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A look inside Hollywood and the movies. : JUST LIKE OL' TIMES : Can't Imagine What Washington Story Will Show Up Next

October 20, 1991|-- Andy Marx

AMC Theatres, the folks who brought you sixplexes and those nifty armrest-cupholders, is experimenting with a less revolutionary idea: newsreels. Produced in conjunction with CNN, the 10-minute programs are currently playing before the feature attraction on many of AMC's 1,600 screens, including those in L.A.

Before the growth of television, newsreels--short films dealing with current affairs--were shown before the feature movie and were seen by more than 40 million Americans a week.

"Originally we were showing cartoons, which people said they were getting sick of," AMC's Madelon Fenton says. "We did a survey and the majority of people said they wanted to see newsreels."

Unlike the newsreels of the '30s and '40s, the current crop isn't produced specifically for theaters. Most of the material is recycled from CNN stories--sometimes several months old--already broadcast on the tube. "We can't afford to go out and shoot original material on film for the theaters," CNN's Rick Salcedo admits.

Because the newsreels run for three months before they're changed, Salcedo chooses stories with the longest shelf life. Recent examples: the plight of the American Indian, roller-blading and the popularity of discount shopping malls. They're reedited, given new titles and new narration and since all the CNN material is shot on tape, the stories must be transferred to 35-millimeter film.

The newsreels are rotated like the films. "Hopefully you won't see the same one twice," says AMC's Fenton. "They don't wear well."

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