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Double Features & Other Box Office Delights
by Christopher Stone

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I'm fascinated by the creativity motion picture exhibitors use to lure Match-Flickers to the box-office. Sometimes, exhibitors try to seduce you with gimmicks: Even if you don't, your parents and grandparents will remember the original 3D, Smell-O-Vision, Surround Sound, and even Cinerama. Other times, the box office bait has been a flick that promises you "A Cast of Thousands!," "More stars than there are in the Heavens!," or "Three Years in the Making!"

Occasionally, when no other option seems available, exhibitors resort to giving Match-Flickers extra value for their box office buck.


The Double Feature, also known as the Double Bill, was a box office phenomenon in which motion picture exhibitors offered patrons two films for the price of one. It was a successful attempt to give extra value to Match-Flickers, and to enhance box office business. This phenomenon began during the hard economic times of the Great Depression (1929-1941). Double features remained popular through the 1960s, and some venues even continued the practice into the 1970s. Today, the Double Bill is a rarity. Considering our $4. plus gas prices, and other current economic prices,
Teen Angst Marathons were common.

Teen Angst Marathons were common.
perhaps the Double Feature will make a box office comeback.

The Dusk Till Dawn Movie Marathon

If a Double Feature is a good value, then a Dusk Till Dawn Movie Marathon at your local drive-in theater is an even better bet. Or, at least, that's what many drive-in theater exhibitors believed during the 1950s and 1960s.

Most commonly, the flicks included in these caffeine and hormone-fueled all-nighters were B grade horror, sci-fi, and teen angst epics.

Infrequently, a Match-Flicker remembers a Sean Connery as James Bond, Dusk Till Dawn Marathon, or even an M-G-M Technicolor Movie Musical Marathon, but, more often, Dusk Till Dawn was a low-budget affair.

Rather than DR. NO and GOLDFINGER, or even SINGING IN THE RAIN and BRIGADOON, attendees of a Dusk Till Dawn Movie Marathon saw a bill that included the likes of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, THE GIANT CLAW, MARS NEEDS WOMEN, ATTACK OF THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (BEANNIE MOTH), DESTINATION MOON, and WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST. A good number of Baby Boomers who claim to have been conceived at the drive-in theater owe their start to the phenomenon known as the Dusk Till Dawn Movie Marathon.


As both the 1960s and the
A-List Marathons were rare.

A-List Marathons were rare.
popularity of drive-in theaters waned, the Dusk Till Dawn Movie Marathon became box office history.

Exhibitors turned to new gimmicks to bring youths and youthful-thinking elders to the box office. One of the most successful was The Midnight Movie. Usually screened at an independent theater or at a so-called "art house," at 12:00 a.m., on Friday and Saturday nights, the Midnight Movie of the 1970s was typically an edgy underground film such as John Waters' PINK FLAMINGOS, or a campy relic such as, REEFER MADNESS, or THE GANG'S ALL HERE, complete with Carmen Miranda dancing with the stars and wearing a suggestive headdress of giant unpeeled bananas. Other times, a sexy movie from Andy Warhol's New York Film Factory was the popular attraction.

Warhol's flicks were raw, raunchy, homo-erotic efforts with titles including LONESOME COWBOYS, FLESH, TRASH, and HEAT. They were the kinds of flicks that Greatest Generation parents warned their Boomer children about and the kids couldn't get enough of them at midnight, or at any time.

The air at these midnight unspoolings was typically heavy with the pungent, musty fragrances of Patchouli and Pot. As one of my comedic friends
The late Divine was a Midnight Movie Mega-star.

The late Divine was a Midnight Movie Mega-star.
wise-cracked about these psychedelic, Midnight Movie years , "I tried smoking Pot, but the handle got caught in my throat!"

SUMMER BOX OFFICE WATCH: Over Mother's Day Weekend, Match-Flickers agreed with the nation's most prominent critics, and just said "No!" to SPEED RACER, a wannabe blockbuster, reportedly costing well in excess of $100 million, that arrived D.O.A., and out of gas ($20 million gross) at multiplexes on May 9. IRON MAN's stranglehold on the box office (now $440 million worldwide and counting) continued to make it the Number One Attraction in America.

IRON MAN slipped to Second Place over the May 16-18 Weekend, with a still-steely $31.2 million take. Although PRINCE CASPIAN was the Weekend's Number One Attraction in America, its $56.5 MILLION haul was far less than the $75-100 million for which Disney had hoped. Pehaps Match-Flickers agree with the critics who view the NARNIA series as "boring slices of Christian propaganda," or, maybe, they're just hoarding their box office bucks for INDY's debut, yesterday.

Overall, the past weekend's collective grosses were down 26% from the same weekend one year ago. Was it INDY-anticipation, or was it just the economy, Match-Flickers?

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The Business of Show
Every other Friday

Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.

Other Columns
Other columns by Christopher Stone:

The Cautionary Box-Office

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up. Part Two

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up, Part 1

Quality Is Independent

Oh, the Horror!

All Columns

Christopher Stone
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.

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