Studio system

The Studio system was a popular means of film production and distribution in Hollywood from the 1920s to the early 1950s . It is based on: first, the production of films (in the sense of their realization ) in its own premises, employing creative staff often under long-term contract; secondly, the control of distribution through vertical integration including the ownership of distribution networks and the use of block booking .

A 1948 law of the US Supreme Court attacked this system by seeking to separate production from distribution, causing the end of the studio system . In 1954, the last operational link between a large studio and a chain of cinemas was broken, the era of the studio system was officially over. The period from the introduction of sound to the law of the Supreme Court and the beginning of the decline of the studios is commonly known as the Hollywood Golden Age.

During this golden age, eight companies called the “major studios” 1 formed the studio system Hollywood. Of these eight companies, five were fully integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, the distribution sector and a film channel as well as contracts with actors and filmmaking personnel. These five companies were: Fox 2 , Loews Cineplex 3 , the Paramount Pictures , the RKO 4 , and Warner Bros . Two companies, Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures, were organized in a similar way but only had small networks of cinemas. The eighth golden age company, United Artists , had a few cinemas and had access to two production facilities owned by members of its controlling partner group, but mostly operated as a cash distributor, lending money to producers independent and distributing their films.

The sound and the big five

The years 1927 and 1928 are considered to mark the beginning of the Hollywood Golden Age as well as the advancement of the studio system in the world of American cinema . The success of the film The Jazz Singer, released in 1927 , the first feature film “speaking” despite the fact that the majority of his scenes were sounded after shooting , gave a big boost to Warner Bros. Studio . 1928 was the year of the generalization of sound in the film industry and for Warner it was the year of 2 … additional: The Singing Fool andThe Jazz Singer with even greater profits later, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the first “fully speaking” movie, Lights of New York . There were other very significant developments also outside the screen. Warner Bros., now more profitable, acquired the Stanley movie chain in September 1928. A month later, the company controlled the interests of the production company First National, more important than Warner at the time. After the acquisition of First National, there is another big 135-acre movie channel and backlot studio.

1928 also saw the emergence of the fifth society, thus constituting the Hollywood conglomerate that would become the ”  big five  ” of the golden age. The RCA , then headed by David Sarnoff , was looking for a way to exploit the patents of sound cinema like the brand just registered Photophone , owned by the parent company, and General Electric . While the major production companies were all set to sign exclusive technology deals with Western Electric Company , the CAR is investing in the film business. In January, General Electric acquired a great interest in FBO, a distribution and production company owned by Joseph Patrick Kennedy 5 . In October, thanks to a number of financial transactions , RCA took control of both the FBO and the Keith-Albee-Orpheum film chain. Merging into one company, Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corporation was born under the direction of Sarnoff. RKO and Warner Bros. joining Fox, Paramount, and Loew’s / MGM, were now the “big five” group that would govern Hollywood and much of the film world for decades.

The reign of the major companies

The ranking of the big five in terms of profits, closely related to market shares, was very much in sync with the golden age. MGM was in first place in this ranking for eleven consecutive years from 1931 to 1941 . Paramount was the best in profits at the beginning of the speaking age from 1928 to 1930 , gradually fading in the 1940s and Fox was number two behind the MGM in the same decade. Paramount began a steady ascent in 1940, eventually overtaking MGM two years later. From then until its reorganization in 1949 , Paramount was the most glorious of the big five financially. With the exception of 1932While all the companies except the MGM lost money and RKO lost a little less than its competitors, RKO was the penultimate or the last year of this golden age, generally to Warner. Among the smaller of these “majors companies,” Little Three , United Artists faithfully pinned to the back, with Columbia stronger in the 1930s and Universal topped most of the 1940s 6 .

