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STRUGGLES FOR CONTROL The Rise of Hollywood & The Star System.

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Presentation on theme: "STRUGGLES FOR CONTROL The Rise of Hollywood & The Star System."— Presentation transcript:

1 STRUGGLES FOR CONTROL The Rise of Hollywood & The Star System

2 CONTROL OF THE INDUSTRY –American film industry is controlled by restricting entry –3 PHASES of the industry: PRODUCTION DISTRIBUTION EXHIBITION

3 MOTION PICTURE PATENTS CO. (MPPC, or the TRUST) ESTABLISHMENT OF THE TRUST –EDISON CO. & AMERICAN BIOGRAPH engaged in extensive & expensive legal battles –1908, compromise between 2 companies Allowed all existing production companies to join Maintained distinct identities Competed with 1 another

4 PRACTICES –Selected distributors & exhibitors received licenses; no unlicensed parties could obtain Trust films –Licensees bought equipment only from the Trust –Distributors distributed only Trust films, exhibitors showed only Trust films –Exhibitors paid license fee of $2 per week –Production companies bought raw film stock only from Eastman Kodak; Kodak sold only to the Trust In 1910, the Trust created the GENERAL FILM COMPANY

5 THE END OF THE TRUST –Began to lose control of the industry around 1911 –THE DEFECTION OF EASTMAN KODAK 1911, contract modified to allow Kodak to sell to independents Within a year, 33% increase in number of theaters showing independent films

6 –INTERNAL STRIFE Edison received 1/2 of royalties received by the Trust, Biograph 1/3, & Armat 1/6; other 8 members split the remainder But legal costs split differently: 1/3 MPPC, 1/3 GFC, 1/3 members –WORLD WAR I The MPPC made a strong effort to control the international market, allowing independents to gain strength at home World War I eliminated foreign revenues

7 –ADVENT OF THE FEATURE FILM MPPC failed to see growing popularity of longer films –REFUSAL TO ACCEPT WALL ST. FINANCING Didn't want to go into debt, used only internal revenues Not enough money left to fight legal battles, keep stars, directors, etc. In 1915, the Supreme Court declared the Trust in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act

8 THE RISE OF HOLLYWOOD 1915-1925 saw transition from Trust to STUDIO SYSTEM –5 changes: end of nickelodeons & beginning of picture “palaces” Movie audiences became more universal Short (1-reel) films replaced by feature-length films Trust replaced by independents Industry moved to Hollywood for 3 reasons –More sunshine –More diverse geography –Cheaper labor –Industry organized by studio system, characterized by OLIGOPOLY & VERTICAL INTEGRATION

9 Filming in NY, 1916

10 Filming in New Jersey, 1919

11 Star Film Ranch, San Antonio Texas

12 Biograph Studio

13 Biograph Advertisement

14 Hollywood, 1903

15 Hollywood, 1906

16 Metropolitan Studios

17 Biograph (LA)

18 Rolin Studio

19 Universal Studios

20 OLIGOPOLY: a few large firms control an entire industry –After dissolution of Trust, industry truly competitive –Films soon became more expensive for 3 reasons: Feature-length Salaries increased Production values increased –Small companies began to merge in order to compete –By late 1920s, “8 Majors” controlled 91% of box-office

21 VERTICAL INTEGRATION: Control from production to retail sale –BIG 5 (MGM, PARAMOUNT, FOX, WARNER BROS., & RKO) totally vertically integrated –LITTLE 3 (COLUMBIA, UNIVERSAL, & UNITED ARTISTS) not totally vertically integrated –EXHIBITION UNDER VERTICAL INTEGRATION Big 5 owned about 17 % of American theaters Enjoyed over 50% of the industry’s gross box-office

22 RUN-ZONE-CLEARANCE 1st RUN - DOWNTOWN THEATERS –“Picture palaces” owned by the majors –Run was about 1 week long –Highest ticket price –Heavily advertised by the studio –Live orchestra

23 RUN-ZONE-CLEARANCE 2nd RUN - OUTLYING BUSINESS DISTRICTS –Smaller, less ornate, usually owned by an independent chain –Clearance of 2-3 weeks after 1st run –Run was about 1-2 weeks long –Lower ticket price –Not advertised by the studio –No orchestra; usually a small band

24 RUN-ZONE-CLEARANCE 3rd RUN - SUBURBS & RESIDENTIAL AREAS –Small, “mom & pop” operations –Clearance of 2-3 weeks after 2nd run –Run was about 2-3 weeks long –Bargain ticket price –Not advertised by the studio –No band; usually a piano player

