Coronet Films

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Coronet Films (also Coronet Instructional Media Inc.) was a leading producer and distributor of many American documentary shorts shown in public schools, mostly in the 16mm format, from the 1940s through the 1980s (when the videocassette recorder replaced the motion picture projector as the key audio-visual aid). The company, whose library is owned and distributed by the Phoenix Learning Group, Inc., covered a wide range of subjects in zoology, science, geography, history and math, but is mostly remembered today for its post-World War II social guidance films featuring topics such as dating, family life, courtesy, and citizenship.

Overview[edit]

David A. Smart established the company with his brothers Alfred and John in 1934,[1] but the first titles registered for copyright date from 1941 (beginning with Aptitudes and Occupations). Over time, a studio was set up in Glenview, Illinois. Smart was the publisher of Esquire and Coronet magazines, and the film company was named for the latter.

In addition to military instructional films produced during the war, the company was successful in its early years with full color films spotlighting common birds like the ruby-throated hummingbird (a 1942 release), many of these filmed by Olin Sewall Pettingill Jr. and Dr. Arthur A. Allen. One hallmark was that many titles were shot in color Kodachrome a few years ahead of competing classroom film companies. Production costs were kept under control by making both color and black and white prints available and charging a much lower fee for the latter. However, many school educators economized so fewer color prints are viewable today.

After David Smart’s death in 1952, his brother John, and Jack Abraham took over. Coronet’s output had surpassed in quantity (if not always in quality) that of the classroom film industry’s leader, Encyclopædia Britannica Films (initially ERPI Classroom Films), with an eleven-minute or longer film completed practically every week. While their biggest rival strove to be more “cinematic” with very creative takes on science and geography subjects to make them as entertaining for students as possible, the 1950s and 1960s Coronet films often had a dry, lecture-like tone to their commentary. However, there were some well-made travelogues, boasting good cinematography, in addition to an annual quota of animal-interest topics. Starting in 1957, a "Special Productions" unit headed by Bob Kohl and Tom Riha added some more ambitious and prestigious independent productions to Coronet's more economically made "in-house" titles in its catalog.

Coronet was still very active during the 1973-4 school year, when it placed over 60 titles for evaluation with Project METRO of the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), in central Connecticut. Titles included A Is For Alphabet, Color, Color Everywhere, Dating Scene, and Understanding Shakespeare: His Stagecraft.[2]

The 1970s were a creative period for the company, despite the fact that 16mm educational films were gradually replaced by video cassettes and computers as key audio-visual classroom tools a decade later. After Hal Kopel replaced Jack Abraham as general manager (around 1972), the look and style of the films received a much-needed "facelift" and film credits belatedly included directors and the creative personnel. (Most released previously listed only educational consultants.) This was in response to ongoing criticism that the Coronet films were too "stodgy and unimaginative". [3] Many earlier titles were "revised" with better-produced and more-entertaining editions during this period.

By the early 1980s, however, the company was becoming more of a distributor of other company films than a producer. Sheldon Sachs became vice president in 1979 and headed a "Perspective Films" division to increase Coronet's distribution of outside productions, making theatrical award winners like Sparky Greene's American Shoeshine available for classroom viewing. In 1981, Coronet also acquired Centron Corporation.

Shortly after merging with MTI films in 1984 (with a new VP, Joel Marks), Coronet and its acquisitions were taken over by Gulf and Western Industries (but Coronet veteran Bob Kohl bought back Centron as a separate entity to run himself). Simon & Schuster, part of the conglomerate, moved the (reduced) filming facilities to New Jersey a decade later. In May 1997, Phoenix Learning Group took over the distribution rights to the Coronet catalog.

Personal guidance films[edit]

Beginning with Shy Guy (1947), featuring an early appearance of a 19-year-old Dick York, the company gained considerable renewed attention for a cluster of “personal guidance” films aimed at instructing school students on how to make the best decisions. Typical titles include Are You Popular?, Everyday Courtesy and What To Do On A Date, along with a Korean War-period series Are You Ready For The Service?

Ted Peshak was a key director, although screen credit were often reserved for psychology consultants only. Many were filmed in color, but usually exist today in black and white since educators generally economized with the cheaper format available. Most were made prior to David Smart’s passing in 1952, but a few more were added as late as the 1970s, such as Beginning Responsibility: A Lunchroom Goes Bananas.

