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Horta's View From the Stalls: Odd Movie Factoids You Probably Could Have Done Without

May 6th, 2003

Do you fancy yourself a true movie buff?  Would you like to fill your noggin with useless tidbits of information so that you can astound and amaze your family and friends with a cinematic John Doe act? Will you be appearing on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" anytime soon and need to boost your movie trivia knowledge?  So not to pigeonhole myself into the part of a  reminiscent, cinematic cynic, I’ve decided to forgo my whiny “back in the day” posts that I generally impart to you 3 or 4 times a month. Instead, I’ve decided to present a small list of interesting and little known movie factoids. A tiny piece of Silver Screen Jeopardy to keep your brain churning the next time you head to the theaters…or to save your life the next time you play that Trivial Pursuit Death Match at a neighbors dinner party!

  • Subliminal advertising was born in a movie theater. An advertising expert named James Vicary went into a theater in the 1950’s to test his devious new tool for persuading others: subliminal advertising. During the movie he allegedly flashed the commands "EAT POPCORN" and "DRINK COKE" so fast that the unsuspecting audience couldn't consciously see the words. He claimed Coke sales jumped over 18% and popcorn sales leaped just over 57%. It is currently an illegal practice and isn’t permitted by the FCC.

  • The typical two-hour movie requires an astounding 2.13 miles of film to present, not including trailers and previews!

  • Movie screens aren’t simply flat pieces of white vinyl.  The screen is full of small holes to allow the speakers placed behind them clear front channel audibility.  These screens are also slightly concave in order to avoid potential pin cushioning effects from cameras that are a distance away.

  • Ever wonder where the term "The Silver Screen" came from?  Movie screens come in varying reflectivity.  In order to achieve the full rich color and non too-intense brights we all have come to expect, the screen mattes we watch are coated with various reflective materials that are rated in reflectivity percentages.  The most common type of screen called the Pearlescent screen is coated with a SILVER coating. It provides 15 percent reflectivity; black is dark gray and the image is bright, providing the best overall contrast.

  • The first movie to ever use surround sound was Disney’s 1941 Fantasia.

  • Based on a daily average, you and everyone in the theater will pass gas at least once during the course of a 2 hour movie.

  • Though it is really a matter of preference, the best place to sit in a theater from a technical point of view is about two thirds of the distance from the screen to the back of the theater two or so seats from the center seat. Because sound technicians generally check the audio levels from the center seat about two thirds back from the screen the sound from right and left speakers are equalized vicinity. Sitting slightly off-center will enhance the stereo effect.

  • Red Dawn, starring Patrick Swayze was the first film ever to receive a PG-13 Rating.

  • The famous HOLLYWOOD sign in LA that is synonymous with the movie biz in its entirety, originally spelled HOLLYWOODLAND and it was a sign to promote a housing community with lots of land to sell, during the early 1920’s. After being given to the city of LA in 1945, the last four letters had to be dropped because of the lack of maintenance. It wasn’t until 1978 that the Silver Screen industry lead by the likes of Gene Autry came to the rescue and kept it from certain demise by adopting letters and restoring them.

  • Movie poster collecting is a common hobby. True poster collecting buffs really covet the posters a theater receives current day over the general public reprints. The way to distinguish the two is by looking at the back of the poster. The paper glossy posters a theater gets is see through and the image on front is easily seen inverted on the back. This is so the poster is well illuminated when placed on the back light displays that adorn theaters hall.

  • Theaters don’t really make money on the movies they show unless they are shown for an extended amount of time. In fact they actually make their money at the concession stand which is why the snacks and drinks are so expensive. With out the sales, they probably wouldn’t be able to stay in business.

  • A movie credits list is long and detailed. That is because there are many things going behind the making of a film that we don’t always get to see or appreciate. A common name listed early in the credits is the title of BEST BOY. From Cinem@: "There are actually two separate best boy positions -- the best boy/electric and the best boy/grip -- who are second in command to the gaffer and to the key grip. The best boy/grip is in charge of the rest of the grips and grip equipment. The best boy/electric is in charge of the rest of the electricians and the electrical equipment."

There is more to Hollywood then what is projected on to the movie screen. The two or so hours we spend in our stadium seats speaks very little of the science and history that has brought us to this point. And as another Summer blockbuster season falls upon us, why not take some time to research and learn about some of the odd and interesting events, scientific tid-bits, and facts that our rich Hollywood heritage consists of?  You never know when you may be in a life or death Trivial Pursuit game or playing "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" when your asked... "How often do movie patrons pass gas while watching a movie?"

George W. Horta III

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