of fairy tales, Edward Small has chosen “Jack and the Beanstalk,” for United Artists release. “Billy Budd,” tile Herman Melville novelette, is on the Allied Artists roster and “The Prisoner in the Iron Mask” is due from American International. Filmgroup will offer “The Magic Voyage of Sinbad.” There will be others, too, so that, all in all. moviegoers should get a liberal education in the classics as well as entertainment during 1962.
TOPICAL STORIES SET
The exhibitor who likes to develop campaigns based on current headlines will have a good .supply of attractions in this category, especially in the area of the atom and nuclear warfare. The approaches are novel and new in most instances. “Act of Mercy,” from Warner Bros., will deal with a businessman, who builds an underground city to save the world from nuclear warfare, with David Niven and Leslie Caron as the stars. “Day the Earth Caught Fire,” a Universal release, tells the story of what happens when a massive nuclear explosion dislodges the earth from its axis. AlP’s entry in the nuclear stakes, “Survival,” deals with one family’s struggle to survive after an atomic blast. Columbia will have Robert Rossen’s “The High Road,” a drama set at Cape Canaveral. And Filmgroup will offer “Race for Mars,” in which two opposing powers race to reach Mars in the future.
WAR STORIES ABUNDANT
In the non-nuclear field, “Congo Viva,” a Columbia release, Jean Seburg will be starred in a drama set against the current turbulence on the Dark Continent, and Paramount has scheduled “The Winston Churchill Story,” a work devoted to the great man’s early adventurous life.
All of this, of course, doesn’t mean that the studios have forgotten, the westerns, war stories and spectacles. The output of westerns will be low, but war stories will be in abundance, and there will be a sufficient number of big-scale spectacles to satisfy those who prefer their action set in the far distant past. Among the westerns produced on a top-budget level will be “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” a Paramount release, starring James Stewart and John Wayne, in their first appearance together on the screen. It deals with an eastern lawyer who moves into a lawless western town. MGM has scheduled “Ride the High Country,” starring Randolph Scott; 20th-Fox will offer “The Broken Land,” with Kent Taylor; and United Artists’ entry in cowboy-and-Indian derby will be “Geronimo,” last of the Apache warriors, with Chuck Connors. A western done in the comedy vein will be a William Wellman production for Paramount, “The Roundup,” with action centered in the cowboy rodeo circuit. In the war category, there will be a long lineup of quality box-office attractions.
Darryl Zanuck’s “The Longest Day,” the story of D-Day, June 6, 1944, will be the major entry from 20th-Fox and Warner Bros. is high on “PT-109,” based on the Marine exploits of President Kennedy in World War II. At Universal, a major entry of the year will be “A Gathering of Eagles,” starring Rock Hudson. Paramount has scheduled a Perlberg-Seaton production, “The Counterfeit Traitor,” based on one of World War II’s great spy stories. Other productions include “Battle Field,” Filmgroup; “Sea Fighters” and “Warrior’s Five,” American International; “Hell Is for Heroes,” Paramount; “Desert Patrol,” Universal; “The Bridge,” Allied Artists; “The War Lover,” and “Best of Enemies,” Columbia.
SPECTACLES IN LINEUPS
As for spectacles, the chief entry now appears to be the much-publicized “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor, now being produced abroad. Twentieth Century-Fox hopes to get it into release before the end of the year. The fall of the Roman Empire will be the basis of “Fury of the Pagans,” from Columbia, and MGM will release an Italian-made production, “The Tartars.” Paramount’s spectacle will be “Siege of Syracuse,” and AIP will offer “Guns of the Black Witch,” a 12th-Century yarn of buccaneers. A newly formed company, Producers International Pictures will observe its first year by releasing a quartet of spectacles, all Italian-made – “The Triumph of Maciste,” “The Huns,” “The Centurion,” and “The Gladiator.” For extra good measure, MGM is serving up a pair of swashbucklers for the action fans, “The Swordsman of Siena,” starring Stewart Granger, and “Seven Seas to Calais,” with a story line tied to the adventures of Sir Francis Drake.
Science-fiction entries to date have been light, with three of the 11 major films based on classic tales from 19th Century French writer Jules Verne. Eight of the 11 are scheduled in color.
Columbia leads the field with four for 1961-62. “Mysterious Island” and “Valley of the Dragons,” both based on Verne classics, are current releases. “Island,” filmed in Europe in SuperDynamation and color, was produced by Charles H. Schneer and stars Michael Craig and Joan Greenwood. “Valley of the Dragons,” in Monstascope, is a Byron Roberts production for ZRB Productions, starring Cesare Danova and Sean McClory. Columbia also will release the Japanese-made, English-dubbed “Mothra” in Tohoscope and color, and the Alex Gordon-Neptune Productions’ “Underwater City” in Fantascope with William Lundigan and Julie Adams.
Comedy and “spoofs” on science fiction are the bases for two of the new season’s offerings. “Moon Pilot,” described as a “spoof.” is a Walt Disney and Bill Anderson production in color for Buena Vista distribution, starring Tom Tryon and Brian Keith. “Five Weeks in a Balloon,” from a Jules Verne novel, will be released in Cinemascope and color by 20th-Fox, with Fabian, Barbara Eden, Red Buttons and Peter Lorre starred.
American International has three major science-fiction films slated, the current “Journey to the Seventh Planet,” starring John Agar and Greta Thyssen, produced in color by Sidney Pink for Cinemagic Productions; and two others, “When the Sleeper Wakes.” in color, starring Vincent Price, produced by Julian Wintle and Leslie Parkyn from the H. G. Wells novel, and “Invasion of the Star Creatures,” produced by Berji Hagopian.
“Day of the Triffids,” in Cinemascope and color, starring Howard Keel and Nicole Maurey is being produced by Philip Yordan for Allied Artists release. Filmgroup will have “Race for Mars” in Cinemascope and color, produced by Arnold Kemper, starring John Cowin and Ann Barton. From BOXOFFICE, 1962