BLUE LAW ADVOCATES ACTIVE IN SPOTS
Test Cases on Sunday Closing Being Forced; Book and Film Censorship Agitated; New Jersey Situation Troublesome
SUNDAY closing and other Blue Laws continued to be agitated in several communities this week. A Southern exhibitor is making a test ease based on the Florida court ruling that “Sunday” ends at sundown on ,that date. An outstanding development of last week was the farcical proceeding in connection with the jailing of Walter Reade, New Jersey exhibitor, for Sunday shows at theatres which he positively denies ownership-with bail fixed at $15,000.
Reade is trying to bring the matter to the attention of Federal courts, and hence did not tight the action brought against him. He was released after officials decided that in view of his prominence and business interests he could easily be found when wanted.
The three separate indictments are in connection with Sunday shows in Perth Amboy, N. J., where there are three houses with a fourth under construction by Reade, who positively denies any connection with the others. However, since he had been fined on two previous occasions for Sunday shows, the agitators apparently decided to fasten the blame on him.
Now, Reade, asserts, he will do his utmost to bring the matter to the attention of the Federal courts on the ground of “persecution.” Sunday shows are permitted throughout half of New Jersey, he declares, while in other communities certain groups are determined to enforce a law of the vintage of 1790-which, if it were to be literally carried out, would prohibit any kind of a game, operation of trains and trolley cars, and even the playing of church organs and orchestras.
Walter Reade’s theatre holdings include about twenty-five houses in all. These are the Cleveland Hippodrome, The Astor and Savoy theatres in New York City, two in Kingston, N. Y., two in New Brunswick, N. J., three in Plainfield, N. J., two in Long Branch. N. J., two in Red Bank, N. J., two in Freehold, N. J., three in Trenton, N. J., and five in Asbury Park. One is under construction in Perth Amboy-the cradle of the present trouble.
The Trenton Times, taking up cudgels in Reade’s behalf, comments editorially:
“Arrest of Walter Reade for violating the Vice and Immorality act, passed more than a century ago, will serve to direct attention once more to the need of modifying that law to meet present-day conditions. Mr. Reade’s offense is said to have consisted in keeping his motion picture theatres in Perth Amboy open on Sunday.
“The Legislature and the Legislature alone can afford relief; and it is but fair to say that at least four-fifths of the Senators and Assemblymen not only believe that the law should be modified, but personally violate one or more provisions of it every Sunday. End the hypocrisy and injustice by amending the act.”
Sunday movies are a business asset, is the contention of merchants of Perry, Iowa, who are fighting to bring back the Sunday theatre after two years of proscription.
The town of Perry is rapidly dividing on the issue, and before settlement of the question is made one of the most active civic battles in the history of the community is foreseen.
Against the re-introduction of the movies are aligned the Protestant churches of the town, all church subsidiary organizations, and the city administration, which, by present indications, will be antagonistic to the movie crusade.
For the movies are many of the prominent business men of the town. The theatre movement also is reported to have a wide support from the residential district of the city.
The issue of Sunday movies first came to the fore on March 3. with the circulation of petitions requesting the city council to call a special election for referendum vote On the matter.
More than 650 names were on the petitions early. The lists represent the business section of the town only. Canvassing of the residential districts were to begin.
A significant feature of the squabble lies in the fact that the owners of the two motion picture theatres are taking no personal part in the issue.
More Sunday closing legislation for the District of Columbia has been suggested to Congress, Representative Edwards of Georgia having introduced a bill to close all theatres or other amusements operated for secular or commercial purposes.
Violation of the law would be punishable by fines from $10 to $100 for the first offense and from $100 to $500 for subsequent offenses, which also might carry imprisonment for not exceeding six months. The police court of the District of Columbia would have jurisdiction over enforcement of the law.
Each year Missouri gets its share of “joker” blue laws, Jack Kennedy, an exhibitor of Howard County, Mo., is the latest victim. The court of appeals of his county has upheld a decision in which he was fined $25 for operating on Sunday. The first Missouri blue laws were passed in 1825 and have been in a more or less dormant state upon the statute books since, being wholly ignored in the larger cities. Under the law which Mr. Kennedy was fined it would be illegal to operate railroad trains on Sunday, according to the opinions of Kansas City lawyers. Lawyers agree the only way the smaller exhibitors in rural communities can be freed from encroachments of the reformer is for the laws to be repealed. The legislature does not meet until January, 1927.
According to Rhoda Fox Graves, the only women member of the New York State Legislature, the clean books bill, which is another form of censorship, is altogether too drastic. Attempts to have Mrs. Graves introduce the bill proved unavailing, and finally Assemblyman Garnjost, of Westchester county, sponsored the measure in so far as introducing the same. It is generally expected that the bill will die in committee, although a public hearing has been set for a later date.
The banning of several important publications by the Canadian Federal Censor at Ottawa, Ontario, has led to some discussion in official circles in the Canadian Capital as to whether the Dominion Government would decide to place a Federal censorship on moving pictures entering the county. Two publications recently banned from Canada were Liberty Magazine and the New York Daily Mirror, and action was taken because of alleged objectionable matter appearing in the periodicals. Following the banning orders, announcement was made by the Department of Customs and Excise regarding the legislative power held by the Department in prohibiting the entry of any publication, picture or any printed view from the country.
At present the censorship of moving pictures has been conducted within the various Provinces through the establishment of Provincial censor boards. At times, moving picture men have pressed for a Federal censorship board to pass upon all pictures once and for all for showing anywhere in Canada, thus saving delays, express charges, Provincial fees and other details. Federal film censorship has now become a discussed question again.
Source: Motion Picture News. March 20, 1926