Viewers have been intrigued by the glamorous setting of the new series of Box Office programmes late on Sunday nights: here GEORGE BARTRAM tells how this solid-looking bungalow is erected every week within a few hours, and writes of the Box Office team’s working week.
WHEN cinema box offices have closed down for the night, television’s Box Office is all set to start, with film excerpts, songs and gossip all packed
into 23 minutes.
Youthful producer Ben Churchill has re-jigged Box Office and given it a luxurious setting more in keeping with the glamorous world of films.
“Glamour is the key word,” says Churchill. “We want to convey this atmosphere throughout the programme. Hence the new bungalow suite setting which the current compere, John Fraser, and other stars will tenant.”
This splendid suite befits any star in the higher-income bracket. It has contemporary furniture, lush carpeting and a balcony complete with foliage. Then, of course, there’s the cocktail bar with the sliding shutter which acts as a cinema screen.
This scene of luxury is created in just a few hours at Birmingham’s Television Theatre. Due to the complexities of the programme, it has to be screened from the large Studio A, where, in the afternoon, Bid for Fame is staged for Midlands and Northern ITV channels.
As Bid for Fame ends and the audience troops out, work begins in the studio for Box Office, screened six hours later. The set is struck,
lighting is arranged and rehearsals begin. It’s a race against time, but the careful planning of the previous week ensures a minimum of difficulties.
Ben Churchill begins work on the programme on Monday morning with musical adviser George Clouston. Songs are chosen from old and new films.
“We’re hoping to feature new film songs which haven’t been released to the public,” Churchill said.
On Tuesday there’s a joint conference to decide what should go into the following Sunday’s programme. Present are: Ben Churchill, John Fraser, Genine Graham – the programme’s gossip correspondent – scriptwriter Rex Reinits and film editor John White.
White co-operates with the film renters in choosing the films for presentation. He and Churchill first view the extracts, which are shown at the conference before being edited.
“We want to get more into the heart of films,” Churchill told me. “Apart from excerpts, we want to feature every aspect of this gigantic industry.”
People want to know what the stars are doing. So it’s Genine Graham’s job to provide a regular gossip feature. Each item of gossip is considered at the conference.
This done, the programme layout is devised. Rex Reinits is then ready to prepare the script, which must be in the hands of the producer by Wednesday night.
On Wednesday, Churchill settles final details. He may also have to attend a film premiere with Genine Graham, or arrange for her to interview some film stars. And there’s the script to be discussed.
Thursday morning finds the script being typed and duplicated. By midday, everyone connected with the programme has received a copy. On Friday, the script
is arranged for cameras. Then the routine switches from London to Birmingham; Churchill holds a production conference with the studio heads of sound, lighting and cameras. On Saturday he ties up all the loose ends ready for Sunday.
If the foregoing week has seemed busy, Sunday borders on the chaotic. With so many programmes emanating from the Birmingham studios on Sunday, there is little space available. Camera rehearsals cannot, in fact, begin until 7 p.m.
Script rehearsals, however, can be held – but in the quiet club room of a nearby public house. Every utterance and movement has to be timed to fit in with the film excerpts which, of course, cannot be shown until studio space is available.
Back in Studio A, rehearsals grow in intensity as the time for transmission of Bid for Fame draws near. Just as it is due to go on the air at 4.15, the Box Office team break for tea. They forego their tea and watch the programme in the viewing-room.
By 5.15, when most Bid for Fame people have gone, John Fraser and Genine Graham move into their respective dressing-rooms and quietly run through their scripts. Occasionally, Churchill pops in to discuss a point.
Time now for Churchill to run over the songs. The band has arrived and band call is fixed for 6.30 in Studio D, next door to Studio A, where painters, scene- shifters, property men and electricians are getting to work on the Box Office. The studio is transformed. There stands the luxury “bungalow” a miracle of construction. It seems fit for a millionaire, and yet is all plywood and hardboard and plaster of paris.
It’s 7 o’clock. Camera rehearsals begin. Then there’s a steady slog until 9.30, when there’s a supper break… 11.5 transmission time… 11.30 the end of Box Office for another week.