History of the American Film Industry

History of the American Film Industry
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The paramount case of 1948, in which the government argued a divorcement to end studio domination of the motion picture industry, changed the way Hollywood movies were produced, directed and distributed. In the case, it was held that the distribution scheme in existence then was in violation of the antitrust laws of the country for they prohibited certain exclusive dealing arrangements. The Supreme Court decided that the major filmmakers were guilty of monopolistic practices and abolished block booking by requiring all films to be sold on an individual basis (Chapman & Cull, 2012).
Moreover, the court reversed the mandate made by the lower court for competitive bidding thus disintegrating the studios as the ultimate solution to the problems faced by the independents. The decision saw an increase in rental charges to exhibitors by the studios to meet expenses. Further, the studios become more selective to the movies they produced thus a decrease in the number of movies made as production cost increased. Consequently, independent movie producers and studios made film without interference from major studios in addition to weakening of the Production Code (Hall and Neale, 2010).
The changes in the postwar American lifestyles and particularly consumerism provoked new ways for amusement in the film industry. However, lifestyle changes, such as suburbanization and baby-booming led to a decline in the film attendance for they opted to spend their leisure time at home, when television had hit the market. This prompted the studios to differentiate their products to meet the changing needs of their target audiences. At the time, movies that were capable of attracting audiences involved bland, politically neutral themes, which incorporated musicals and family melodrama, for instance My Fair Lady (1964).
These movies reflected the conservative climate of the postwar era with themes that were evident in the common American’s life, such as domestic optimism for a prosperous life and involvement in world affairs. Moreover, progressive films and blockbusters became popular to moviegoers. Advances in technology made these movies more watchable and modern due to state-of-the-art lighting, sound recording, color use, cinematography and special effects.

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In the 1950s, film producers found themselves in severe competition from the television in addition to a mass exodus of its audience to the suburbs. These middle-class families moved away from the urban areas where movies were screened in theaters (Hall & Neale, 2010). As of 1955, the number of movie tickets had declined to more than half of what was sold a decade earlier. However, producers found audience in teenagers who had embraced the rock and roll lifestyle thus 1955’s Rebel without a Cause became an instant hit. Another segment targeted women hence a rise in female film genres that appealed to women as mothers, daughters and wives.
The 1950s saw the “upscaling” of various film genres, such as the western, melodrama and historical melodrama, through the new commitments to big pictures. Each genre made distinctive cycles of large-scale films, for instance The Great Rate (1965). Upscaling was made possible by the introduction of color films and sophisticated special effects. Moreover, the influence of rock and roll played a pivotal role in the film industry during that period. Further, the rise of other leisure activities made audiences more selective hence producers had to upscale their genres.
Another factor was the elimination of block booking that made each individual film become more important giving the audiences to choose what they wanted to watch. An emergence of melodrama, teen film, western and war film were affected by enhanced production values and increased thematic complexity by incorporating black-white or Hispanic-white relationships (Chapman & Cull, 2012). These themes had not been previously exploited hence leading to questions of mutual acceptance. Conversely, an emergence of science fiction movies changed the nature of themes and production to incorporate technologies into future movies.
In the post French films, directors such as Jean Renoir and Jean Cocteau become influential in their ability to write their dialogue and invent the stories they directed. These directors worked with large and regimented production systems and collaborated with talented people thus producing creative film work. Cocteau updated legends and fairy tales to sketch theatrical portraits of lovers too sensitive to survive the brutal modern world. On the other hand, Jean Renoir drew more from the theater and less from the realistic innovations of the 1930s.
In Jean Renoir’s work, visual display of gesture and movement inter-plays well with dialogue to portray humor and richness of characterization. Renoir used background and lighting to express a character’s emotion and desires. Moreover, he displayed complexities of humanity as neither completely good nor bad in the visual style. Cocteau provided a simple adaptation which was strikingly visualized in his movies integrating imagery into his cinematic world.

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The Supreme Commander of the Armed Powers, SCAP was an occupation by the United States with a goal to remake Japanese society. SCAP took interest in overhauling the Japanese film industry to emphasize democratic themes, such as women’s rights, modernization and anti-militarism. SCAP reviewed several wartime productions for nationalistic and feudalistic content. This resulted into hundreds of films being banned and burned thus hindering the efforts of major postwar Japanese directors (Burkman, 1993).
Moreover, SCAP banned film topics, such as the atomic bomb, open discussion of allied diplomatic relations, and any form of imperial propaganda thus posing a threat to Japanese directors. However, they allowed other topics, for instance musicals, monster movies, family dramas and science fiction. Burkman (1993) further argues that movie houses were rebuilt to accommodate crowds who wanted to divert from personal hardships thus new faces, leadership and innovative techniques were put in place to foster the film industry.
De-Stalinization brought about greater openness to the communist countries by allowing greater freedom of speech and publication which spread to the film industry. De-Stalinization provided liberalization in the film industry as the cultural sphere changed rapidly, where the crackdown on free expression was crucial in producing the dissident movement. In the film practice, producers and directors sought to push back the frontiers of what could and could not be said. However, the major positions in the industry were held by conservatives who sought to hold the line against too much innovation and could hamper production.
The postwar Hindi films were characterized by several songs and dance numbers. The female roles had previously been played by male characters for example in the movie Raja Harishchandra. The Hindi films employed bounce lighting technique to recreate the effects of daylight on sets in addition to photo-negative flashbacks (Hall & Neale, 2010). Movies in the Golden era were more entertaining and educative than before. These films held audiences in a trance with genres that promised instant attraction and a great deal of entertainment value. The movies consisted of angry young men and featured actresses who became the heart throb of the nation. Later, technology changed these movies to incorporate advanced special effects, choreography and international appeal.

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Burkman, T. W. (1993). Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo: Japanese Cinema under the American Occupation, 1945-1952 by Kyoko Hirano. Monumenta Nipponica. (48)3, pp. 394-396 DOI: 10.2307/2385137
Chapman, J. and Cull, N. J. (2012). Projecting Tomorrow: Science Fiction and Popular Cinema. London, I. B. Tauris.
Hall, S. and Neale, S. (2010). Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: a Hollywood History. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.


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