After Dad’s sister, Dorothy, was killed on her honeymoon in a plane crash, Dad went on a number of cruises, I assume in an attempt to get away from it all. The honeymoon trip was his wedding gift to his sister and her new husband. This trip included a stop in Cuba.

Engine Comp No 2

When Sydney visited the Hal Roach Studios lot in 1926, the Our Gang film “The Fourth Alarm” was in production. These photos were taken on the set.

You can see the film by clicking this link:

Our Gang Silent: “The Fourth Alarm”




One of my favorite pictures.



foolish jealousies

Sydney S. Cohen Issues Statement of Questions to be Considered at M. P. T. 0. A. Gathering

Fires Broadside at Producers

The national convention of exhibitors called for Cleveland early in June will open June 8 and will continue in session until June 11. Following a series of conferences between leaders, it has been decided that the many steps necessary to bring about harmony among all factions and effect a strong organization will require four days at least.

Cohen Issues Explanation of Call

Sydney S. Cohen, who will preside at the opening of the convention of the Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America, has issued a detailed statement explaining the objects for which the organization is called together. He takes a series of sharp smashes at the producers, declaring they have been “playing on our foolish jealousies and rivalries.” Then, one by one, he arraigns film rentals, advance payments, percentage, advertising in films, and other questions, declaring all demand immediate action.

“This industry needs a thorough readjustment along the lines of sanity and justice. Too long have the producers been playing upon our foolish jealousies and rivalries. Too long have they been counting on our indifference, on our lack of leadership, until we are today near the verge of ruin and serfdom,” declares Cohen.

Sees Start of New Era

“These foolish jealousies and rivalries on the part of exhibitors have given away to a clear understanding of our community of interest and of our power; to assert and defend ourselves whenever we unite and act as one body. The convention will be judged by its fruits, but I believe it will pass into history as the start of a new era, in which the exhibitor will no longer be a hewer of wood and a drawer of water but an upstanding, independent American man, asking no odds, demanding no privileges, but insisting upon proper respect for his rights within the industry.

“We feel that within the last few years the producer and distributor, almost invariably representing the same financial interest, has slowly and steadily encroached on the domain of the exhibitor and by a series of coercive measures has sought to deprive him of the just control of his property—his motion picture theatre.

“We complain of many abuses, but most of them we believe have their origin in the attempt of the producer-exhibitor to step out of his legitimate sphere and force the theatre owner into an unnatural partnership. It is not difficult to trace the steps which have finally led up to this organized attempt at undermining the exhibitor’s property. Excessive film rentals, the arbitrary exaction of deposits or so-called advance payments, the refusal to aid the small exhibitor in building up his business by denying such necessary adjuncts as mounted posters, photos and slides, the artificial curtailment of production, the bold and persistent drive for percentage booking — all these measures aim at weakening the exhibitor’s hold on his investment.

“Constantly increasing film rentals are placing many exhibitors today before the alternative of either selling out or raising their prices of admission. In most cases, the exhibitor might better sell out than make a substantial advance in his price of admission. The existence of the motion picture theatre, its progress and prosperity, all depend on the popular price. It was the popular price which accounts for the conquest of the world by the motion picture. The fact is so well understood that it does not need repetition.

Scores Advance Deposits

“The advance payment now used by producers for the odious word ‘deposit’ takes large sums from the exhibitor and uses them not as a security for film rentals but for the expansion of their business and not infrequently for the building or purchasing of competitive theatres. The pretense that the deposit is used as security for the payment of film rentals has been abandoned even by the producer. Film rentals, as we know, are payable in advance.

“It is always an extremely difficult matter to get your deposit back from any producer. In all disputes arising between the producer and exhibitor as to payment of bills, delivery of reels, contracts, etc., the man who holds the deposit holds the whip hand, possession being nine points of the law. Cases have been numerous throughout the country where exhibitors had to invoke civil and criminal authorities to get their money back from producers.

Discusses Percentage Question

“In regard to the percentage system, I know of no subject on which the exhibitors of the country have ever been more united. From my correspondence and from the many personal visits and from other sources. I know that the exhibitors are determined to resist to the utmost the attempt to force percentage booking upon them. They feel that they should not be content merely with offering passive resistance to this system. Some definite and affirmative action must be taken as quickly as possible after the convention opens to make percentage booking impossible.”

EXHIBITORS HERALD, May 22, 1920, page 41.

The greatest evil…

October 8, 2015

This is a large part of why Sydney was known as “Champion of the independent theatre owner”.

