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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 6 April 10, 1975

Kerridge Couldn't Go Wrong

Kerridge Couldn't Go Wrong

with an outfit the size of the Rank organisation backing him. He was safe from any competition within New Zealand: firstly because of the financial backing, and secondly because of the guaranteed access to films through Rank's overseas distribution company. The second point was crucial, particularly in the forties when internicine warfare was still raging in the cinema industry. As we have seen it was doubt about obtaining reasonable supplies of films that forced the J C Williamson Picture Corporation to sell out to Kerridge.

The New Zealand film business has two aspects: importing films, which is the job of the distributor and screening them, which is the job of the exhibitor. In New Zealand these two functions are closely inter-related. In one case a distributor, 20th Century Fox, owns an exhibitor, Amalgamated. In the other case an exhibitor, Kerridge Odeon, is controlled by a company with distribution interests, the Rank Organisation; and in its turn it controls a number of local distribution companies: International Film Distributors, Lion Film Distributors, Cinema International and Photographic Wholesalers (the biggest 16 mm film rental company.)

This sort of vertical integration (distributor-exhibitor tie-up) is in itself scandalous and is prohibited in many other countries. It gives some exhibitors (in this case the two chains) the possibility of an unfair advantage over others (in this case the independents). In the United States there have been more anti-trust and anti-monopoly prosecutions brought before the courts than in any other industry.

There are distributors in New Zealand who are independent of the two chains, but they are inhibited by the chains' commercial strength. There were 208 cinemas in New Zealand at the last count, and of these Kerridge Odeon owned 59 and Amalgamated 32. More importantly, the two chains own all but one of the city theatres - which is where the money is made. The 100-odd independent theatres are confined to the suburbs and the country towns.

Distributors feel that only a showing in the city can generate enough business to make importing a film worthwhile. However Kerridge-Odeon and Amalgamated have a habit of not showing films that have been premiered in independent theatres - which means that a distributor will prefer to let a film gather dust on his shelves, awaiting the pleasure of Kerridge-Odeon or Amalgamated, rather than release it to an independent. Worse, if the two chains aren't interested in showing a film at all (and they aren't interested in showing a great many) it will almost certainly be sent out of the country again. There is the occasional exception, like Slither which went to the Capitol (Auckland) but such exceptions are very occasional.

The chains can even put on ice films that have already been widely shown. For instance, Jan Grefstad (owner of the Hollywood) complained in an interview with Alternative Cinema (April 1973) that Amalgamated had had the film 2001 frozen for over a year. They could offer the distributors more money for it than he could.