The Curious Case of the “Cease and Desist” Letter Addressed to the Paradise Theatre in 1973
Guest post by Dr. Jessica L. Whitehead, University of Toronto
Italian film was a bustling business in Toronto. By the time the Paradise Theatre started exhibiting Italian films in 1956 there were several other Italian-language theatres in the city including the Studio, Pylon (later Radio City), and Continental, which all started showing Italian films in 1953. In fact, my research with Paul Moore has found that more than two dozen Italian-language cinemas operated at least briefly in Toronto between the early 1950s and the late 1980s. The popularity of Italian-language theatres coincided with an influx of Italian immigrants after the Second World War, and many of these immigrants settled in the neighbourhood where the Paradise Theatre is located.
Although there was a large Italian-Canadian audience, it was often expensive and difficult for Italian theatres in Toronto to obtain popular film titles from Italy. An added complication was that Italian exhibitors in the city were catering to a diasporic audience who were not interested in films that were dubbed into English or with English subtitles, which was the norm for most films exported from Italy. These exhibitors were also generally not interested in art house films which were marketed to the foreign market, but instead wanted to screen Comedies, Romances, and Italian Westerns. It appears that many of the exhibitors in the city were procuring films outside of official channels to meet the demands of the Italian-Canadian audience. Much like the current controversy over limitations on independent theatres, back then it was also difficult for independent exhibitors to obtain films that their communities wanted to see because of screening limitations as well as the expense of renting movies produced outside of the United States.
While I was in Italy this Fall, I came across the following letter from Lux Film at the Cineteca di Bologna. Addressed to Franco Giacomini at the Paradise Theatre, this “cease and desist” notice accuses Giacomini of obtaining seventeen illegal copies of their films and distributing them in Canada without a contract.
We understand that you illegally hold copies of films owned by us, listed below, and distribute them in the territory of Canada without having any rights.
Although we hereby order you to immediately cease this unlawful activity, we wish to know, within and no later than 15 days from the date of this letter, how you have acquired possession of our films.
After having received the requested clarification, we will inform you of our confidential decisions for their use. We reserve the right to take legal steps in the appropriate locations for the protection of our interests.
This unfortunately was the only document pertaining to the Paradise Theatre from the Lux collection, and I do not have their response or more information behind why and how the Paradise Theatre obtained these films. Although, this letter makes it clear that there was a large demand for films from Italy in Canada, which were often difficult for exhibitors to obtain legally.
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