Nice Show, But A Tough Sell
V.Johnson and P.Douglas Switch ID's For When In Rome (1952)
Another little Metro that couldn't (break even). Seems that by early 50's, none of theirs in black-and-white, sans vehicles for top names like Gable, Taylor, or Tracy, came back with profit. Didn't matter how good pics were: without color or marquee lure, they were snake-bit. When In Rome should have been a breakout, stoked as it was with humor and heart. Director Clarence Brown had lately done one similar, Angels In The Outfield, a cockles warmer that deserved applause, which it got ... along with red ink. Execs used to say that surest cure for H'wood blues was good pictures, but here they were and not selling. The bogeyman was television, and whatever recreation a public enjoyed other than theatres. It took king-sized worldwide hits like Quo Vadis and Scaramouche to truly fill nets. MGM released thirty-eight features in 1952, but they couldn't all be Quo Vadis. Continuing overhead and need for product to fill distribution channels made small projects essential to studio health, but when even these ran past one million in negative cost, where was chance to balance ledgers?
Director Brown took cameras and principal cast abroad for six weeks locationing in the
Metro merchandising knew When In Rome would be a tough sell, their "Promotion Prize" for exhibitors being tip-off to that. If you couldn't figure in-house how to sell problematic problem, then let showmen in the field take a whirl and use ideas they develop, cost being a drop-in-bucket thousand dollars to be split among winners ($500 as first prize, which went to Jack Sidney, manager of Loew's Century in Baltimore). The scheme was used also for Invitation and Just This Once, two others that defied marketers. These were tough nuts