Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Phantom Stalks Far Rockaway

Old fashioned ballyhoo greets the "Phantom of the Opera" at the Columbia Theatre, 1014 Beach 20th Street, Far Rockaway, NY.

Excerpts from Exhibitor's Trade Review, February 27, 1926:
"The "Phantom" publicity was started with a bang as 10,000 roto-heralds, hundreds of window cards, and postings were distributed through Far Rockaway and ten surrounding towns. The next step was to tie up the Far Fockway "Journal," the leading local news publication, in a co-operative page advertising scheme in which the merchants of the town welcomed  the advent of the "Phantom."

"A galaxy of window tieups followed, including the Brodie Music Shop exhibit of "Faust" musical material and Mary Philbin's special model "Radiola;" the Doolittle Drug Co. display of Phantom Red lipsticks; Neveloff's Leroux book window; four "Phantom Red" hat and merchandise windows; a huge cake display with the opera house staircase built in icing in the Central Bakery; and numerous placings of oil paintings, cutouts and stills. Special art window cards were utilized in the prominent main street stores not adaptable to tieup displays. 

Erik, the Phantom drove a Studebaker. Who knew?

"A huge canvas net that told of the coming of Chaney, Philbin, and the others, in flaming red letters, was stretched across Central and Mott Avenues, Far Rockway's busiest corner. Traffic is exceedingly heavy there, and the stunt proved one of the most effective of the entire campaign.

"The crowning glory came as a sensation-creating ballyhoo was arranged. A tieup was negotiated with the Donner Auto Sales Corporation, the local "Studebaker" agency, in which the enterprising Mr. Donner  furnished a shiny new car to transport a red-clad "Erik" through the principal streets and surrounding towns amid the din of bells, horns, and noisemakers kept working by energetic boys taken along for that purpose and to give out "hold these to the light" Phantom cards to the crowds that gathered wherever the car went. The peculiar passenger and his Studebaker welcomed the rush hour trains, and lighted by a red spot, met theatre goers in the evening."

Carla Laemmle, the last surviving cast member of "The Phantom of the Opera" died on June 12, 2014.

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society

He is available for theatre talks and walks in 2014-15, historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.   


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