The Concession Stand

Saturday, December 29, 2018

#AltGraffitiTitles: “The Hot Time”

Alternate Suggested Titles For “American Graffiti”

This amazing memo has surfaced on the Internet claiming to be a list of alternate titles suggested by Universal Pictures for the 1973 George Lucas film American Graffiti.

Beginning today, Blind Kiyomi will take all of these amazing titles and imagine what they might have looked like. After putting these titles through our Imaginatium(TM) Machine, we’ll create a fake movie poster to illustrate what might have been. Join us, won’t you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Star is Born: Jimmy the Raven

Jimmy the Raven was a trained bird who starred in over 1,000 films including Wizard of Oz and It’s A Wonderful Life. Today we imagine what a Jimmy the Raven biopic would look like.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Hooray For Hollywood: It’s A Wonderful Copyright

As everyone knows, It’s A Wonderful Life had lost its copyright in the past and somehow got it back. How did all this happen and what was the legal reasoning behind it? We’ve got the answers!

When It’s A Wonderful Life was first released, it was considered to be a box office disappointment. RKO let the film’s producer- Liberty Films- hold onto the copyright and it went to Paramount when Paramount Pictures purchased Liberty Films. In the 1950’s, Liberty Films was sold but the specific rights to this film were sold to a company named NTA. NTA would hold onto the rights until the 1970’s when it forgot to renew the copyright due to a clerical error.

At this point, it is probably a good time to discuss copyright laws of the time. Originally, copyrights had to be officially registered with the U.S. copyright office in order to be valid. Additionally, these copyrights had to be renewed, typically every seven years. NTA’s failure to renew the copyright put its film into the public domain; or so it seemed. The film was actually based on a short story named The Greatest Gift whose copyright had actually been renewed by the author. When the picture had gone into the public domain, the short story’s copyright was still enforceable, so a local station wishing to air the film would still have to pay that license fee, which was much cheaper than it would have been to license the film itself. That’s when the film’s popularity exploded, fueled by its countless airings as a cheap time filler for television.

Eventually, copyright law would change to what it is today. Copyrights are now automatically granted upon publication of the work. While copyright holders do not have to register their works with the copyright office, they can only collect damages from infringement if the work is registered. This still came too late for It’s A Wonderful Life, since it only applied to works with a valid copyright at the time of the rule change, which the film did not have. In the late 1980’s Republic Pictures, which was the successor entity to Liberty Films, bought the still active copyright to The Greatest Gift and began a legal gambit to re-activate the film’s copyright by claiming that since it now owned the copyright to the original work, it also owned the copyright to any derivative works, including It’s A Wonderful Life. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed and It’s A Wonderful Life went out of the public domain.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Forbidden Planet- Doc Brown’s Fortune

In Back to the Future, it is implied that Doc Brown’s family had left him a sizeable fortune that he had squandered. How did he lose his family’s fortune? Bad marketing decisions!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

“Forbidden Planet” Double Trouble

Carl Laemmle’s Universal Pictures was seemingly always on the precipice of financial disaster. After Laemmle purchased the chicken ranch that would become Universal Studios, he was still selling eggs to make ends meet. After the sound era forced him to close the studio lot to the public, he had to try some new tactics to save money. When 1931’s Dracula was determined to need expensive sets and an elaborate production, Laemmle could have cut the film’s budget. Instead, he took an alternate path that was decades ahead of its time.

Universal’s biggest market outside of the United States was Mexico. At the time, most productions either dubbed over the soundtrack with Spanish language actors or used subtitles. Sometimes they just released the films as-is. This wasn’t much of an issue just three years earlier when most films were silent. Mr. Laemmle saw the potential for larger box office receipts if he made Spanish language versions of his films; Mexican and Spanish speaking audiences would probably flock to the films in greater numbers if they felt they were expressly made for them.

So, using the same sets, costumes and crews, Laemmle produced both English and Spanish versions of Dracula. Non-speaking extras were asked to perform double duty. When production wrapped for the day on the English language version, the Spanish language version would take over the set and continue working through the night. Hence, two versions of the same film were produced, sharing most of the production costs. While Laemmle would use this tactic for a few other films, it proved to not be the huge budget saving process that Laemmle hoped it would be. The experiment would eventually end for good after Carl Laemmle was ousted from the company he had founded.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

“A Star is Born”: Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei’s first feature film role was in The Flamingo Kid. In the film, she plays a waitress who has just one line. Ms. Tomei would go on to star in the NBC comedy A Different World and earn an Academy Award for her supporting role in My Cousin Vinny. (Which she did legitimately win despite rumors to the contrary.)

Monday, December 3, 2018

“Hooray For Hollywood”: Margaret Dumont

You might not recognize her name, but you would definitely recognize her; or at least the type of character she played. Margaret Dumont was born Daisy Baker in 1882. She took singing lessons as a young girl, training to become an opera singer. In the pre-movie era, she would tour the country, performing on stages in the United States and Europe. She married a wealthy heir and retired from acting in 1910. After her husband prematurely passed away, she re-entered the world of entertainment, this time on Broadway where she joined up with the famed Marx Brothers and eventually followed them to Hollywood.

Margaret Dumont’s role was typically as the society matron who witnesses crude behavior by the Marx Brothers. “Well I never!” was typically shouted at this point. Ms. Dumont’s shocked reaction was often the punchline. While some (including Groucho in his later years) seemed to suggest that Margaret was not in on the jokes, she definitely was, bringing her sense of comic timing to make the scene even funnier. In many cases, her stunned reactions and shouted exclamations were not scripted; the Marx Brothers trusted her to ad-lib something appropriately hilarious.

The Hollywood stereotype of the upper crust society dame constantly enduring crude jokes and indignities didn’t exist before Ms. Dumont. She not only invented the trope, she perfected it.