Harrison's Reports was a New York City-based motion picture trade journal published weekly from 1919 to 1962. The typical issue was four letter-size pages sent to subscribers under a second-class mail permit. Its founder, editor and publisher was P. S. Harrison (1880–1966), who previously had been a reviewer for Motion Picture News, in which his column was titled "Harrison’s Exhibitor Reviews".
The first issue, dated 5 July 1919, stated that film advertising would not be accepted. A year's subscription cost $10. For more than a year, the type was set by a typewriter. The issue of 4 December 1920 and all subsequent issues were professionally typeset. The masthead of 1 January 1921 proclaimed itself
- FREE FROM THE INFLUENCE OF ADVERTISING
In later years, that slogan was changed to
- A REVIEWING SERVICE FREE FROM THE INFLUENCE OF FILM ADVERTISING
Since most movie theaters in the United States prior to the 1940s were owned and operated by movie studios as outlets for the exhibition of those studios’ movies, independently owned theaters were the principal subscription base of Harrison’s Reports and the publication's editorials consequently addressed the interests of independent theaters.
During its 44 calendar years of operation, more than 2,200 issues of Harrison’s Reports were published. Approximately 17,000 feature films were reviewed; shorts were not reviewed, although their titles were listed in the indexes published several times a year.
Prior to the 1940s, most movie theaters in the United States were owned and operated by movie studios as outlets for the exhibition of those studios’ movies. Since the management of those theaters had little choice as to what movies they played, they had little or no use for Harrison’s Reports. Independently owned theaters were consequently the principal subscription base of Harrison’s Reports and the publication's editorials addressed the interests of independent theaters. In 1937 there were approximately 3,000 subscribers at $15 per year.
Opposition to product placement
From its review of The Garage (1920) to its last year of publication, Harrison’s Reports unyieldingly opposed product placement in movies. Other films criticized for brand name products appearing on screen include
Management and ownership changes
- The 10 March 1956 issue printed the first appearance of a name other than P.S. Harrison on the masthead, Al Picoult, managing editor, who bought control of the paper from Harrison.
- In June 1959, Picoult sold the paper to individuals associated with exhibitor, Allied States, which the paper had been close to and supported for many years. Harrison still retained an interest.
- The issue of 18 July 1959 showed Harrison's name on the masthead as “founder” (the previous week he had been “editor”), and David Martin was the new editor. The following week's issue (25 July 1959) mentioned Harrison's retirement.
- David Martin's name disappeared from the masthead with the issue of 6 February 1960. Wynn Loewenthal was the new editor.
- The masthead of 8 July 1961 showed a $2 increase in the price of a yearly subscription to $17, the first increase in 25 years.
- The first article of 5 August 1961 was titled “Editorial Transition”, stating there would be a new editor; nobody's name appeared on the masthead of that issue. On 12 August 1961, Martin Starr became editor.
The last issue was a two-page sheet dated 1 September 1962. It was headlined "MAYBE, IT'S NOT YET "30"." It lamented the financial woes of exhibitors in general. It also expressed hope that funding could be found to continue Harrison’s Reports.
The entire run of Harrison's Reports has been reprinted in a 15-volume set of library-bound hardcover books, including an index of titles. The series is titled Harrison's Reports and Film Reviews (1919-1962). The Media History Digital Library has scans of the archive from 1927–1962 available online.
Two other significant English-language periodicals with 10,000 or more film reviews have appeared reprinted in book form:
- Variety, as Variety Film Reviews (1907–1996) in 24 volumes.
- The New York Times, as The New York Times Film Reviews (1913–2000) in 22 volumes.
For Variety and The New York Times, film reviews continued after the dates of the last reprints.
- ”Iron Moulder to Cinema Critic” by Sanderson Vanderbilt; New York Herald Tribune; 10 October 1937.
- "Harrison's Reports Sold to Undisclosed Buyer". Variety. June 10, 1959. p. 19. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Archive.org.
- "Hail and Farewell". Harrison's Reports. July 25, 1959. p. 117. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Archive.org.
- "Maybe It's Not Yet "30"". Harrison's Reports. September 1, 1962. p. 1. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Archive.org.
- "Harrison's Reports No. 32 Vol XLIV". Harrison's Reports. August 18, 1962. p. 125. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Archive.org.