Denver, Col. (Oct. 6)
By our Denver Correspondent)
An interesting decision concerning the exhibition of motion pictures which cause objections of religious or recial groups was rendered here by a board of arbitrators when Cecil de Mille’s “King of Kings” was booked for a run here and met with the objections of leaders of the Jewish community.
The Pathe Film Company having finished presenting the “King of Kings” as a road show is now playing it throughout the country at popular prices in regular picture show hourses and has added a musical score synchronized with the picture.
When the picture was in the hands of the road show people in the spring of this year, the Denver Anti-Defamation Committee attempted to cause the picture not to be shown but the management of the theatre was not in sympathy with the Committee’s efforts and would not grant a hearing. The picture was then shown at top prices for one week and is said not to have done a very good business.
Recently the “King of Kings” was again advertised for a two or three weeks runs at the America Theatre here. The Anti-Defamation Committee lodged objections with the manager, Harry E. Huffman and succeeded in having a preview before representatives of the Jewish bodies of this city, including two Rabbis. At the conclusion of the preview, at a conference held of the Jews witnessing the performance, it was unanimously decided that protests be voiced against the showing of the picture. Although Mr. Huffman is not a Jew he appreciated the sincerity of the objection and ordered the contract cancelled. He was to present the picture on a percentage basis which would have subjected him to large damages accoring to the method provided in the standard form of contract.
Paragraph twenty-one of the standard form of film contract provides that the exhibitor may cancel this contract if the film is offensive on racial or religious grounds. He urged this defense to the breach of his contract. The contract also provides that if this defense is made that the matter should be submitted to a Board of Arbitrators which is selected in the manner provided in the standard forms of the National Board, a board of six, three of whom are chosen by the Distributor’ Board of Exchange and three selected by the Exhibitors’ Association in the respective local communities and the decision of this Board is final. The Pathe people demanded arbitration to determine the validity of Mr. Huffman’s defense. This hearing lasted a whole day.
The Anti-Defamation Committee introduced in evidence at this hearing clippings from various Jewish newspapers and various Jewish newspapers and magazines protesting against the pictures as being offensive to the Jews; and likewise presented the resolutions adopted by the Northern California Rabbis’s Conference and other material.
The Pathe people used a Jewish employee of their’s as a principal witness to prove that the film was not offensive. The Committee also had the testimony of a Methodist and a Unitarian minister, both of whom stated that in their opinion the picture is and should he offensive to the Jews.
At the conclusion of the hearing the Arbitration Board decided that Mr. Huffman was justified in cancelling the contract and found in his favor accordingly.
Simon J. Heller, Denver attorney and member of the Anti-Defamation Committee, who directed the action, in commenting on the decision stated:
“We consider that a very big victory has been won and we believe that this may be used as a precedent for other exhibitors who may desire to cancel their contract after protest has been lodged with them by the local Jewish community.”