Film buff John McElwee posted another great entry on his blog about old cartoons. This time offering some perspectives on Fleischer’s Color Classics series. McElwee acquired a 1937 booking ledger from a rural North Carolina theatre, allowing him to compare actual rental prices for Paramount shorts against RKO (Disney Silly Symphonies) and MGM (Happy Harmonies) cartoons. This is great information.
“…a Silly Symphony through UA, Woodland Café, was $5.00 flat, while a later Donald Duck (Self-Control) through RKO got $5.25. Paramount took only $2.00 for a December 1937 booking of Christmas Comes But Once A Year, but that Fleischer Color Classic was by then an oldie, having come out the previous December, so terms were a little more favorable for this run. Otherwise, this theatre doesn’t appear to have used the Color Classics, although they did book heavily on the Popeyes (I Like Babies and Infinks cost $4.86). The best money for cartoons from this venue seems to have been collected by MGM, whose Bosko and The Pirates got $6.65, while Bosko’s subsequent encounter with the Cannibals netted $6.95 for the Metro exchange. Just a lot of numbers for long-ago, and long forgotten, bookings — but they give us some insight into the selling end of the cartoon business, at a time when such nickels-and-dimes as these kept small showmen, and big studios, afloat.”