25 BLOCK-BOOKING: System whereby majors rented films to independents Independents forced to rent films in blocks of 10 –2 or 3 films, high production values, big stars (“A” films) –Rest inferior films (“B” films), which often would not even be shown –“B” films used as training for new talent

26 THE STAR SYSTEM Hollywood stars serve important function in industry –Established value of movies as marketable commodities –Establish & stabilize rental prices –Actually, they were “servants of the system” They were subject to strict contractual control They were “products” of the studios

27 THE ECONOMIC IMPERATIVE: ESTABLISHING THE MARKET VALUE OF FILMS –Rentals charged by studios to their own theaters were arbitrary –But rental prices charged to other studio’s theaters & independents required bargaining & negotiation How to establish percentage? Answer found in stars

28 PRODUCT DIFFERENTIATION –PHILOSOPHY Most products are well known to consumer However, all films are different If demand could be stabilized, so could price –HISTORY Originally, trademarks used to differentiate films Next, emphasis on particular kinds of narratives Therefore, producers realized that stars would: –Help predict the success of a film –Provide a basis for setting the rental price

29 –Also encouraged raising rentals on star vehicles –This is due to demand elasticity Refers to insensitivity of demand to changes in price; demand is inelastic If demand can be fixed & stabilized, prices may be increased without decreasing demand –Therefore, publicity & advertising focused on stars

30 THE PROCESS; How was a star developed? –Initially, actor designed to fit narratives Studio would differentiate actor to match demand Demand determined by audience reaction to films –THE FUNCTION OF ADVERTISING & PUBLICITY Studio used advertising & publicity to transform star’s personal life to match screen persona Accomplished through “authorized biography” Publicist assigned to each star Glamour photographs taken & disseminated Advertising campaigns promoted star’s films Exploitation campaigns coincided with 1st runs –Could be changed to “adjust” star’s persona

31 THE STAR & NARRATIVE STRUCTURE –Later, narratives designed as vehicles for star Audience expectations used in scriptwriting Scriptwriters aware of the star’s persona

32 “OFFCASTING” –Casting star in a role that was the opposite of image already established –Linked to 2 economic needs: Efficient use of resources –Stars paid by year, not by film –Salary would be amortized across many films –Reduced cost of the star per film Product variation –Limit to number of films audiences would pay to see featuring the identical star persona –Allowed use of the persona in advertising

33 THE CONTRACT CONTROLS –Actor’s contract provided studio with salary control –Also gave studio control over star’s image

34 DW Griffith

35 D W GRIFFITH Earliest major American director; the 1st master of dramatic involvement Felt that film appealed to the emotions; overwhelmed audience with emotional power Born in 1875 in Kentucky; father was a Lt. Col. in the Confederate Army The family once was fairly prosperous, but was reduced to poverty during Reconstruction

36 Joined an acting company when he was 22 Spent about 10 years with traveling acting troupes He actually wanted to be a writer Sold his 1st play in 1907 (A Fool & A Girl) In 1907, found employment at Biograph

37 Rescued From an Eagle’s Nest (1907)

38 BIOGRAPH YEARS First film, The Adventures of Dolly (1908); unremarkable cinematically, thematically important GRIFFITH'S ACCOMPLISHMENTS AT BIOGRAPH –Overcame dominant methods of acting –Mise ‑ en ‑ scene more carefully composed, "opened up" the frame

39 –Editing Associational cutting Flashback Tempo –Combined spatial lengths; establishing shot, medium shot, close ‑ up –Used long shots & close ups, camera angles for psychological & emotional effects Helped to codify the meanings of these transitions: Fade ‑ in, fade ‑ out, dissolve

40 –Camera movement Increased the use of camera movement to create a sense of space & depth Helped perfect: –Panning & tilting –Tracking (trucking) –Dolly (in & out) Real contribution was the perfection (not invention) of these, their systematic use for narrative, psychological & emotional impact Billy Bitzer deserves half of the credit

41 Death’s Marathon (1913)

42 POST BIOGRAPH YEARS –Joined Reliance-Majestic in 1913, began work on The Birth of a Nation, released in 1915 –Combined all of the techniques Griffith had perfected –Appealed to the middle class Rabidly, embarrassingly racist

43 The Birth of a Nation (1915)

44 AFTER THE BIRTH OF A NATION –Intolerance, 1916 at Triangle Productions –Broken Blossoms (1919) –Way Down East (1920) –Orphans of the Storm (1922) In 1919, formed United Artists with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, & Charlie Chaplin

45 Intolerance (1916)

46 Broken Blossoms (1919)

47 Way Down East (1920)

48 Orphans of the Storm (1922)

49 United Artists

50 Marcel Duchamp






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