New Association

“In sending out his call, Mr. Cohen declares  that the greatest evil confronting the exhibitor is ‘the question of the producer-distributor trying to create a monopoly throughout the entire country by securing and building of theatres in direct competition with us.'”


Warns Against Percentage

“You cannot tell what channels they are using,” he continues. “It may be ‘percentage booking,’ which they are using now for the purpose of securing the data necessary for them to promote a new theatre in your territory, or it may  be through some so-called cooperative exhibitors’ association. So let the 100 per cent exhibitors, the independent exhibitors, who have no affiliation whatsoever with any other branch of the business and whose livelihood comes from the box office alone, get together for one concerted drive.”

EXHIBITORS HERALD, May 1, 1920, page 37.

Film Magnates Fete - Sundays 2


Six Hundred at Dinner to
Honor Men Who Obtained
New Legislation

Six hundred motion picture exhibit-
ors of New York Stale gathered last
night eight at the Waldorf-Astoria to honor
Sydney S. Cohen, Charles O’Reilly and
Samuel L Berman, through whose ef-
forts at Albany Sunday film shows
were legalized. The testimonial came
from men worth millions, whose
products bespeak education and recre-
ation for 11,000,000 persons dally in the
United States.

After each course of the dinner, and there were thirteen courses, the enthusiastic diners cheered the three modest men seated at the table of honor. The dinner was no abridged affair. William Fox did not introduce the toastmaster, Senator James J. Walker, until 10:30 o’clock.
Twenty-eight men sat at the table of honor. Among; them were E. F. Albee, Marcus Loew, Adolph Zuker, William A. Brady, Judge Julius M. Mayer, Victor J. Bowling, Arthur Brisbane, Samuel Goldwyn, Walter W. Irwin, Dr. Royal S. Copeland and Aaron J. Levy. They all observed the strict rules of dining, as laid down by Mrs- Waldorf many years ago, and wore their black ties and patent leathers.

Motion picture stars drifted in toward midnight for dancing. Three bands, including a flute squadron from an uptown jazz shop, added zest to the affair. William Fox, who can compute the aggregate tax on 1,000 patrons without resorting to a pencil, was Chairman. Such a busy man is William, a friend sold, that he reads scenarios seated in the barber chair. Adolph Zukor arrived late. He missed the olives and fish, but played chicken and ice cream heavily to win. Charlie Haring and his buddie, Louis F. Blumenthal, tho latter Treasurer of the M. P. Exhibitors of New York, wore pretty satin badges and were as busy as process servers. They like farm ing and pinochle, respectively.

The Evening World. (New York, N.Y.) June 19, 1919, Final Edition

Banquet at the Waldorf

What a swell party! But why? What were they celebrating? Why such a big event for Sunday movies?

It’s about money. The gross revenues of the film industry in 1919 were $800-million which in 2015 dollars would be $8.25-billion! And considering that blue laws kept most movie theaters dark on Sundays, imagine the additional revenues which ensued from Sunday openings. Roughly speaking, if the $8.25-billion came from six-days per week, adding a seventh day would add another $1.4-billion in revenues!

Source: Frank Waterhouse & Company’s Pacific Ports. June 1920.

The neo-classical theater known today as the Apollo Theater was designed by George Keister and first owned by Sidney Cohen (sic). In 1914, Benjamin Hurtig and Harry Seamon obtained a thirty-year lease on the newly constructed theater calling it Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater. Like many American theaters during this time, African-Americans were not allowed to attend as patrons or to perform.

Cohen reopened the building as the 125th Street Apollo Theatre in 1934 with his partner, Morris Sussman serving as manager. Cohen and Sussman changed the format of the shows from burlesque to variety revues and redirected their marketing attention to the growing African-American community in Harlem.



Viola Dana

Viola Dana  (born Virginia Flugrath, 1897)

Releases by the Edison Company

Big Edison Night at Empire 

Notwithstanding the bitter cold of last Tuesday 
night, the residents of the Bronx turned out in vast 
numbers to behold in real life at the Empire theater 
their screen favorites of the Edison Company. As 
early as 9 o'clock the magnificent theater was taxed 
to capacity and the spacious lobby held a throng eager 
to gain admission. After the showing of the Edison 
features "The Colonel of the Red Huzzars" and "The 
Best Man" Frank Bannon, the company's publicity 
man, introduced from the stage Sally Crute, Miriam 
Nesbitt, Gertrude McCoy, Duncan McRae, Robert 
Conness and Marc MacDermott. A grand ovation 
was tendered to the artists by the admiring fans and 
the ladies were each presented with a gorgeous bou- 
quet of flowers. The players then retired to the rear 
of the theater, where they at once became engaged 
in affixing their signatures in books, albums and on 
programs in the possession of the fans.
Motography. Vol. XIII, No. 2. Jan. 9, 1915 p. 58


These cars and motorcycles give a feeling for the vehicles of the time.



