WVTV Saturday Night at the Movies
About one year after posting my recreation of the WVTV Saturday Night at the Movies opener I received an email from the director of the original, Jack Stratmeyer. Jack was kind enough to provide some insight into how the spot was created as well as a taped copy of the origianl. To the right is Jack's behind-the-scenes account as well as the original opener.
Thanks Jack!

Download higher quality 25MB MP4 movie

Special thanks to Wally Karraker with helping to digitize the original.


* How it was created *

Jack D. Stratmeyer – director

The “SATURDAY NIGHT at the MOVIES” open was created at the request of the promotion department and designed to create an eerie, “shock theater” open, but without a host.  
I collaborated with promotion department and art department on the scene/setting and elements of the shot.   They provided the books and arranged for the tarantula (Shirley) as their intent was to only shoot slides for movie bridges – my assignment was to bring it “alive” with visual and sound effects.   I set the shot with the background, the “cube” (the station ID/logo – which had to be in the shot for identification purposes), the rope and candlestick (which I brought in from home the morning of the shoot as a last minute idea/prop).

I had done a storyboard (scene-by-scene drawing) of how I wanted the shot…starting tight on the title on the book, then gradually zooming out to include the tarantula, cube, and ending with the candle on the left side…all the while having lightning flashing and a weird, eerie music, sound-effects going on – to be lower for the announcer (Bob Beringer) to provide voice-over of the movie title each week.

The music/sound effects was a combination of base music and several effects that I told the audio man to make it “as weird as he could”  (no way to replicate)…he was to mix the audio as I was in the studio setting the shot with the tarantula – Rick Geske did a great job!

In the studio, I had the trainer set the tarantula (Shirley) on the book and the cameraman pull to the wide-shot (final position) to set the candle in the proper position.   As I was concentrating on the shot by looking at the studio monitor, I ask the trainer “how could we get Shirley to move across the book?”   (We had set aside three-hours of studio time, a full one-hour of video tape…not knowing if or how the tarantula would move or react in the studio.)   The trainer responded by saying “there’s no way to tell what Shirley might do or how to make her move…she actually can instantly jump 10-12 feet, land and bite…she is not defanged” – at which point my hand was moving the candle about 8-inches away from her.   My response was “that’s good enough for the shot…I’m going to the control room…” (exit stage left!)    The cameraman also was not too keen on staying in the studio…but we convinced him he would be “okay” as the trainer was right there.

Back in the control room, we proceeded to cue-up the music, set the tape for recording and test the lighting effects with the floor director at the light board…everything was set for the first take. Called back to the tape room…”roll tape”…come up on the close-up of the title…”spin the music”...“cue the lightning”...”start slow zoom-out”…….”cue the tarantula”  (jokingly)………

As if on-cue, Shirley started walking across the book (we did not know how far she would crawl or it she might just stop)…but she performed EXACTLY AS I ENVISIONED!   WOW!!    In the control room, we all looked at each other in disbelief…I jokingly said “okay, we’re done!” (knowing we had set aside three hours of tape time for a shot we did not know if we could even get to happen).

As any director would do, I cued the tape for a second, backup shot…just to see if there might be a better take or if Shirley might move differently – we could always sync/overlay the music to match the shot later.   We reset the shot with Shirley on the top of the book again…came up on the close-up, started the zoom-out, spun the music, started the lightning effects and “cued” Shirley again.

As if she heard me…AGAIN, she moved across the book perfectly on cue and in the same position. This truly was unbelievable!!...twice on cue. Within an hour of setting the shot, we had accomplished the exact shot/scene I had visually created on storyboard….it appears the rest is history as to the continued interest in the shot / open.

When I often talk about my broadcast production background, I mention this “open” to people and most everyone remembers it – amazing!  (a little part of Milwaukee broadcast history – never thought of it at the time  - just create a movie open for the station)

I hope this gives an interesting, insightful perspective on the creation of the “SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES” open.   I  am flattered that so many people are still interested about its creation and remember this visual concept.

FYI….another commercial I visualized and created was the Bartz’s Display & Party Gifts “Halloween Party” spot that starts by opening a door, entering into the room with all the various costumes (Yoda, etc) with smoke and weird background music.   We had to use many of the Channel 18 office staff to put into costumes to fill the room (free talent – use any resource at your disposal).

Jack D. Stratmeyer

Director, Producer, Production Manager – WVTV-Channel 18  (1974-1983)

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


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