People Soon Get Tired of Staring at a Plywood Box Every Night

Darryl F. Zanuck? Anonymous Movie Mogul? Gabe Essoe? San Franciscan? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Movie industry people felt threatened by the advent of televised entertainment. Yet, early television consoles were expensive devices housed in bulky wooden cabinets with small screens that displayed only flickering black and white images. Apparently, a skeptical movie tycoon said:

People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box.

I’ve seen this statement in compilations of bad predictions. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Wall Street Journal” in 1951. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

What’s giving the movie men the most cause for joy is this: They think they are beginning to make a little headway in their battle with arch-rival TV.

“Video isn’t able to hold on to the market it captures after the first six months,” declares a New York movie mogul. “People soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night,” claims a San Franciscan.

The passage above contains quotations from two different people. Oddly, later citations implausibly ascribed both statements to Darryl F. Zanuck, a powerful movie producer based in Hollywood, not New York.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading People Soon Get Tired of Staring at a Plywood Box Every Night

Notes:

  1. 1951 February 14, The Wall Street Journal, Movie Upturn: Attendance Is Gaining After Four-Year Drop, Theater Men Think, Quote Page 1, Column 6, New York. (ProQuest)