The Box Office: The Gross Is Greener

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THE SOUND OF MONEY the ads cry. Not the name of a new movie but 20th Century-Fox's way of boasting about big box-office news. Fox's wide-screen film The Sound of Music has turned out to be the most surprising financial success in decades.

The picture, based on the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway hit of 1959 and starring Julie Andrews, opened in March 1965. It has been playing on a reserved-seat-only basis in a mere 131 houses around the country, and in ten months it has grossed Fox $20 million. Salt Lake City has a population of 195,000, but 309,000 people have seen Sound there so far. Similarly, the movie has outpolled the populations of Albany, N.Y., Charlotte, N.C., and Orlando, Fla., and, all told, the show has broken house records in 80 cities.

St. Louis has had the movie for 39 weeks; the gross there exceeds $600,000, while South Pacific, which played 45 weeks, made only $269,000. In city after city, house managers are proudly rounding up the names of fans who claim that they have seen the movie as many as 30 times. If it keeps up the pace, Sound is certain to break the all-time record now held by Gone With the Wind, which has earned more than $40 million in the U.S. in 25 years.

Why not? In an era of Hollywood fixation with sex and violence, Sound of Music—like two other big hits, My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins—is refreshingly tuneful, colorful and cheerful. Exquisitely filmed in the Tyrolean Alps of Austria, it celebrates the real-life courage of the Trapp Family Singers and their escape from the Nazis in 1938. The children are charming, and so is the music, from the title song to My Favorite Things.

And then there is the sparkling presence of Julie Andrews. These days Julie has considerably more than Sound of Music to feel bright about. Her Mary Poppins, now more than a year old, led Variety's list of top-grossing pictures of 1965 with $28.5 million. The Sound of Music was second. Others (and their premiere dates):


3. Goldfinger $19.7 (Dec. 1964)

4. My Fair Lady 19.0 (Oct. 1964)

5. What's New Pussycat? 7.2 (June 1965)

6. Shenandoah 7.0 (July 1965)

7. The Sandpiper 6.4 (July 1965)

8. Father Goose 6.0 (Dec. 1964)

9. Von Ryan's Express 5.6 (June 1965)

10. The Yellow Rolls-Royce 5.4 (May 1965)

In yet another poll, Julie herself for the first time joined the ranks of top box-office stars. The first ten, according to a Motion Picture Herald survey of U.S. exhibitors:

1. Sean Connery

2. John Wayne

3. Doris Day

4. Julie Andrews

5. Jack Lemmon

6. Elvis Presley

7. Cary Grant

8. James Stewart

9. Elizabeth Taylor

10. Richard Burton