The end of the system and the death of RKO

One of the techniques used to support the Studio system was block booking , a system selling several movies to a cinema as one. One such lot, 5 films was the standard pack for the majority of the 1940s, usually included only one truly appealing film, the rest being a mix of dubious quality films and B 7 movies . TheIn the Paramount case against the United States against the entire group of five, the United States Supreme Court rendered blocking illegal. Believing that the group was indeed in violation of the antitrust law, the judges refrained from making a final decision as to how to proceed to the reparation of the fault. But the case was referred back to the court of first instance, which suggested the complete separation of the operations and interests of the producer and the distributor. The Big Five, however, seemed united in their determination to fight and drag out court proceedings for years as they had previously proved, after all,.

Howard Hughes ( 1905 – 1976 ), aviator, distance recorder in 1938 8 .

However, behind the scenes of the RKO, throughout the proceedings, the court was trying to find an agreement in favor of the studio. The same month after the court decision, the multimillionaire Howard Hughes acquired the controlling interest of the company 9 . Since RKO controlled very few movie theaters in the group, Hughes made the decision to start a domino effect separation process that could help his own studio to find himself at the same level of competition. Hughes signaled to the federal government his willingness to open a trialforcing the cessation of his cinematographic actions. After the agreement, Hughes could have separated the studio into two separate entities, RKO Pictures Corporation and RKO Theaters Corporation, and commit to selling one or the other on a predefined date. But this project proved impossible. Yet that’s the agreement between Hughes and the government, signed on, who truly buried the Hollywood Golden Age. Paramount surrendered shortly thereafter, entering into the consent of the same decree in February 1949. This studio, which struggled so long against the separation of the studios, was the first to give way.. The golden age ended.

The Studio system in Europe and Asia

Although the Studio system is usually considered to be an American phenomenon, production companies in other countries have at times operated in the manner of the “Big Five” by vertically integrating their activities. As James Chapman, historian, describes it:

“In Britain , only two companies, the Rank Organization and the Associated British Picture Corporation , have fully achieved their vertical integration of the system. Other countries where different levels of vertical integration appeared were Germany in the 1920s at Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft, or Ufa , France in the 1930s at Gaumont -Franco-Film-Aubert and Pathé -Natan, and the Japan at Nikkatsu , Shochiku and Toho . ATHong Kong ‘s Shaw Brothers also adopted this system in the 50s and 60. against India, which is probably the only real rival to the American film industry through its domination of the Indian market and the Asian market, never achieved any degree of vertical integration 10 . “

For example, in 1929, nearly 75% of Japanese cinemas were affiliated either to the Nikkatsu either Shochiku, the two largest studios of the time 11 .

After the system

In 2007, five of the major Golden Age studios still exist as major Hollywood studios  : Columbia (owned by Sony ), 20th Century Fox (owned by News Corporation ), Warner Bros. (owned by Time Warner ), Paramount (owned by Viacom ), and Universal (owned by General Electric / NBC Universal ). is added the studio Walt Disney Company , the group Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group , which has become a “major” component is now the “big six”. With the exception of Disney, all major studios follow the United Artists patternand not that of the “big five”. That is, they are primarily distribution companies before being production companies.

In addition to Columbia, Sony also has control over MGM and its subsidiary UA. In 1996, Time Warner acquired New Line Cinema which was independent, as part of the construction of the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS).

Notes and references

  • In ) This article is partially or entirely from the Wikipedia article in English entitled ”  studio system  ” ( see the list of authors ) .
  1. ↑ “The major studios”
  2. ↑ today Twentieth Century Fox
  3. ↑ Loews Cineplex is the largest cinema network owner and is the parent company of MGM .
  4. ↑ Radio-Keith-Orpheum
  5. ↑ father of John Fitzgerald Kennedy .
  6. ↑ Financial anlaysis is based Finler ( Financial analysis based Finler ) (1988), pp. 286-287.
  7. ↑ See Schatz (1999), pp. 19-21, 45, 72.
  8. ↑ Jean Mitry, History of cinema , page 282
  9. ↑ Ethan Mordden , The Hollywood Studios , page 231.
  10. ↑ Chapman (2003), p. 49.
  11. ↑ Freiberg (2000), “The Film Industry.”
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