Gradually having been promoted to chief projectionist at our other Birmingham cinema for a few months, I was moved to assistant manager and eventually after several years, to the head office film booking department. 

This was where films were selected and the programs planned, involving tricky negotiations to determine the percentage of the box office takings that could be agreed to be paid to the distributor.  After a while in film bookings, I was taken to learn and assist the General Manager Mr Tonks, whose job was to keep an eye on all our cinemas, particularly the staff, the general look, and the condition of the cinemas overall.  But more interestingly to check if there were any kinds of stealing going on. 

As we had twenty-three city centre cinemas from Edinburgh down to Brighton, we did a great deal of travelling together.  I found Mr Tonks to be remarkably interesting, full of guidance, as well as having a wealth of information on all aspects regarding the day to day running of our cinemas.

Detective Work

0n one occasion the manager, cashier, and usherette in one of our London cinemas had to be fired and replaced.  This was because they were all involved in a swindle to cheat our box office takings.  The system we had was that a ticket was sold and when the customer entered the cinema, the usherette tore the ticket in half, putting one half on a spike (like a large needle) attached to a string, the other half was then given back to the customer. 

These strung together half tickets were kept, and spot checks were done, to make sure the ticket numbers were in sequence and that the box office amount tallied with the number of tickets sold.  Sometimes these spot checks were also carried out by the film distributors, as they also had an interest, as they were paid an agreed percentage of the takings. 

What we discovered was that when the ticket was issued by the cashier the usherette sometimes failed to tear the ticket in half (one half was to be given to the customer), then having shown the customer to a seat, she quickly gave the ticket back to the cashier to sell again. 

This extra sale was later split between the three of them.  It soon amounted to quite a lot, even though it was only done at quiet times several times a day.  Once sold again, the usherette then quickly added her half to the string to keep the numbers on the tickets in order. 

The discovery was made by paying one of our usherettes, or assistants from another city, to go and buy a ticket and to stay in the cinema for a couple of hours. 

Whilst inside he, or she kept their half ticket and had a counter to add up every person that came in. Then a spot check was carried out to see how many half tickets were on the string, after their ticket number, to see if this number tallied with the head count.  This detective work was used at various times at every one of our cinemas. 

My Own Department

Later, I set up my own department at head office, responsible for all newspaper advertising, the 'Front of House' publicity and to create a new house style that would make our company name better known.  This involved creating a logo. 

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