Hollywood Behemoths

Vertical integration helped Hollywood studios to become the behemoths they are today. Studios were able to produce films in high volume, distribute them to theaters owned by the studios as well as independent studios, and play them basically everywhere. Major theaters, small theaters, the sides of barns, iPhones (they had those in the early 20th century), and the like. 

Studios owned a number of theaters across the nation, approx. 25% of American theaters, and owning that many theaters was certainly a boon to business. To make up for the other 75%of theaters that the studios didn’t own, they would sell films in bulk to essentially fill up every theater’s schedule. With a full year of big-studio movies slated, there was no room for smaller independent films. Because large studios distributed so many films to so many theaters, they effectively squashed smaller studios, or at least held them at bay by limiting their business severely. 

Because big studios had so much money and power, they were able to attract stars to their pictures. Moreover, they were able to hold stars under contract and produce several movies with said star. These stars were big box office draws, and smaller theaters were unable to contract these stars, which hurt their business even more. Big studios were even able to recruit and groom stars, effectively creating exactly what audiences wanted to see, all but guaranteeing ticket sales. Once more, smaller studios were unable to do this, and had to resort to good film-making or something else silly like that to ensure their own success. 

Stars, after a certain point, were absolutely able to exert their own power. Once they became really big, huge, well-loved, famous, groovy stars, they would develop enough clout to make demands of studios. These demands, contracts, etc, could change the films, and slight alterations to films could have huge economic ramifications. 

Vertical Integration allowed studios to dominate American cinema through their own means of production (filming, etc), distribution (bulk sales, etc), and exhibition (screening, etc), and also stars were super important and pretty and everyone wants to be them. So go see movies because studios want you to. 

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5 thoughts on “Hollywood Behemoths

  1. It sounds like we pretty much read the same thing and comprehended it the same as well haha. What is crazy is I was sitting here realizing that this is still occurring even in this day in time. There may be just a few more major studios, but for the most part its still companies like MGM, Universal, Disney, etc. Every now and then I’ll sit down and watch the academy awards or the oscars and here of directors and movies that I have never even seen or heard of before getting awards! Do you think this phenomenon will ever change. Do you think the government will ever step in and change this?

  2. I think it’s out of the governments hands. I feel as though there is a realization that vertical integration has become a part of business and the economy. The movie studios in particular can take advantage of this because as these companies continue to make films with big stars and make often good movies, they can only grow.

  3. Also to answer your question, as was seen in this chapter, President Roosevelt passed the National Industrial Recovery Act which required studios to draw up codes in order to help the economy. This act was eventually withdrawn. I agree with amolinaro09 when he stated that they won’t interfere because I can imagine that studios will only try to find a way around any rule that the government tries to implement.

  4. The idea of a star as a product AND an actual human being results in a weird tension between studios and actors. I’m amazed that the sheer amount of advertising power stars held was somehow able to negotiate with the studios’ vertical integration/pseudo-monopoly set up..

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