Record #623

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J. R. McKay, Assistant Trade Commissioner, Puerto Rico
C. J. North, US Department of Commerce (Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce)
Reel 7
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Influence of screen

Report of the reception of English-language sound films in San Juan.


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INFLUENCE OF SCREEN. 1929. Report from J.R. Mackay, Ass Trade Commissioner in Puerto Rico, to C.J. North, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, 20 June 1929: An article in the June 15 issue of "The Saturday Evening Post" tells of the development of the sound film and speculates on its future. It indicates a probability that American producers will turn out films in the English language only, for distribution only in the English speaking countries of the world; that they will sell to Continental Europeans the rights to reproduction of American hits, and will confine to Latin America their efforts to distribute films abroad. According to the writer of the article, the films distributed in Latin America would be minus the sound, the presentation being the same as that heretofore followed.You may be interested in the San Juan reaction to a 5-day run of "Broadway Melody," just ended. I have talked with a large number of Porto Ricans who have seen it. These vary from those who know little or no English to those who know it so well that few of the "wise cracks" escaped them. Without exception they are all enthusiastic about the entertainment, whether they understood it or not. I am sure that the enjoyment of most of them would have been greater had the management of the theater furnished each with a short printed synopsis, in Spanish, outlining the action, and the relationship of the characters to each other, as is done the world over in presenting opera in a foreign language.I may be wrong, but I believe that English language sounds [sic] films have a great future in Latin America, at least until good ones in Spanish become available, and probably even then. I doubt if anyone can visualize at this time the extent to which such films will be demanded in Latin America, much less the effect of their showing there.Perhaps San Juan is not a good gage of the general field, because of the large proportion of the people here who have some knowledge of English. But there is hardly a capital or large city in Latin America which does not have from a few hundred to a few thousand English speaking people, Americans, British and natives, residents or visitors. Given a little encouragement by American producers, at least one theater in each of these towns can afford to install sound equipment. Probably it would not be profitable to the producer to ship a film to one of these distant cities for display by but one theater. But I believe that notwithstanding the language difficulty the sound film, being thus introduced, would at once create a demand for itself in every prosperous community. ...

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