(1919)^ –  View of an early model car parked in front of the entrance to the Lyceum Theatre on Spring Street in Los Angeles. Signs in front read: “Biggest and Best Show in the City” and “America’s Most Popular Family Theatre”.



1919 Cleveland Round Tank Motorbike

 Cleveland 1919 round tank 2-stroke motorbike.



Indy 500 - 1919

Indy 500 – 1919

Earl Cooper and his riding mechanic in the Stutz car.
Picture taken at Indianapolis 500 qualifying in 1919.
(Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo. Noel Allard collection).



1919 Indian Powerplus Motorcycle

1919 Indian Powerplus Motorcycle

This is the motorcycle that helped the U.S. win the First World War.



1919 Chevy

1919 Chevy

In 1919 an electric starter was a big deal. (Up until 1919 most production cars had relied on a hand crank.) So this 1919 Chevrolet Model 490 Touring car is a truly historic vehicle. It is one of the first electric start cars for Chevrolet. It has a 21.7 horsepower 4-cylinder engine and a 3-speed transmission.



1919 Ford Depot Hack

1919 Ford Model T Depot Hack

Creation Of The MPTOA

September 23, 2015

June 10, 1920

  • MPTOA Formed with Sydney S. Cohen as first president.
  • Hiram Abrams made president of United Artists Pictures Corporation.
  • Life Magazine publishes movie issue.



Elected at Cleveland After Alfred S. Black Bolts Convention and Other Opponents Throw Him Their Support.

The convention here this week of some seven hundred
film exhibitors from virtually every part
of the country, was brought to a close to-
day with the election of Sidney S. Cohen
to the presidency of the Motion Picture
Theatre Owners of America, as the combined
exhibitor bodies of the country will
hereafter be known.


THE NEW YORK CLIPPER – JUNE 16, 1920, page 23.


In 1919, 800-million feet of film stock was used, which adds up to 151,515 miles of film.

portion of movie film reel


The gross revenues of the film industry in the same year were $800-million which in 2015 dollars would be



Source: Frank Waterhouse & Company’s Pacific Ports. June 1920.


WE 1929 08 01


CH 2


These are from a terrific blog about Atlanta’s Fox Theater, 1929.

Free Trip To Roxy’s

March 12, 2015

Deaf-Mutes' Journal


     “On Monday afternoon, December 16th, all our older pupils, approximately 273, accompanied by their

teachers, were conveyed in four chartered buses to the Roxy Theatre, where the’ were entertained through the courtesy of Mr. Sydney S. Cohen, a member of the Rotary Club. The performance was thoroughly enjoyed by all.



Sydney died on December 11, 1935, five days before the visit to the Roxy.

     “The following Is reprinted from “Spokes,” the official publication of the Rotary Club:


Rotarian Sydney S. Cohen, who has been an

active and interested member of the

Rotary Club of New York since August,

1922, died suddenly last Thursday morning

on the way to his office.

     Sydney will long be remembered by the

members of the Club, and especially by the

members of the Boys’ Work Committee for

his generous co-operation In the activities of

the Committee. On many occasions he has,

through his generosity, made It possible for

the committee to realize funds for use in

connection with Camp Cheerful, and only

recently, through the committee, made it

possible for the boys at the New York

School for the Deaf to enjoy a performance

at Roxy’s. In fact, the boys’ visit to Roxy’s

took place subsequent to his sudden death.

     Our sincere sympathy is extended Richard

Sydney Cohen and Dorothy Louise Cohen,

his son and daughter.

Obit. NYT. 12/12/1935 – Says it all.

Sydney S. Cohen, Film Leader, Dead

Former President of Motion Picture Theatre Owners Corporation Was 50.


Was Active in Rehabilitating Properties After Depression

–Foe of Censorship

Sydney S. Cohen, former president of the Motion Picture Theatre Owners Corporation of America, and active in recent years in the rehabilitation of motion picture theatre properties stricken by the depression, dropped dead yesterday morning in West Forty­third Street, a few doors from the building at No. 25, where he had had his office for many years. He was 50 years old.

