“Total Loss to Chicago Exhibitors in Union’s Bad Beating of Orpheum”

Artifact Type Sources, Trade Journals
Publication Variety
Volume 88
Number 8
Page Number 13
Place New York, NY
Publication Date September 7, 1927
Transcript Show/Hide

Headline: “Total Loss to Chicago Exhibitors in Union’s Bad Beating of Orpheum”

Chicago. Sept. 6.

No grosses in Chicago week: no film on exhibition. No shows, because the Orpbeum Circuit (vaudeville) saw fit to drag Chicago’s entire picture fleld in with it in a technical dispute with the Motion Picture Operators’ Union that in reality concerned no one but Orpheum and the operators.

It seemed of no consequence to Orpheum that in doing so it deprived many falling film men of a week’s receipts which they needed like Orpheum needs acts.

Still, Orpheum’s desire to slice expenses to the amount of two men’s salaries brought many to the brink of bankruptcy. What prevented that happening was the calling off of the affair at the laat and most desperate moment.

And if the callinpr oft lia conic at tlie moment, the Exhibitors’ Association of Chicago would
inevitably have been no more.

Momentary Catastrophe

The catastrophe, while it lasted, was tlie most one-slded of battles. There was no sense of duty or service among the exhibitors. No one but Orpheum desired that closed shop — they needed the week’s receipts. The majority went with the lockout, because they were coerced
into doing so. Meanwhile every unionized theatrical employee in Chicago were bound together in fighting the half-hearted exhibitors.

From a simple point of order dispute between Orpheum ami t)\e operators, the fight drew In every orfMlna exhibitor and the stage naMa, musicians, Janitors and theatre construction unions. At the blowoff two commissioners of labor, a representative of Will Hays and Mayer WUUam Hale Thompson were prominently flstlcufflng among or parting the flstlcufTers.

The lockout was born two weeks before christened. It happened when Orpheum discharged two of the shift of four operators at its newly acquired Belmont theatre. ,m*.|iUce was a part of the circuit?* I^ileral e^nomy move.

January, last, Orpheum and op-
erators agreed to mutually decide
to poi-mit eonditions and anwise-
ments prevalent in 1926 to tcfUialn
unchanged In 1927.

Tffhen Orpheum leased tlie IjcI-
tnont from L.ui.liner & Trin^ a few
months ago, the bouse employed
four picture operators and played a
vaude-picture combination poliey,
A condition of the 1927 aL-recnicnt
allowed fur the cutting of operators
only when the theatre would change
policy. The only apparent change
in policy attempted by Orpheum at
the Belmont was spllttinr.the weelt
twice instead of once.

The operators’ union did not see
this change as sufficient to war-
rant the cut. therefore ordered ll.s
members working In local Orplieum
houses to strike. For one day Or-
rlicuni theatres In Chicago were
daiiiined. After much phoning,
Mark Heiman, talkinp: on the Nen-
Tork end. ordered his Cliicngo oil!, i-
boys to put the two operators back
to work. Tliey did, but Mark or
somei.o.ly chnnijed his mind and a
week laiT K.id the operators they
Were aR/.in through.

For a second time operators were
ordered to strike as far as Orpheum
houses were concerned. But this
time Orpheum apparently was de-
termined to s.iti.’^fy its foolhardv de-
•ite and called on the Kxliililtora’
Association, of which it Is a mem-
ber, for help.

B. & K. Behind

Jack Mill.-r, radical organizer, Prp.sidcnt of tl.e association and al•”•ayi cundemn iid f as h is s ide h l oh attitude ii.ward Orpheum. warmed up readily. He seemed tickl’ d to death to comply and r.alahan & KatJ! hacked him. It is .Miller’s Iiro-orpheum and n, * K. attitude, with , It recanl for the ro«f of the “iRinizations membership that always has been cause for strained relations and n< ar bust-ups in the Exhibitors’ Association.

Miller immediately ordered that
all members of the Association
close their theatres In sympathy
with the Orpheum Circuit. Some
complied; some didn’t. Those that
didn’t were literal slaps in the face
to .Miller and the association.

To avoid this split-exhil)itors’
situation, wliicii would have meant
curtains for Miller and the associa-
tion, they went so far as to request
that film exchanges refuse to release
any prints until the end of the
light. That the exchanges comjilied
with Miller’s demand cliarges both
with suppression of trade, say the
suffering exhibs.

This cut off the film supply. All
unsymputlictic tlioaties. many oi*
them independently operated by men
not holding membership In the Ex-
hibitors’ Association, were forced to
close. Other theatres with a suin-
cient supply of pictures for a week
at least were frightened into closing
liy the thouglit that they would find
it hard getting pictures in the future
should they hedge.

An order from the big exhibitors
with the film distributors car-
ries much weight. The exchanges
refused to deliver in face of squawks
from revolting exhibitors and an
announcement by attorneys for the
unions that a Writ of injunction
would be applied for in Federal

Several independent exhibitors
brought witnesses with them when
applying tor films, a suggestion of
the union’s attorneys. The wltnessoe
later swore to aflid.avits charging
the distributors with refusing to de-
liver fllow that liad already been
bootht paid for.

Just Arbitrary

Word of this situation reached the
Hays olHce. Charles C. Pcttijhon,
its general counsel, caino to Chi-
cago. Chicago Film lioard of Trade,
arbitrary body o{ Chicago distrib-
utors, assumed an attitude of right-
eousness and, under questioning
intimated lilnis were not released
because showings in the small
neighborhood theatres would hurt
the pictures’ chances In the larger
first and second run houses.

