Brow Beat

There’s Still No Weekend Box Office, So Here’s What Happened This Week in 1922

Buster Keaton, wearing his trademark pork pie hat, looks sadly out from behind bars.
Buster Keaton in a promotional still for Cops, which was playing 98 years ago at Crandall’s Metropolitan in Washington, D.C. First National Pictures

Movie theaters are shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, which means there are no box office results to report. As a service to our readers, Slate is providing box office results from 1922—the first year Variety tracked receipts—to fill the box-office-results-shaped hole in all of our hearts. Last week, we looked at the Los Angeles box office; this week, it’s a trip to our nation’s capital. Here are your vintage box office results for Washington D.C., as originally reported in the May 12, 1922 issue of Variety. As a special bonus for any weirdos out there who enjoy watching movies more than they enjoy following them like horseraces, we’ve embedded the complete version of Buster Keaton’s Cops, which earned $8,500 98 years ago this week at Crandall’s Metropolitan on a double bill with The Barnstormer, at the bottom of the page.. It’s a pip!

CAPITAL’S HEAVY RAIN

Possible Big Week Dented by Two Bad Days

Washington, May 10. What might have been a mighty good week for all the local picture houses was considerably cut into by two days of heavy rain, which seemed to hit the hardest just at theatre time. The temperature rising toward the end of the week helped, and now that the legitimate houses are closed business at the picture houses should be on the upgrade.

Estimates for last week:

Crandall’s Metropolitan (Capacity 1,750).—Double bill, Charles Ray in “The Barnstormer” and Buster Keaton in “Cops.” Scale, 20–35 mat.; 35–50, night.  Looked to be fairly good week, running to $8,500.

Loew’s Columbia (Capacity 1,200). —“Bought and Paid For” created greatest local talk. Scale, 35 mat.; 35–50, night. Looks to have climbed to $9,000 on the week in spite of two days rain.

Moore’s Rialto (Capacity 1,900).—Betty Compson in “Green Temptation.” Scale, mornings, 30; afternoons, 40; evenings, 55. Picture liked and appeared to attract good business with the week’s receipts hanging close to last week’s figures of $11,000.

Loew’s Palace (Capacity 2,500).—Back to split week with Violet Dana in “Glass Houses” first half and William S. Hart in “Travelin’” second half. Hart looked to have gotten the best play of the two between the two attractions, making a rather good week. Scale, 20 – 35 mat.; 35 – 50, night. Around $12,000.

That’s all for this week’s box office; now, here’s Cops, one of several masterpieces from the legendary run of two-reel comedies Buster Keaton made between 1920 and 1922. The only 1920s in-joke is the scene in which Keaton takes a recalcitrant horse to a “goat gland specialist”; in the late teens, medical fraud John R. Brinkley became famous, then infamous, for transplanting goat testicles into humans as a supposed cure for impotence.