Mr. Cohen, a widower, had made his home for several years at the Hotel Ansonia.

The growth of motion pictures from a side­street, sideshow activity in abandoned stores to an important part of the real estate business paralleled the thirty years of Mr. Cohen’s active business career. He was rated at one time as one of the largest independent motion picture theatre owners of the city. He had an active interest in theatre properties in the Western part of the state and his influence became nation­wide through the Motion Picture Theatre Owners Corporation, which he served both as president and chairman of the board.

Worked for Legislation

Much of his work on behalf of the organization involved national and State legislation affecting the exhibition of motion pictures.

Mr. Cohen was born in New York and attended City College and New York University.

The difficulties of exhibiting in structures not primarily designed for moving pictures and obtaining standard requirements from various law enforcement groups led Mr. Cohen into an attempt to organize exhibitors. Out of his efforts developed in 1912 the New York Theatre Owners Association. He was one of its first presidents.

In 1919 Mr. Cohen won a long legislative battle when Governor Smith signed the bill legalizing Sunday motion pictures. Mr. Cohen then carried his battle into other States, and made it one of the principal campaigns of the Motion Picture Theater Owners Corporation when he became president in 1920.

Fought Censorship

Mr. Cohen fought campaigns against forces which he asserted were destroying revenues for the theatres in the post­war depression and fought State censorship of the films. The development of chains of theaters owned and controlled by the producing companies saw the gradual disappearance from active exhibition work of the individual owner. The collapse of these chains in the depression and their reorganization brought Mr. Cohen back to his original sphere of influence. At the time of his death he was adviser to the bond holders of the Roxy Theatre reorganization, and treasurer of the Artco Theatres Corporation. He also was an adviser to the Roosevelt committee in the Boston Theatre reorganization and treasurer of the company operating it.

In 1911 he married Miss Alberta Solomon, who died in 1918. Two children survive—Dorothy Louise Cohen and Richard Sydney Cohen.

Mr. Cohen was a trustee of the board of governors of the Metropolis Club, member of the New York Rotary Club, and a member of the board of trustees of the Educational Alliance. Funeral services will be held at Central Synogogue, Fifty­Fifth Street and Lexington Avenue, at 11 A. M. On Sunday.

Copyright (C) The New York Times December 12, 1935

Variety Apollo


VARIETY  July 10, 1935, p16

“Already the ofays* are discovering the heated colored entertainment holding forth at the Apollo on 125th, off 7th avenue. It’s the only colored vaudfilmer in that belt, under a pooling arrangement between Sydney S. Cohen and Frank Schiffman, with Morris Sussman managing the house for them and Schiffman booking the shows direct.

[John Hammond actually booked the shows. See his description of the set-up at]

“Playing acts like Ethel Waters at $3,500 plus percentage—and with an average show nut of $5,000 a week — the 26-40¢ scale (55 for loges), but only a dime admish up to noon necessitates a consistent jam-in trade. That It gets such bullish biz alone makes possible the heavy show investiture.

“It’s a unique show at the Apollo. Having no film product, with Loew and RKO’s own houses In the neighborhood absorbing the better plx, the Apollo plays five to seven acts plus a permanent m.c., Ralph Coo-per, who is no small factor in maintaining the theatre’s popularity.There is also a line of 16 girls and a versatile pit-and-stage band,changed weekly, for the vaude and the presentation portions of the show. It’s a curious admixture, thus of burlesque, nite club, variety and picture house, with enough Tabasco in the form of catch-as-catch-can blackouts to keep ’em all interested.”

* “Ofay”

A word of unspecified West African origin that refers to “white” people. It’s commonly used in the American South but has fallen out of favor as “White Devil” has assumed prominence.

Pasted from <>

In the hotel lobby

February 12, 2015

Victory Over Paramount-Exhibitors' Herald-6-26-1920-p33-b


Exhibitors’ Herald, June 26, 1920, p33 

The Zukor Plan

February 12, 2015


Exhibitors’ Herald, 6-26-1920-p48

“Adolph Zukor. After a short period of flux in Hollywood in the early nineteen-teens, Adolph Zukor emerged as the key controller of the movies between 1917 and 1927. Zukor’s ability to control the industry came from his deal-making and his sense of vertical integration. (a) He controlled production through contracts with stars, directors and producers — with Famous Players Lasky. Under contract to him were: Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, William S. Hart, Fatty Arbuckle, D.W. Griffith, Mack Sennett, Thomas Ince, Blanche Sweet and Cecil B. Demille. (b) He controlled distribution through Paramount and (c) his holdings included theaters [exhibition]. He had 303 theaters in the U.S. by 1921. Vertical integration: production, distribution, exhibition.”