No reason w.as given, hcfwevcr,
for the boycott on films that had
alrcar bodies had joiiiod the operaiors. It
then appeared that Miller and the
exhibitors had chosen the most un-
favorable time to strike. During
the week the stags hands’ and elec-
tricians’ agrc’iiieiit with the thea-
tres li.ad expired. The organization
had demanded an increase of about
12 ptr cent for the next year, but In
a mass meeting Thursday night, the
time of expiration, they unanimously
decided to refuse to consider any
offer of settlement by the exhibitors
until the operators had settled their
dlfflculties Following this th” Th>–
atrc Janitors’ I’liion tlcclarrd itself
in sympatliy willi the oper.itors.
A’hile the Chicago Federation of .Mu-
sicians was naturally involved on
the side of labor.

Tliomas K. Muloy, he.id of fh’-
operators’ union and group leader
of all the unions in this alTair, re-
fused to arbitrate on anything but
llU! li>,lm”nt theatr’–

Maloy contended his org.inizai ion’s
difhculties were concerned only with
Orplieum and that particular tlie-
alie, wlierea.” he had not attacked
the exhlhltors in g-nerel. despite
thst they had locked om« the oper-
ators. To diKPute this. Miller, talk-

ing for tlie exhibitors, stated his I
as.-.oci.it ion wanted arbitration on –
the entire situation. i
While this was going on the
unions were exchanging compli- I
ments. Recipient of the st.age j
bands’ support. Maloy declared that
neither would the operators settle
until the stage hands were satis-
fied in their demands.

Clumsy Leadership

What made it worse for the ex-
hibitors were the men who were
clumsily leading their light. Karly
in the week the big noises for the
exhibs were Miller and Ben Ka-
hane. attorney fur Orpheum, Ka-
hano’s “big word ” lai tics were not
favoralde to tlie unions and Miller
Is piolialiiy the beat disliked labor
organizer in the countr>’.

Miller was openly accused of at-
tempting to get the exhibitors be-
hind him to further his personal
standing. Some time ago Miller |
suggested that the stage hands and i
exhibitors establish an arbitrary ]
board of five, two representing Llie ,
union, two for the exhibitors and a
layman. George Eiuwn, business
agent for the stage hands, turned 1
down this offer and accused Miller |
of designs on an iniauiniiry otiice :
that would give him complete con- i
trol of all unions in a short lime. j

The case of Kahane was that of
an incomiietent advisor. While in t
the past Orpheum’s labor ditflculties 1
have been smoothly managed by 1
Mort Singer, the bag was taken I
from Singer this time with the re- j
suit prol’aM.v unavoidable thereby.
The tirst indelicate move on K.a-
hane’s jiart was his announced
opinion that the contract for the
fJelmont theatre with the eoerators
was not legal.

The unitdis replied their .argument
was with the exhibitors and not a
lawyer, and they did not want to
arbitrate with lawyers in general or
Kahane In particular.

After ^filler and Kahane had
Ihnroii.k-hty failed. John Balahan and
Asber Levy finally took the lead
for the exhibitors. “She affect of
this new leadership was not no-
tloeable, thoush. untU ■» mrbltra-
tlon meeting was suggested. Com-
missioners of Ijibor Marshman and
Keightly were sent from Wa.shlnB-
ton to arrange an amicable settle-
ment and suggested the meeting.

Just in Time

To further the arbitration, Mayor Thompson stepped in as a neutral party. Saturday night, as the exhibitors wero about to disband in a state of war asain.st ea’ h other, a meeting between the unions and exhibitors was hel#,a^’t|i« lockout was declared at an ^ira.

To bring about the end and gain the week-end and holiday n < ( ipts, tlie exhibitors admitted almost total defeat. The two mm were put .back on the job at the Belmont, which was the operators’ only concern In the first place, and the stage hands Were granted a salary incrca.se
amounting to about per cent, of their demands.

Miller announced— again speaking for the exhibitors by bis own reiiuest — that the exhibitors fought to “sliow the unions that ‘unslOilcd labor” cannot tell the theatre owners how to run their businc. .< ” It that was the real reason, and it is a logical one, the exhibitora selecteil |b.itilo. It came when’ tho tinlons I were strongest and the exhibitors’ resistance the weakest.

As a result, the current term will probably be the last for Jack Miller. He doubled his large number of enemies by his methods in the fight and luckily did not have to deny that he was once an operator himself, later the business agent for the operators he fought last week,
and later thrown out of the operators’ union for unfair tactics.

Wasted Losses

T’- pi. ‘lire theatres’ Idleness causcd a loss of approximately Jl.SOO.Ofift to the exhibitors of Chicago and kept 350 theatres end 25 – Of’O people Idle for six driys. The l.-ist liiinnt” h.ilt saved th” eoiintv’s b.niliriitit’ y elrrl< from more peti- tions than he could hand!” at one time and barely averted what jfrnicd lo d”\-elon Into one of the wor’-t M”nal tragedies r v r .^tif. f i>d l y American show business.

To make the victory more complete for the unions, the operators, stage hands and musicians will be paid for the time they were idle. Actors thrown out of work will be paid for the full dates, while other acts sent out of town for the duration of the strike will automatically be paid at the rate of the Chicago engagements.

And about all the defeated and misguided propellers of the wrong from the start lock out could say at the finish was, “Didn’t we have nerve,” with the suffering exhibs agreeing they had a hell of a nerve.

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Read In Context https://archive.org/stream/variety87-1927-09/Variety87-1927-09#page/n11/mode/2up/search/minneapolis
Citation “Total Loss to Chicago Exhibitors in Union’s Bad Beating of Orpheum,” Variety, September 7, 1927.
Location ChicagoIllinois