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The Genesis Of Action: Classic Cinema’s Indelible Mark On Film History
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Multiplex films appeared in the United States as early as 1907, when Adolph Zukor distributed Pathé’s three-reel.
In 1909, the MPPC forced it to be released in serial form at a rate of one reel per week. The multiple feature film – which was called a “feature” in the vaudevillian sense of a main attraction – achieved mainstream acceptance with the smashing success of the three-and-a-half-reel
, 1912), which starred Sarah Bernhardt and was imported by Zukor (who founded the independent Famous Players production company with their profits). In 1912 Enrico Guazzoni’s nine-reel Italian super spectacle
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(“Where Are You Going?”) was shown in legal theaters across the country at a top admission price of one dollar on the street, and the movie craze was underway.
Initially, there were problems with the distribution of features, as the exchanges associated with the MPPC and the independents were based on cheaply produced one-reel shorts. Due to their more balanced production values, the features had relatively higher negative costs. This was a disadvantage for distributors who charged a uniform price per foot. By 1914, however, several national film distribution alliances had been organized, which correlated prices with a film’s negative cost and box office receipts. These new exchanges demonstrated the economic advantage of multi-reel films over shorts. Exhibitors quickly learned that features offered higher entry prices and longer runs; Single-title packages were also cheaper and easier to advertise than programs with multiple titles. In terms of production, producers found that the higher spending on features was easily amortized by high volume sales to distributors, which in contrast shared the higher admissions revenues from the theaters. The entire industry soon reorganized around the economics of multiple reel film, and the effects of this restructuring did much to give motion pictures their distinctive modern form.
Feature films made cinema respectable for the middle class by providing a format analogous to the legal theater and suitable for the adaptation of middle class novels and plays. This new audience had more demanding standards than the older working class, and producers raised their budgets slightly to provide high technical quality and elaborate productions. The new audiences also had a more sophisticated sense of comfort, which exhibitors quickly accommodated by replacing their storefronts with large, elegantly appointed new theaters in major urban centers (one of the first was Mitchell L. Marks’ 3,300-seat Strand, which in the Broadway district of Manhattan in 1914). Known as “dream palaces” due to the fantastical luxury of their interiors, these homes had to display features rather than a program of shorts to attract large audiences at premium prices. By 1916, there were over 21,000 movie theaters in the United States. Their arrival marked the end of the Nickelodeon era and ushered in the rise of the Hollywood Studio System, which dominated urban display from the 1920s to the 50s. However, before the new workshop-based monopoly could be established, the patent-based monopoly of the MPPC had to expire, and it did so around 1914 because of its own basic assumptions.
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As conceived by Edison, the Trust’s basic operating principle was to control the industry through patent pooling and licensing, an idea that is logical enough in theory but difficult to practice in the context of a dynamically changing market. In particular, the trust’s failure to anticipate the widespread and aggressive resistance of independents to its policies is costing it a fortune in patent infringement litigation. Furthermore, the Trust grossly underestimated the importance of the film, allowing the independents to claim this popular new product as their own. Another issue that the MPPC misjudged was the power of the marketing strategy known as the “Star System”. Borrowed from the theater industry, this system involves creating and managing publicity about key performers, or stars, to stimulate demand for their films. Trust company producers used this type of publicity after 1910, when Carl Laemmle of Independent Motion Pictures (IMP) promoted Florence Lawrence to national stardom through a series of media stunts in St. imaginative as the independence. Finally, and most decisively, in August 1912, the US Department of Justice filed suit against the MPPC for “restraint of trade” and violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Delayed by opposition and the First World War, the government’s case was eventually won, and the MPPC was formally dissolved in 1918, although it had been functionally inactive since 1914.
The rise and fall of the MPPC coincided with the industry’s move to Southern California. As a result of the Nickelodeon boom, some exhibitors—showing three separate programs over a seven-day period—began to request as many as 20 new films a week, and it became necessary to move production to a systematic annual schedule. . sit Since most films were still shot outdoors in available light, such schedules could not be maintained near New York City or Chicago, where the industry was originally located to take advantage of trained theatrical labor pools. As early as 1907, production companies, such as Selig Polyscope, began sending production units to warm climates during the winter. It was soon clear that what the producers needed was a new industrial center—one with warm weather, a temperate climate, a variety of natural beauty, and other attributes (such as access to acting talent) essential to their highly unconventional form. of manufacturing.
Various companies experimented with location shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, in San Antonio, Texas, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and even in Cuba, but the ultimate location of the American film industry was a Los Angeles suburb (originally a small industrial village) called Hollywood. Hollywood’s distance from MPPC headquarters in New York City is widely thought to have made it attractive to the independents, but MPPC members such as Selig, Kalem, Biograph, and Essanay had also established facilities there by 1911 in response to a number of of the region. . attractions. These include the temperate climate necessary for year-round production (the US Weather Bureau estimated that an average of 320 days per year were sunny or clear); a wide range of topography within a 50-mile (80 km) radius of Hollywood, including mountains, valleys, forests, lakes, islands, seashores and deserts; the status of Los Angeles as a professional theater center; the existence of a low tax base; and the presence of cheap and abundant labor and land. This last factor enabled the newly arrived production companies to acquire tens of thousands of acres of prime property on which to locate their studios, stands and back gardens.
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By 1915, approximately 15,000 film industry workers were employed in Hollywood, and more than 60 percent of American production was centered there. In the same year, the specialist journal
Reported that capital investments in American motion pictures—the business of tradesmen and fair operators only a decade earlier—had exceeded $500 million. The most powerful companies in the new film capital were the independents, flush with cash from their conversion to film production. These included the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation (later Paramount Pictures, circa 1927), which was formed by a merger of Zukor’s Famous Players Company, Jesse L. Lasky’s Feature Play Company and the Paramount distribution stock in 1916; Universal Pictures, founded by Carl Laemmle in 1912 by merging IMP with Powers, Rex, Nestor, Champion and Bison; Goldwyn Picture Corporation, founded in 1916 by Samuel
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