Children Now Lost to Films
Industry Must Build Future Audiences on Juvenile Patronage
Action Movies Vital
Sophisticated Dialog Has Driven Youngsters From Picture Theaters
Hollywood, Calif., April 30
The Fourth Industry, fighting desperately for patronage, must revive the old-time Western – the lowly horse op’ry – if it is to escape even a worse plight a decade or two hence.
So warns Buck Jones, Indiana born cowboy star, basing his belief upon observations made first-hand on his recent personal appearance tour.
Westerns – and by Westerns, Mr. Jones means any variety of action films – are the only positive means of insuring a future audience for Hollywood’s product; which is to say, that these pictures alone nurture juvenile clientele, so-called “children’s pictures” failing dismally to do so.
There’s a logical sound to the words of the youngsters’ idol when he tells you:
“Lose one generation of picture fans and you break the picture-going tradition.
Children will look to other fields for their hero-worship. The boy of 10 years ago enthused over any number of film favorites. Today’s stars – with the exception of the few cowboys carrying on the Western formula – appeal solely to adult audiences. The next generation of picturegoers has little or nothing on which to grow up.
“Audiences of today are largely made up of yesterday’s youth who developed the habit of picture patronage during the silent days. Any child can understand pantomime. That’s his or her language. He or she doesn’t want to stop and dope out the dialog written for older people. High hat talk drove the kids into the streets to play. The only way to win them back to the cinema is to give them plenty of action mixed with simple talk.
“The younger generation is intolerant of actionless drama and comedy. Children lack the patience to heed long stretches of dialog; they’re bored with the sophistication the screen has tried to attain. Children’s programs, so-called, leave them cold – they smack too much of the school-room to be entertainment. The youngster’s failure to support juvenile stories, with all-child casts, further indicates that the form of talker presentation, rather than its subject matter, does not strike their fancy.”
When Westerns were in their heyday, cowboys Tom Mix, William S. Hart, Hoot Gibson and Buck Jones were turning out approximately 30 combined annual releases. Independent studios buzzed with activity dedicated to Western melodramas.
Instead of maintaining this Western average, in the face of depreciated child response to the talkies, the total for this year will be 22 films. Independent production has been greatly curtailed by the tendency of the smaller studios to copy the sophisticated trends of the major organizations. The type of picture that could best combat one phase of audience apathy apparently is underestimated by companies that fail to recognize the importance of Western films.
“Bring in the children and you enlarge your audience” adds Mr. Jones. “At least one adult must accompany the child to the theater. On tour, I played to just as many grownups as children. Stimulate the interest of the kids, the most enthusiastic boosters in the world, and you have a healthy home circle attitude toward the picture industry.”
Westerns, Mr. Jones points out, need not necessarily have a cowboy locale. Society, police, racing, aviation, gangster and practically any type of story may be worked into the Western formula. Nor need dialog complicate the production. On the contrary, Mr. Jones finds that it speeds things along doing away with time-losing close-ups and caption cutting. Simple speeches, moreover, detail exposition of the plot and build suspense.