Source: Gerald J. Baldasty, Ph.D.



Affiliated Exhibitors' Corp

The New Historical Dictionary of the American Film Industry

p. 3

Copyright 1998 Anthony Slide


January 31, 2015

This image is from a Fox newsreel. See it
by clicking the link below the picture

Sydney with President Coolidge.

Sydney with President Coolidge.


January 14, 2015



Loving cup

Presented to our president
Sydney S. Cohen


The Motion Picture Exhibitors League
At Our Annual Convention
In the City of Rochester
April 8th, 1921

A Reminder of Our Love and Esteem
In Recognition of His Many Sacrifices
Which Have Brought Us Such A Full
Measure of Success

victory over paramount

“Defeated at every turn, the embryonic octopus of the motion picture industry—the Famous Players Corporation—dragged itself from the exhibitors’ convention at Cleveland, on Thursday, June 10, a badly beaten factor, more than seven hundred exhibitors from every state in the Union having registered their determination to conquer the menace.

“Adolph Zukor, head of the producing-exhibiting combine, personally Jumped into the breach early in the convention week and began what proved to be a hopeless fight to stem the tide of sentiment against Famous Players which daily gained in momentum in the convention hall at the Hotel Winton.”

Exhibitors Herald, June 26, 1920, p. 33

Hotel Winton Cleveland, Ohio

Hotel Winton
Cleveland, Ohio

Birth of the Apollo

January 10, 2015

Hurtig and Seaman


Variety June 1912

Twenty-Two years later, Sydney turns this theater into the Apollo.

Educational Films in 1919

December 19, 2014



“There is perhaps no branch of the motion picture industry which has been so neglected,” he said. “Films for educational and instructional purposes are almost ideal, and yet there are few actual educational reels. It has been my experience that the average photoplay goer appreciates the theme of a brilliant educational release just as keenly as he does the plot of the most carefully produced feature production. It is educational films of this type that this organization means to  distribute.”


Exhibitors’ Herald – December 1919, page 79.

The Book

November 19, 2014

The book: Behind the Screens.


Sydney S. Cohen Book





Henry Ford For President

November 5, 2014

The rumor had it that Henry Ford would run for for the U.S. presidency in 1924, and that his representatives were trying to infiltrate the MPTOA in order to gain control over thousands of movie screens. While this was the case, Ford was never nominated. The idea of his running was parodied by the great humorist, Will Rogers, who made a short, humorous recording about the notion of Ford becoming the president. You can hear this 2-min. recording by clicking and downloading the link below.


“Will Rogers Nominates Henry Ford For President”  Click this link to download the audio.

henryfordpres1923_64kb_mp3     Download Audio

Source: Library of Congress –

charles urban office

Urban (on the left) photographed in the Charles Urban Trading Company offices at 48 Rupert Street, around 1905.

Pictures to Be Handled   By National Distributor

Agreement Which Is Effective January 1 Provides   for One Subject Each Week

(Special to Exhibitors Herald)   NEW YORK, Nov. 8, 1921.

— The campaign of education planned by the Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America takes a big step forward on  January 1, when there will be offered to the screens of the members a series of films prepared under the supervision of the organization.     Contracts were signed last week by officers of the M. P. T. O. and Kineto Company of America for the production of one-reel subjects of educational   and entertainment value. The agreement provides for one picture each week, beginning on January I. The distribution will be made by one of   the biggest of the national distribution organizations, the announcement   of whose name will be made within a few days.

Urban and Exhibitor Official to Edit Film

The pictures will be known as “Official Urban Movie Chats” of the   Motion Picture Theater Owners of America and Kineto Company of   America.     The films will be edited by Charles Urban, assisted by an associate  editor appointed by the M. P. T. O. This appointment has not as yet been made but it is expected that the name of the man selected will be given out at the time the name of the distributing organization is made public.   Negotiations for a series of films sponsored by the If. P. T. O. have been on  for some months and last week all details of the arrangements were completed.

