Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Nutty Projector

Jerry Lewis was a filmmaking visionary in the sixties. Besides pioneering the use of video assist on sets (and what sets they were), he launched a chain of movie theatres!

Jerry Lewis Cinemas (or The National Cinema Corporation) were franchise operations, almost like a fast-food chain business model - small screening rooms (between 100 and 350 seats) and push-button technology for both the projection and concessions. Ads for the company boasted "an entire theater can be operated by as few as two persons." and the low overhead against potential box office and concession sales were very attractive selling points.

But Lewis imposed an inviolate condition on the chain dictating only PG and G-rated fare would be screened. It was Lewis' attempt to stem what he perceived to be the tide of degeneracy in movies in the late sixties. Predictably, within a couple of years his cinema chain was starved for content. Many theatres closed and many others of course became XXX theatres, resulting in legal battles between National Cinema Corporation and its theatre owners.

I saw one of the remaining Jerry Lewis Cinemas in suburban Buffalo in 1988 - it looked shut down but it was open, showing second-run titles at discount prices.

(photo source)

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