Since most were produced early in the post-war film boom; they were typical of the quality, production values, and content of media of the period: no better, no worse, and often humorous in the context of the post mid-1960s sexual revolution.

After the earliest films entered the public domain (a large percentage of the library is still privately owned), the films of Coronet were recognized by many as notable kitsch, especially after a few became shorts for Pee-wee's Playhouse & the cable TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) which mocked the films' production values and underlying messages. Shorts featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) include Are You Ready for Marriage? and What to Do on a Date. Many of Coronet's other films were later riffed by Rifftrax, a successor to MST3K, created by former MST3K cast member Michael J. Nelson.

The company participated in a compilation spoof, titled The Great American Student (1985). Made by veteran director Mel Waskin and editor Bob Gronowski and lifting many key scenes from the older films that showcased words such as "swell", it was distributed like any other educational 16mm film of the period as a joke on unsuspecting libraries. According to historian Geoff Alexander, it "is unique in the genre for its self-deprecating humor, and is a historical masterpiece." [4]

Films[edit]

  • Act Your Age (1949)
  • Alaska: A Modern Frontier (Revised) (1948)
  • Am I Trustworthy? (1950)
  • American Square Dance (1947)
  • Ancient Egypt (1952, revised 1976)
  • Ancient Rome (1949)
  • Ancient World Inheritance (1946)
  • The Apache Indian (1945)
  • Appreciating Your Parents (1950)
  • Aptitudes and Occupations (1941)
  • Are You a Good Citizen? (1949)
  • Are You Popular? (1947)
  • Are You Ready for Marriage? (1950)
  • Attitudes and Health (1949)
  • Banks and Credits (1948)
  • Basketball for Girls Fundamentals (1948)
  • Basketball for Girls Game Play (1948)
  • Beethoven and His Music (1953)
  • Beginning Responsibility: Being On Time (1951)
  • Beginning Responsibility: A Lunchroom Goes Bananas (1970, revised 1978)
  • Beginning to Date (1953)
  • The Benefits of Looking Ahead (1950)
  • Better Use of Leisure Time (1950)
  • Biography of a Red-winged Blackbird (1946)
  • Birds of Inland Waterways (1946)
  • Bookkeeping and You (1947)
  • "The Boyhood of Thomas Edison" (1954)
  • Build Your Vocabulary (1948)
  • Building Better Paragraphs (1953)
  • Capitalism (1948)
  • Choosing Your Marriage Partner (1952)
  • Choosing Your Occupation (1949)
  • Citizenship and You (1959)
  • Clothes and You: Line and Proportion (1954)
  • Communism (1952)
  • Control Your Emotions (1950)
  • Date Etiquette (1952)
  • Dating: Do's and Don'ts (1949)
  • Developing Friendships (1950)
  • Developing Self-Reliance (1951)
  • Developing Your Character (1950)
  • Earning Money While Going to School (1950)
  • The Earth : changes in its surface (1960)
  • Everyday Courtesy (1948)
  • Exercise and Health (1949)
  • Exploring space: beyond the solar system (1978)
  • Facing Reality (1954)
  • Family Life (1949)
  • Forests and Conservation (1946)
  • Fossils: clues to prehistoric times (1957)
  • Friendship Begins at Home (1949)
  • Fun of Being Thoughtful (1950)
  • Fun of Making Friends (1950)
  • Fun that Builds Good Health (1950)
  • Fun with Words - Words that Rhyme(1970)
  • Getting Ready Physically (1951)
  • Going Steady? (1951)
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1953)
  • Good Eating Habits (1951)
  • Good Sportsmanship (1950)
  • Good Table Manners (1951)
  • Gossip (1953)
  • Health: Your Posture (1953)
  • High School: Your Challenge (1952)
  • Halloween Safety Second Edition (1985; updated version of original 1977 Halloween Safety film produced by Centron Corporation )
  • Hopi Indian (1945)
  • How Billy Keeps Clean (1951)
  • How Do You Know It's Love? (1950)
  • How Friendly Are You? (1951)
  • How Honest Are You? (1950)