For the M. P. T. O. the contract was   signed by President Sydney S. Cohen,   Vice-President Thomas Goldberg, Gen-   eral Manager A. T. Moeller. Director J.   T. Collins. Director W. D. Burford, Charles L. O’Reilly, president, and S. I.   Berman, secretary of New York State;   George Aarons of Pennsylvania, J. L.   Lazarus of Pennsylvania, C. C. Griffin   of California. John S. Evans of Pennsyl vania. C. E. Whitehurst of Maryland. R.   F. Woodhull of New Jersey, W. A. True   of Connecticut. E. M. Fay of Rhode   Island, E. T. Peter of Texas. John Manheimer. chairman of board of directors of   T. O. C. C.

Motion Picture Magazine 1925Just had to share it.

sydney cohen apollo theater theatre

Photo: Allen Carrasco
& The Apollo Theater Foundation, Shahar Azran

“…Resident historian and official tour guide, Billy Mitchell, discloses little known facts about the theater and the legendary people who performed there.”

The Gravity of this Evil

September 12, 2014

The gravity of this evil

1921 cover ex tr review

Ex Tr Rev Gov against Laskey 1921

Valentino - Sheik

Louella Parsons describes the scene at the MPTOA 1923 convention in Chicago where Valentino appears in support of the theater owners cause, which was also one of his own.

“Before Mr. Valentino made his appearance Sydney S. Cohen said that he had requested the young gentleman to refrain from mentioning the name of the company with which he has had his legal difficulties. Apparently Mr. Valentino did not hear or did not want to hear, or he gave a talk against the film company that for dramatic oratory would put Clay or any other speech maker in the shade.

” Mr. Valentino called the independent theatre owners and actor-producers the white hope off the industry – and better that they all work together to keep the picture business from going to the merry old bow bows. Mr Hays who seemed to be the feature star of the convention yesterday came in for some raps from the ‘Sheik.’ He was called the ‘Sunday-School Apostle of the Industry, the paid agent of the producers and few more similar names.

“After urging the exhibitors to organize to fight the common enemy, Rudolph received an ovation that shook the rafters. Sydney Cohen, who was presiding, in thanking Mr. Valentino, said: ‘You see, he heeded my request and refrained from mentioning the film company with whom he is fighting.’ “

by Louella Parsons, The Morning Telegraph, New York, Wednesday, May 23, 1923, Page 1.

(Valentino striking against Famous Players is outlined in


This is the same year that the movies were allowed to be opened on Sunday.

Mobile Motion Picture Production

 Motion Picture Magazine, Vol. XVIII, No. 7, August 1919

advert-washing machine-women-1919

Frame of reference:    An ad in 1919 – when the law was changed, permitting you to go to a movie on Sunday.

Peter Crown

Weekly Variety, May 27, 1921

“…the use of 17,000 theatres throughout the country for the advancement of any civic betterment or public welfare projects which may be instituted by the government departments.”

It means that the motion picture theatre will become the home of civic and social progress as well as of entertainment; it will take its place alongside the school, which is as it ought to be.”

CHARLES URBAN  President, Kineto Company of America


official urban movie chats


Sees M. P. T. O. A. Official  Reel as Most Important Event  

By CHARLES URBAN  President, Kineto Company of America

AS I review the events of 1921 and look forward to 1922, the outstanding development, as it affects the motion picture industry, that occurs to me is the arrangement recently entered into between the Motion Picture Theater Owners of America and the Kineto Company of America for the release by the W. W. Hodkinson Corporation of the “Official Urban Movie Chats of the Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America.”

In twenty-five years I have had a rather full experience in the motion picture industry, but I can recall no other step which is so significant of good for the entire industry.  To have such a strong association of exhibitors, as the M. P. T. O. A. represents, officially put their endorsement on a weekly-educational reel which will serve as their official screen publication marks such a forward step as was barely dreamed of a few years since. It is the biggest sign for tlie utilization of the best purposes of the motion picture screen I have noted in all my long association witli the industry. To me, it means tliat the motion picture lias grown up ; it has passed its wild youth and lias realized its obligations and responsibilities. It means that the motion picture theatre will become the home of civic and social progress as well as of entertainment; it will take its place alongside the school, which is as it ought to be.  The public is extremely fortunate that the leadersliip of the exhibitors is in the mind of a man who is so ably equipped to intercept the public demand. I take off my hat to Mr. Cohen. He and his associates have done a very great service to the public and exhibitors alike, the full measure of which will not be apparent for a long while to come. One needs years to get a proper perspective on the value of events, and it will be many years before the rich value of what has been done is visible to all. I say with all the emphasis I can command that the publication and distribution of the “Official Urban Movie Chats of the Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America” will be an outstanding marking-stone of progress when the history of the development of the motion picture comes to be written fifty years from now.  The short subjects, the worth-while films, are at the beginning of their influence. With the support they are now getting from the exhibitors, their rising influence is certain. Better Pictures is the cry, and nothing less than the best will satisfy. It is a pleasure and a satisfaction to look forward to 1922.

