Theatre Management Associates (TMA)

Theatre Management Associates (TMA) is a motion picture booking agency currently located in Cherry Hill, NJ and operated by Gary Feldman.

Feldman’s uncle, Israel (Izzy) Segall originally operated the agency out of the Fox Theatre Building in Philadelphia, PA. It was located at 1600 Market Street. The seventeenth floor of the building housed a screening room.

Philly's fabulous Fox Theatre with the Milgram Theatre in the foreground. 1971

Most major films companies also had their branch offices in the building including: Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, American International Pictures (AIP), Embassy Pictures, Warner Bros, MGM/UA, Manny Youngerman (MY) Films, and Magill Films.

In December of 1979, the Fox Theatre’s owners, the Milgram Company, sold the building. Segall and Feldman immediately moved TMA to Cherry Hill.  Segall passed away in February of 1980. The Fox Theatre was demolished soon after.

The function of the a motion picture booking agency is to secure film product from the film company’s branch managers generally through a bidding process. Theatres paid a percentage of the box office gross to the film company – as high as 90% for first run films. (Hence the increased prices at the concession stand.) However, some films, usually second run or children’s matinees as well as short subjects and cartoons, were occasionally supplied for a flat rate. Once the terms were agreed upon, movies were delivered to the theatre by a film delivery service.  In the case of the Forty Fort and Luzerne Theatres as well as the Dallas Drive-In Theatre, product was delivered by the now defunct Clark Transfer Service and later Highway Film Delivery Inc. who were bought out by Clark.

Upon completion of the engagement of a film, a bill of lading is left with the cans of film to be returned to the film company. Here's "Dirty Dancing" heading back to Vestron Pictures via Highway Film Delivery. This particular print of the film may be stuck somewhere in Nowheresville, because the film was actually distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films, not Vestron as the projectionist apparently believed. (click on image to enlarge)

Ed Note: Both Izzy and Gary went beyond the usual working relationship between theatre and agency. They were confidants and friends to my dad and his brothers and much of the reason for the theatres’ success was due to their advice and encouragement. Over the years, I have stayed in touch with Gary Feldman – a good family friend. He played a major role in my childhood as “the guy who booked all those cool monster movies.” I look forward to his frequent South Florida visits when we get to catch up on the old days – and a few new ones.

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The following information was furnished by Gary Feldman:

In the late 1960’s Philadelphia real estate began to gain in value.  The studios all had old crumbling buildings on or about Vine Street.  These 1920 era offices also had  storage facilities for 35mm film and shipping rooms and loading docks.  The advent of the Betamax video player was a gold mine to the studios, film rights were sold for video release and tons of outdated film was junked…leaving near empty temperature controlled storage vaults.  One by one the buildings were sold.

When the Milgram Company renovated the Fox Theatre Building, located at 16th and Market Streets, it became the new hub of the motion picture industry in Philadelphia.  This office building, was anchored by the Fox, Milgram and Stage Door Theatres.  In addition, an intimate 100 seat screening room was created on the 17th floor. As the motion picture studios sold off their buildings in the Vine Street area, they found favorable rental space in the Fox building.

Paramount, 20th Century-Fox, Columbia Pictures, Embassy Pictures, American International Pictures, Warner Brother Distribution, National General Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and United Artists moved their sales offices into the renovated office building.  Small independent sub-distributors like Manny Youngerman T/A MY Films and Mort Magill (Magill Films, Inc.) also located here.  Some of the Studio Division Managers also chose to relocate there.  Several theatre owners, noting the convenience “one stop shopping,” also leased space, as did Iz Segall’s booking agency, Theatre Management Associates.

Disney’s distribution arm, Buena Vista and Universal Pictures both chose to move their offices to New Jersey.  The Philadelphia Wage tax, parking fees and commutation costs were on the minds of the Jersey resident Division Managers.

While exhibitors and distributors were on separate sides of the industry, Lunch-time at 16th and Market took on a “fraternal” atmosphere with upwards to twenty people standing outside the building, debating where to go for lunch.  Many movie contracts and conflicts were settled between 12:30 and 2:00 PM over a cup of coffee.  Any one of the offices became a haven for out of town theatre owners from Wilkes Barre, Scranton or Harrisburg to “hang their hats” when in Philadelphia on business.

The exhibitors found  that saving postage was a  factor too — it was just as easy to “hand deliver” memos, contracts and bids.  In addition, each studio’s advertising personnel were there if someone needed a poster or a press book.   The Adelman’s opened a film vault in nearby Camden, NJ and the exchanges were glad to fill it up.  Hiway Film Delivery service opened an office in Camden and sent a messenger over to the Fox Building everyday to pick up shipping requests from the film exchanges.

In late 1979, Milgram sold the property, the building came down and the studio branch offices scattered, many to New York City.  Iz Segall and Gary Feldman took TMA to Cherry Hill, NJ. , near Buena Vista and Universal.  Eventually both of those exchanges consolidated into the New York Mega-Branch.