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Capone Vault Opening Strikes Gold in Ratings

April 23, 1986 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ The producers of a live television special on the opening of a sealed chamber linked to gangster Al Capone say they’re disappointed in the vault’s contents, but pleased with the show’s ratings.

″We would have loved to have found a million in jewels and dead bodies, but it didn’t happen,″ said Jack Devlin, director of creative services for Tribune Entertainment Co., which co-produced the two-hour syndicated program with the Los Angeles-based Westgate Group.

The $1 million venture only turned up empty bottles that may have held bathtub gin, and an old porcelain sign for ″Adams Express Co,″ but Devlin said the ratings were fair consolation.

″This show did very, very well,″ said Terri Luke, promotion manager for suburban Northbrook-based A.C. Nielsen Co., which conducts ratings of TV programming.

The mysterious vault was in the basement of the Lexington Hotel, where Capone took up residence in 1928. He left in 1932 to serve an eight-year stretch in federal prison for income-tax evasion, and some believed he had hidden cash reserves in the sealed vault, or even rivals’ bones.

Monday’s program recorded a 57.3 rating and a 73 share in Chicago, said Devlin and Ms. Luke. The Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl victory earlier this year logged a 63.2 rating and 87 share.

In New York, the vault opening won a 33.2 rating and a 45 share, and in Los Angeles, a 45.6 rating and a 61 share, Ms. Luke said.

Ratings indicate the percentage of households watching a show among all television households, Ms. Luke said, while shares indicate the percentage in households watching TV.

″We were expecting maybe a 21 rating or a 22,″ Devlin said.

In Denver, the show averaged 60 percent of the viewing audience, but the station which broadcast it received calls protesting the fact that no bodies or booty was found, the Denver Post reported today.

″I don’t think the lack of findings ruined the show,″ Mark Schacher, program director for KWGN, told the newspaper. ″We’re in the business of providing programming that people are interested in watching. Apparently we did that Monday night.″

″The Mystery Of Al Capone’s Vaults″ was sold to 181 U.S. stations and carried on Tribune’s superstation WGN, making it available to 94 percent of the population, producers said.

Devlin said he did not expect the outcome to hurt overseas syndication.

″Capone is magic,″ he said.

Capone is best known for the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, when seven men linked to rival gangster George ″Bugs″ Moran were machine-gunned to death in a North Side garage. No one was ever charged in the case.

Devlin said producers have decided against continuing the excavation, which ended at a third wall inside the bunker-like chamber after crews removed a 7,000-pound concrete slab sealing the outer wall and blasted through a second wall.