Trueman Rembusch, the man behind the Syndicate Theater circuit was a more than interesting fellow. He wanted to be heard by the studios, and he wanted to be loudly heard. In order to achieve this he made sure that he owned shares in every major studio so he would be entitled to speak at the annual shareholders meeting. At these meetings he succinctly expressed his concerns with the studios and told them how he felt they could better serve the business of exhibition. His Dad, Frank Rembusch, who passed away in 1936, was eulogized as a militant theater owner who went to battle against block booking practices.
Frank went head to head with Will Hays, the motion picture czar and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, U.S. Postmaster General, and, from 1922–1945, the first chairman of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, the precursor to the MPA. Frank brought lawsuits that found themselves argued in the Supreme Court. Frank also formed the Motion Picture Congress to advance the aspirations of independent theaters.
Frank opened The Alhambra Theatre in January 1913, one of the first theaters to be designed solely for the exhibition of motion pictures. The theater still stands. While the first floor of the theatre was designed specifically for exhibition pictures, the second floor housed the offices for the Mirror Screen Company which created the first mirror screen, or silver screen. The screen was distributed globally and greatly improved the clarity and quality of the movies. Rembusch also donated one of the first motion picture projectors used in Indiana to the Smithsonian Institute.
The Rembusch family contributed two significant leaders in the field of motion picture exhibition. These were men of vision; creative businessmen who advocated a level playing field for independent exhibitors. Unfortunately, this kind of leadership is lacking today in the business of exhibition. There is too much fragmentation and lack of the firm understanding that united we stand divided we fall.
It has to stop.
This lack of leadership is not only present in motion pictures, but I truly see a lack of global leadership especially with the Western democracies. We have thrown ourselves headlong into an orgy of political correctness and manipulation. The fact that a good part of our social discourse was engaged in a debate over Mr. Potato Head tells us something is very wrong. I think the purposeful sanitization of society and our culture is dangerous. The removal of personal choice in one’s behavior is an attempt to control. There are some institutions that are asking its staff not to ask someone how their weekend was because it might make them feel bad if they had a bad weekend. It is ridiculous. To be frank, both the extreme right and the extreme left push forward manipulative agendas that have no basis in something I call common sense or reality. It is nothing short of ridiculous.
For my money, freedom of choice, personal choice, and logic should be instilled within our society. This political correctness and the need to control is eroding the foundation of leadership within this country. The fact that any time was spent in the media discussing Dr. Seuss or Mr. Potatohead is beyond ridiculous. If you purposefully erode traditional liberal education and you solely teach to test you are robbing society of cognitive ability and you remove true learning; what you are doing is making link sausages where the most important thing is process and conformity. This does not make a strong society, and the fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the far right and the far left.
The business of motion picture exhibition is about to go through an even greater change than the advent of sound. The economic and technological forces facing this industry are profound and it requires a plan and it requires a firm action. I would have to say that while there is the potential for leadership with the business of exhibition, there seems to be a general lack of direction or willingness to confront the changes head on.
I am more than fond of the phrase “What Is Past Is Prologue”. It is imperative that we learn from the actions of both Frank and Trueman Rembusch and demand a level playing field. It is imperative that challenges be mounted and that when dinner party conversations with the studios prove to be lip service, then those conversations must become more frank.
The studios have long tried to forward the lie that exhibitors are powerless, they are not.
While the Sherman Act has been effectively gutted by the last administration, some diligence should be given to the application of The Clayton Act. The Clayton Act is another antitrust law that just might be applicable.
Some of the issues that the Clayton Act calls out are:
· The second section, which deals with the unlawfulness of price discrimination, price-cutting, and predatory pricing.
· Exclusive dealings or the attempt to create a monopoly, which is addressed in the third section.
· The fourth section, which states the right of private lawsuits of any individual injured by anything forbidden in the antitrust laws.
The Clayton Antitrust Act is still in force today, essentially in its original form. However, it was by the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 and the Celler-Kefauver Act of 1950. The Robinson-Patman Act reinforced laws against price discrimination among customers which might have some application in the busines of exhibition. The Celler-Kefauver Act also prohibited one company from acquiring the stock or assets of another firm, if an acquisition reduced competition.
One of things we have to think about is does political correctness and its wanton application allow true leadership to take hold. I think not. One of the things necessary for true leadership is the embracing of truth and reality. Look back at the actions of the Rembusch’s and hopefully you will be inspired.
So how was your weekend?