Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Jerry Lewis plans clean movies in his theaters

Cleveland Press June 30, 1971

"I want something to leave my children," explains Jerry Lewis. "I'll leave them dollars but I wanted to leave them something standing."

That's one reason, one of very many, that the comedian-actor-director-producer singer has taken on the business of franchising a string of movie houses that will bear his name.

He has other explanations. Providing movies at a price a family can afford is another. Taking movie houses out to where people are is still another. At a press conference yesterday he went on and on about his concepts, reeling off figures, places, dates, predictions with the skill of an old business hand.

The key to holding prices I down is simply a return to the old concept of playing second-run movies. Let them open elsewhere at high prices. It's a field that almost has been abandoned since every exhibitor decided to turn his theater into a first-run house.

"People ask me why a movie we show is six weeks old and I tell them pay me $3.50 and I'll show it tomorrow.

"In our first theater, In East Meadow, N.J., we showed "Airport" for 99 cents for adults. So it was eight weeks after it had played Radio City but so what ?

"We figure adult prices should be 99 cents, maybe $1.25 for some pictures we have to pay more for and kids 50 cents at all times.

"We have 60 theaters open now, will have 80 by August and 100 by the end of the year. Construction is the slow part.

He makes it clear that whoever represents Jerry Lewis answers to Jerry Lewis -- no misrepresentation; no X-rated movies; play only what the Lewis organization books; keep the theaters clean.

"Don't spit on my floor, not with my name outside. Go spit on your own floor," he explains.

Lewis figures that with enough theaters there will be enough G and GP rated movies made to fill the screens. And he plans to get into motion picture producing and distribution himself, but that is off in the future.

His plans include lining up 50 or 60 talented movie people to join forces with him, and he mentions such names as writer Sterling Silliphant and producer-director Norman Jewison.

Some R-rated movies will be used, depending on the movie. He doesn't think that "Lovers and Other Strangers" deserved to be an R, on the other hand said that the R-rated "Valley of the Dolls" would never play on his screens.

Where will It end? Lewis admits he doesn't know himself. Estimates now are for 3000 theaters in five years.

"And just think," he adds "there's a whole brand new market in Australia and Great Britain."

Clearly what Jerry Lewis plans to leave his offspring is not something that is purely local.