Sydney and Farina

August 27, 2014

Sydney, with Buckwheat, on the L'il Rascals set at the Hal Roach Studio, 1926.

Sydney, with Farina (Allen Clayton Hoskins) on the L’il Rascals set at the Hal Roach Studio, 1926.


On the occasion of the annual meeting of the MPTOA in Los Angeles, 1926.




The Power of Film

August 27, 2014


movie theater audience

Sydney is quoted as saying, “Its language is simple, vivid and direct, because it appeals to the eye, which has been called the immediate channel of the soul; because it impresses with equal force the literate and the illiterate, the motion picture has developed into an agency more powerful than either the printed or the spoken word.” (cited in Pierce, 1998)

Pierce, David. (1998). “Baring the Heart of Hollywood: The Truth About the Motion Pictures.” The Dearborn Independent. (originally published October 29, 1921)

Also see


Film Bulletin


VOL. No. 2 No. 16  –  WEDNESDAY. DECEMBER 18, 1935


Sydney Cohen’s Death – And A Lesson In ‘Harmony’!

The foremost figure in independent exhibitor ranks of a decade ago was suddenly and prematurely snatched from the industry scene last week when Sydney S. Cohen dropped dead on the street outside his office in New York City.

No other individual in the history of the motion picture industry occupied so dominant a position in the field of theatre owners’ organization as that of Cohen when he ruled the then independent Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America. From 1920 to 1924 he held the post of president and, with New York’s famous Jimmy Walker as counsel, Cohen moulded the one unified independent exhibitors’ body film business has ever seen.

That was the organization which was powerful enough in 1921 to bring Adolph Zukor, then czar of filmdom, to the M. P. T. O. A. convention in Minneapolis to beg for his business life. Zukor’s entrance into theatre operations had raised a storm of protest from theatre men and a movement for a complete boycott of Famous Players-Lasky (Paramount today) was slated for approval at that convention.

That Zukor was allowed to escape by proffering a mere list of promises, which he promptly ignored, was no fault of Sydney Cohen’s. Aggressively, relentlessly, he carried on his fight against the growing tendency among the big film powers toward adoption of practices which today plague the nation’s independent theatre owners.

Producers’ aggressions into the exhibition field; the rapacious block booking system of selling film products, and all those trade practices which are now supinely and stupidly accepted by independent theatre owners, were being born in the minds of the film powers in Sydney Cohen’s day of leadership, and he fought like a titan to balk them and stem the tide toward an unbalanced industry.



More about Roxy

August 20, 2014

roxy interior

My previous posts about the Roxy Theater and Sam (Roxy) Rothafel regarded Sydney’s role in saving the Roxy from bankruptcy during the Great Depression.

Much of Roxy’s success due to the fact he was a great showman. Today I came across a wonderful description of his approach to the design and operation of this great movie palace. See


This account is worth a read so I did not do a copy and paste.

place in the sun - filmdaily 2930newy_0287

Sydney S. Cohen, Peter Crown, 1910 movie theater theatre projector

1910 – The Power’s Cameragraph
Moving Picture Machine

Engine Comp No 2BEFORE


Earn Big Money

October 14, 2013

Earn Big Money 1925

Earn big money in the moving picture business. 1925.

The Roxy – Financials

October 14, 2013

Roxy bonds - billboard  11-14-1925



Financing for the new Roxy Theater. November, 1925.

$4.25-million. ‘Roxy’ (S.L. Rothafel) was president of the borrowing corporation.

How Sydney Saved The Roxy

September 21, 2013

Here’s my father’s telling of how Sydney saved the Roxy Theatre, “The Cathedral of the Motion Picture”, from bankruptcy during the great depression:

“At this time the depression was really hurting the economy. My father gave Roxy budgets that were practical. Roxy would ignore them and spend twice the budget—— so he was axed.

“Here was the challenge: Biggest theatre in the world, 5,920 seats, getting $1.25 a seat in the daytime, $1.75 at night, and $2.00 on weekends (approximate figures) and empty theatres. My father figured that the majority of middle class family people had never been near the Roxy, the cathedral of movie theatres.