  • How Quiet Helps at School (1953)
  • How to Be Well Groomed (1948)
  • How to be Well Groomed (1949)
  • How to Develop Interest (1950)
  • How to Keep a Job (1949)
  • How to Say No (1951)
  • How to Say No (Moral Maturity) (1951)
  • I Want to Be a Secretary (1941)
  • Improve Your Personality (1951)
  • Improve Your Spelling (1948)
  • Introduction to Electricity (1948)
  • Introduction to Foreign Trade (1951)
  • Joan Avoids a Cold (1947)
  • Keeping Clean and Neat (1956)
  • Law and Social Controls (1949)
  • Let’s Play Fair (1949)
  • Let's Share with Others (1950)
  • Let's Share With Others (second edition 1967)
  • Life in the Central Valley of California (1949)
  • Life in the Far East
  • Lunchroom Manners (1960)
  • Making Word Pictures (1973)
  • Marriage is a Partnership (1951)
  • The Mighty Columbia River (1947)
  • Mind Your Manners! (1953)
  • More Dates for Kay (1952)
  • Molly Grows Up(1953)
  • Mother Goose Rhymes (1958)
  • Mozart and His Music (1953)
  • Nature of Sound (1948)
  • Navajo Night Dances (1957)
  • Office Practice: Your Attitude (1972)
  • Our Wonderful Body: How It Moves (1968)
  • Our Wonderful Body: How We Breathe (1968)
  • Our Wonderful Body: How We Keep Fit (1968)
  • Overcoming Fear (1950)
  • Personal Hygiene for Boys (1952)
  • Plantation System in Southern Life (1950)
  • Powers of Congress (1947)
  • Punctuation Mark Your Meaning (1948)
  • Puritan Family of Early New England (1955)
  • Rest and Health (1949)
  • Right or Wrong? (1951)
  • Rivers of the Pacific Slope (1947)
  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (1942)
  • Safe Living at School (1948)
  • School Rules: How They Help Us (1952)
  • Schubert and His Music (1953)
  • Secretary’s Day (1947)
  • Self-Conscious Guy (1951)
  • Selling as a Career (1953)
  • Service and Citizenship (1951)
  • Sharing Work at Home (1949)
  • Shy Guy (1947)
  • Snap Out of It! (1951)
  • Social Courtesy (1951)
  • The Solar System (1950)
  • Southwestern States (1942)
  • Spring Comes To The City (1967)
  • Starting Now (Are You Ready for Service? No. 4) (1951)
  • Taking Responsibility for Your Actions (1953)
  • Trading Centers at the Pacific Coast (1947)
  • Understanding the Dollar (1953)
  • Understanding Your Emotions (1950)
  • Understanding Your Ideals (1950)
  • Ways to Settle Disputes (1950)
  • What is a Corporation? (1949)
  • What is Business? (1948)
  • What is Money? (1947)
  • What Makes a Good Party? (1950)
  • What to Do on a Date (1951)
  • Where Does Our Meat Come From? (1960)
  • Who Are the People of America? (1953)
  • Why Punctuate? (1948)
  • Why We Respect the Law (1950)
  • Writing Better Social Letters (1950)
  • You and Your Family (1946)
  • You and Your Parents (1949)
  • You and Your Parents (1950)
  • Your Family (1948)
  • Your Thrift Habits (1948)

Production[edit]

Select Coronet productions are now available as public domain resources, here are a few examples:

References[edit]

  • Alexander, Geoff (2010). Academic Films for the Classroom: A History. McFarland & Company. ISBN 9780786458707. 
  • Educational Film Guide 1954 H. W. Wilson Company
  • Motion Pictures 1912-1939 Catalog of Copyright Entries 1951 Library of Congress [1]
  • Motion Pictures 1940-1949 Catalog of Copyright Entries 1953 Library of Congress [2]
  • Motion Pictures 1950-1959 Catalog of Copyright Entries 1960 Library of Congress [3]
  • Motion Pictures 1960-1969 Catalog of Copyright Entries 1971 Library of Congress [4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Alexander, Geoff. Academic Films for the Classroom: A History . 2010. McFarland & Company, p. 29-31
  2. ^ METRO's "1974 MULTI-MEDIA EVALUATION REPORT" (privately printed and distributed to member school districts in central Connecticut)[need link]
  3. ^ Alexander, Geoff. Academic Films for the Classroom: A History . p. 30 & 78
  4. ^ Alexander, Geoff. Academic Films for the Classroom: A History . p. 79

External links[edit]