Picturegoer magazine, 1938: “We are facing a film famine”

Today on TMP, all of the hot gossip from Picturegoer magazine, 1938!

“WE ARE FACING A FILM FAMINE”

There was apparently a film famine in 1938, but if you were to ask Picturegoer mag’s staff about the tragedy, they’d probably respond with a simple shrug. “Film famine? Eh, just another year in the life.”

The March 5, 1938 edition of Picturegoer offered a commentary all too familiar to film fans, past and present: Why do the great dramas disappear in the summer, every summer?

Today, our summers are occupied by big-budget blockbuster action flicks — popcorn programmers which can be fun, but aren’t capital-F “Films.” (Those are, of course, typically reserved for the end-of-the-year award season push.)

Picturegoer notes a similar struggle, a wish for something more to fill those A.C.-chilled hours spent at the local movie house:

“Each year we hope and pray, rather than expect, that something will be done about the poor quality of summer screen programmes. This year the possibility, it seems, is even past praying for.”

Rather than films about superheroes, car-racing, or natural disasters narrowly averted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Picturegoer was most concerned about recycled screenings in 1938:

“The industry has actually been reduced to reviving the big films of the last few years, some of which were not so hot even when they were new. Among those scheduled for re-issue are such museum pieces as Mata Hari, The Front Page, Hell’s Angels and Scarface.”

Now, I don’t know about you folks, but I wouldn’t complain about the opportunity to see Scarface or Hell’s Angels on the big screen… nor would I consider them outdated “museum pieces.”

Then again, we’re seventy years removed from the release of those films, and I can see why audiences at the time may have felt about those re-issues as we do about today’s mountains of reboots and remakes. Why spend well-earned movie ticket money on those flicks when the studios could be churning out new, original, inventive material?

Regardless of the time of year, I often find myself at my local multiplex on a weekly basis. I can’t resist the call of a frozen coke, a cheap matinee ticket, a handful of rewards points added to my loyalty card, and a two-hour unplug from reality. But as the audiences and commentators of the late ’30s noticed, some parts of the year bring more enjoyable screenings than others, which still holds true today.

The weak points for me usually fall early in the year (after catching up on the previous year’s buzzworthy/heavily-awarded titles) and throughout the long, hot summer. This year I’m pretty damn excited for Wonder Woman, but the underwhelming comedies or what seems like the ten-thousandth movie featuring Minions? …Not so much.

In the 21st century, we’ve got it good. Don’t like what’s playing at your nearby multiplex? Find an indie theater, perhaps one that’s screening a classic, or spend time with one of the thousands of films available at your fingertips through streaming services.

With so many channels and options available for viewing, we can’t consider ourselves to be in a “film famine” at any point of the year, regardless of what’s playing at the multiplex. But, flipping through this issue of Picturegoer, I found it interesting how though so many decades have passed, we can share the sentiments of earlier generations of moviegoers.

“ALL THE GOSSIP”

Just for fun, here are a few amusing tidbits briefly mentioned in this same issue of Picturegoer:

“Shirley Temple really likes spinach.” – Children eating their vegetables isn’t newsworthy. But children liking their vegetables? Stop the presses and re-set the front page!

“Virginia Fields, although English, is Hollywood’s greatest consumer of hamburgers.” – If the preferences of Gordon Ramsay are to be trusted (based on my devoted viewing of his many television shows), Virginia Fields should have subsisted solely on a diet of Beef Wellington to make her home country proud.

“Sonja Henie sticks to one color scheme per year and it’s blue for 1938.” – I’m not sure if this is referring to her wardrobe, her decor, her makeup, or all of the above. Regardless, I admire her dedication to her color scheme.

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