“Why not fill it up? Charge 25-cents in the afternoon, 50-cents at night, and 75-cents on weekends. Children 25-cents all the time. They got a folksy radio comic named Chic Sales to promote the Roxy on radio.

“When the receivers started they had no money with which to buy big league, first-class films. They opened up with a grade “C” horror film featuring Bela Lugosi, the original Dracula. I was in my father’s office when the ad agency gave him a proof of the weak ad they planned to run. My father took out the thick gold pencil you now have, scratched out a lot of junk and put in this heading, “IT’S TREMONSTEROUS”.


“Once the theatre developed a cash flow, they had the money to buy 1st class movies. In two years they paid off the bonds lOO-₵ on the dollar, paid off all the other debts and the theatre was removed from Bankruptcy. My father then became receiver for the RKO Palace and the Brooklyn Fox. Did the same job there.”

roxy 1927

Barbara Stanwyck

September 9, 2013

Barbara Stanwyck

Barbara Stanwyck

The following is an excerpt from a letter from my father to me.

“My father (Sydney) and Howard Cullman came up with an author named Willard Mack. Mack wrote suspense type stories. He wrote one called THE NOOSE. Sydney and Howard got him to write a play under the same name. It was a success. The leading man was Rex Cherryman. The leading lady was Barbara Stanwyck. She became a very successful actress – sulky, moody parts. She got her start with Sydney and Howard.”

Howard was Chairman of the New York Port Authority at the time.

The Noose ran from October 20, 1926 thru April of 1927 at the Hudson Theater in New York. Stanwyck played the part of “Dot”.


Defeating Henry Ford

August 26, 2013

Fullscreen capture 8262013 42838 PM-001

 Henry Ford made an aborted attempt to run for the US Presidency in 1924. At the 1923 MPTOA conference, backers of a Ford-for-President campaign were attempting to gain control of the organization and its 12,000 members. Sydney (misspelled “Sidney” in the NYT) was elected as President of the MPTOA, largely because of his strong opposition to Ford, and to “…the control of pictures for political purposes…”





“To Exhibitors of New York State:

“LIKE the summons of the fiery cross to the clans of old Scotland, comes the state-wide call to arms upon the motion picture exhibitors of New York. Whether members of the State Exhibitors’ League or not, motion picture showmen from all corners of the Empire State are expected to gather at the convention of New York State exhibitors at the Onondaga Hotel, Syracuse, on February 26.

Threatened taxation, new and severe state censorship, and other vital problems are to be discussed, and the voice and vote of every New York exhibitor is needed to put through convention legislation, initiating the fight which is bound to come in the Albany assembly. This is the call which Sidney S. Cohen and S. I. Berman, president and secretary, respectively, of the New York State Exhibitors’ League, have sent trumpeting to all parts of the state.

“This is the supreme moment for making a united and impressive demonstration, if not for ourselves, then for our patrons,” urges Mr. Cohen. “We earnestly desire your counsel and support, whether you are the owner of a large house or a small one.”

Considering the fact that the “reform” element in Albany is about to initiate legislation putting the censorship of films under the State Board of Regents, this call for united effort on the part of New York’s exhibitors is not only timely, but of absolute necessity.

From all reports the convention promises to have the large attendance it deserves. Prominent exhibitors are preparing to arrive in Syracuse some time in advance of the opening, of the convention, in order to get as much accomplished as possible. Mr. Cohen, who is driving plans ahead with great energy, will be on hand early.

Onondaga Hotel In Syracuse, NY ~1919

Onondaga Hotel In Syracuse, NY ~1919

The eyes of millions

July 31, 2013

DOJ  1925


Big Meeting at Milwaukee is Attracting Attention All Over the Country

by United Press, Milwaukee, May 15, 1925

“The eyes of millions of movie fans from Wagon Wheel, Ariz. to Pauxatawney, Pa.,  are today centered upon this city, where is being waged a superstruggle to make the world unsafe for the movie trust.”

This is the meeting where Sydney refers to the trust as a “gigantic octopus”. He said, ” Its tentacles stretch all over the world forcing movie exhibitors to sign exclusive contracts, making them take every picture which gushes forth from the film trusts – take the good and the bad alike” they contend.

sydney s. cohen and department of justice

D.O.J. Investigation

Milwaukee, Wis. May 15, 1925 (AP)

“Independents Charge ‘Hays’ Group Has Monopoly”