Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dracula and Frankenstein Double Feature at the Regina 1938

The revival of "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" in 1938 not only rescued a Los Angeles theatre owner, but also revived the Universal horror franchise giving a boost to Bela Lugosi's floundering career.

Excerpts from Motion Picture Daily, October 19, 1938:

"Last August the proprietor of the Regina Theatre at Beverly Hills, who was playing triple bills at 25 cents a top, found himself stuck for product. He made a deal with the Los Angeles exchange for the two horror films to play on a triple with 'Son of King Kong' [sic] for four days. He hoped they'd last that long and pay the house overhead.

"Beverly Hills traffic stopped around the house the first night. The police helped keep the customers in line. The second day the exhibitor dropped 'Kong' to make the shows shorter. At the end of four days he made a deal to keep the films on indefinitely. Another 24 days passed and the films are still there. The grosses had the Regina cashier dizzy.

"Universal went into conference with Bill Scully, general sales manager, and he went into a huddle with Blumberg [Universal executive Nate Blumberg]. In no time at all James J. Jordan, Scully's assistant, began to devote his entire time to "Dracula" and "Frankenstein."     

"The films were booked into the Blue Mouse at Seattle at 25 cents top with the advertising: "We dare you to see both together--Can you take it?"   Seattle could take it and did.

"Salt Lake City was the scene of the next riot. Thirty minutes after the films had opened at the Victory the manager telephoned the police for assistance.

"At St. Louis Harry Arthur took the dual for the St. Louis Theatre and grossed $12,000 in seven days. The theatre averaged has been around $3,000. The Palm-States at Detroit took in over $16,000.

"The opening day at the Rialto, here [NYC] averaged $3.37 per seat in a 594-seat house.  The Albee at Providence grossed $7,686 in the first four days topping "My Man Godfrey" by $2,586. The Uptown at Kansas City was another house that needed police to control the crowds.

Within the last week the dual has began to get out into the smaller towns. At McKeepsport, Pa. the McKeesport, a 515-seat house, took $592 the first day, an average of of $1.18 per seat at 25 cents top, and the second day's take was $496.

"Whether these unusual results will start a new cycle of horror films is one of those things. "Frankenstein" was released in 1931. "Dracula" followed a year later [actually it is the reverse]. New audiences have developed."

By the end of the year Universal had started production on "Son of Frankenstein" with Boris, Bela, and Basil Rathbone.

Above photos are from Box Office Magazine, September 24, 1938

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres. The first two chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society.  Final volume published in September 2014.
He is available for theatre talks and walks in 2015: historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.       


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