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.