Jim and Sam Sell Exploitation In Bunches
Sam Arkoff said in a 70's interview that no American-International picture ever went out of release. As long as there were prints, any of them could be booked. Solution to wear and tear was to cannibalize stock on exchange shelves, a bad reel tossed from one Print substituted by better reels from another. Ongoing mix-match could keep oldest product in service for years, until finally there were no good reels left of anything. Theatres could use AIP backlog to supply a kiddie bill, late show, all-nighter, wherever there was need, and limit of cash to fill it. Latter half of the 50's saw emergence of AIP as exploitation's handmaiden, their black-and-white combos a hopeful ticket's worth of entertainment. That couldn't last as the market became oversaturated and other companies took to a same scheme. Sam and partner Jim Nicholson knew they'd have to upgrade the product in order to compete ... no, make that survive.
With House Of Usher underway, plus imported gladiators ("a turning point," said Sam), the team knew color was a future toward single bookings and an end to double-barrel cheapies. Still laid the dogs in depot kennels, however, and though played out as pairs, these might yet service need for marathon or dusk-to-dawn use. Why not group them as four now that they'd lost value as two? The B/W bunch had been announced to TV in June 1963. Five ABC owned-and-operated stations got exclusive run through a first year, then twenty-five more markets bought in for 1965 and onward play. The package was lush, 69 titles, with seven in color. Whatever the exposure on TV, showmen could still book the lot as whatever porridge they pleased, rentals cheaper for the more they took. AIP did fresh one-sheets to boost the foursomes, plus ad art to serve a theatre or drive-in's pick of genre. Themed programs were a standby, especially on outdoor screens, so what better than a "Mighty Blood and Guts War Show" or a "Hot Rod Riot Thrill Spill Show"? With five groupings offered, possibilities seemed endless.
Drive-ins especially were big on "Fright Nights." Never mind that lots were fairly bare by the time a fourth feature wound down. Mere promise of a feast would form the line, and who cared what individual titles made the cut? All seemed the same to average viewership. Customers were there for fun beyond what a screen showed. Playgrounds, a cafeteria grill, maybe even pony rides for the kids ... it mattered not a hoot if it was Night Of The Blood Beast or Dragstrip Girl illuminating a white surface. AIP was ideal for these jamborees because their stuff wasn't even made to be watched attentively. Distraction was factored into all of what Jim and Sam put out. I'd have found a chili dog with fries and ice cream lots more engaging than The Headless Ghost, then or now. Maybe it's fitting that most of these AIP's can't be accessed today. Imagine being home alone and marathoning four at a sit.
Thanks to longtime poster collector and expert Bill Luton for the pressbook that was basis for this posting.