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Bank Night was a popular fad lottery game franchise in Americamarker during the Great Depression. It was invented and marketed by Charles U. Yaeger, a former booking agent for 20th Century Fox.

In 1936, Bank Night was played at 5,000 of America's 15,000 active theaters, and copies of it were played at countless more. The popularity of Bank Night and similar schemes contributed to the resiliency of the film industry during the Great Depression more than any other single business tactic.

Operation

Bank Night was run as a franchise which was leased to theaters for from $5 to $50 a week, depending on their size. The payment entitled the owner to run an event called Bank Night, and each owner was given a film reel with a Bank Night trailer, as well as a registration book and equipment to draw numbers to pick winners.

Anyone could enter their name in a book kept by the theater manager, and on Bank Night, a name would be drawn at random. The person selected must reach the stage within a set amount of time to claim their prize, usually a few minutes (they would not be required to purchase a ticket to enter the theater). While not technically requiring any purchase, and thus circumventing the numerous local lottery laws of the time, Bank Night had the effect of drawing people to theaters, many of whom bought tickets anyway.

History

Yeager invented Bank Night in 1931 in Denver, Coloradomarker. The concept was immediately successful. Although lucrative, the franchise faced scrutiny from state and municipal authorities, who often challenged theaters in court for holding Bank Nights. It quickly spawned copycats to get around the franchise fee, such as Prosperity Night, Treasure Night and Movie Sweepstakes.

The fad lost much of its popularity by the late 1930s, first to competing games such as Screeno and other lottery-like games, but popularity further declined as cities such as Chicagomarker and New Yorkmarker took stances against Bank Night and similar games in 1936, and soon theater owners in many jurisdictions faced arrest or fines for running Bank Nights. The improving economy and World War II also contributed to changing consumer tastes.

References




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