Change of Address!
Earlier, most studios were located in Hollywood district, but now, most of them have shifted to Los Angeles. Paramount Studios is the only major studio in Hollywood today.
Hollywood, the hub of our favorite movies and film stars, has seen a lot of changes ever since the first studio was set up. Today's big film industry has a very interesting story of its creation. The Hollywood that we know today, was once an agricultural community hub. The area in the west was a part of Rancho La Brea settlements, while that in the west was a part of Rancho Los Feliz settlements. However, after the re-division of Ranchos in the 1880s, H.H. Wilcox bought an area of Rancho La Brea, and his wife christened it as 'Hollywood'.
This was the birth of Hollywood, but there was no sign of film studios as yet. It was only in 1911 that Nestor Company opened their first studio in Hollywood. Thus, a major cinematic step was taken in Hollywood.
Hollywood: A Short History
Ever since the start of Hollywood, the quality of films being made has been ever-evolving. Today's audience may not be aware of the different stages that the film industry went through, to become what it is today.
✸ Golden Age
The period from 1920s to 1950s was known as the Golden Age of Hollywood. It was during this period that the 'studio' system was in place. The entire film industry had five major film studios, that would make films and release them. Film stars were contracted to the studios, and films were released to make maximum profits. The entire process, from filmmaking to exhibiting them, was carried out by the studios themselves.
✸ The Decline
Once television sets were invented, the film-going audience reduced. People were comfortable sitting at home and watching TV. This was the same audience who was once enthusiastic about going to the theaters. This was the time when drive-ins were introduced, especially to attract the teenage crowd. However, the movies that were made during that time were not appealing to the teenage audience, and the studios suffered huge losses. Thus, the studios were forced to rope in independent filmmakers to make films that would attract the younger audience. Thus, the director became the captain of the ship, while the studios took a backseat in the scheme of things.
✸ Paramount Case of 1948
Yet another popular event that changed the film industry for good, was the Paramount Anti-Trust case. Earlier, when movies were released, studios would force the distributors to buy the film rights in blocks. These blocks contained one main film that was the most prestigious one, alongside films that were not-so-lavishly made. Thus, the distributors would face huge losses due to the not-so-prestigious films, whose rights were forced upon them. This led to the abolition of the 'block booking' concept. This case significantly influenced Hollywood to make good films that would earn money, because after the abolition, no distributor was compelled to exhibit cheaper films.
Slowly and steadily, the film industry accepted these new changes, and the 'assembly line' type of filmmaking gave way to a more mature and responsible filmmaking process.
History of Filmmaking in Hollywood
Cinema has changed a lot over the years, and so has the taste of the audience. Earlier, silent films were the most appealing ones to the audience, but today, 3D films have taken over. All the trendsetter movies of the past are being given a new feel and look, by re-releasing them in color or 3D.
Filmmaking, during the initial years in Hollywood, was quite different from what it is today. The golden era of films had just began, and the film industry rolled out some cult classics during that period.
✸ Old School Filmmaking
At the start, silent films were the only kind of cinema known to the audience. The films that were made, had film stars performing their own stunts, instead of hiring stuntmen. Though the silent era didn't have any dialogs, the films did have music. Charlie Chaplin not only acted in his movies, he even wrote music for them. Though the sophisticated instruments that are used today weren't available then, still, the quality of music was quite incredible. The use of orchestras in film music was a trend in the early years of Hollywood.
✸ Genre Movies
Original scripts were written, and each movie had a different flavor. Book adaptations were very few, and more realistic films were made. However 'formula-oriented' movies were the flavor of that time. Creative teams were almost fixed, and the same people worked together for each film that was made by the studios. This was the time when the 'studio' system existed. Cedric Gibbons and Herbert Stothart always worked for MGM films, while Cecil B. DeMille worked with Paramount. These were the prime studios at the time.
✸ End of the Studio System
Under the studio system, the major studios hired actors, producers, writers, stuntmen, and other artists, who worked in the process of movie making. The studios even owned theaters that would show only those movies which were made under their banner. Finally, in 1939, the studio system ended with the end of the 'block booking' practice, as mentioned earlier.
The early years of cinema witnessed some classics like 'Gone with the Wind', 'Wuthering Heights', 'Midnight', 'The Wizard of Oz', and the like. These movies were cults in their own genre, and the list expanded with every movie release. The start of the golden age was believed to have started with the release of the movie, The Jazz Singer, in 1927. This movie saw the rise of Warner Brothers. MGM was known to have a lot of stars in their movies, and are credited for the overall star system. Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Gray Cooper, Henry Fonda, and many others were associated with MGM, and it was undoubtedly the most prestigious studio of that time.
However, the end of the studio system and block booking, along with the advent of television, marked the end of the classical era of Hollywood, and slowly gave way to modern filmmaking.
This was the time between the introduction of sound and the implementation of the Motion Picture Production Code, i.e., roughly the period from 1920 to 1934.
✸ Movie Plots
During this period, the movies had a lot of sexual content, and women were represented in scanty attire. There were provocative situations created in the movies of this era. Drug usage, infidelity, profanity, prostitution, etc., were included in the movies made during the Pre-code Period.
✸ Crime and Political Dramas
By this time, other countries like Germany had started to import American films. It was during the Pre-code Period that the Great Depression struck, and this greatly affected Hollywood as a whole. Movies were made based on the social conditions then, and political as well as crime films were made in great numbers. Gabriel Over the White House
was one such movie that showcased the US President changing himself as a dictator. During this era, Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany, and many films targeting Hitler were made by independent film companies, instead of the studios.
✸ Sex Films
The crackdown on crime-filled films led to the rise of sex-filled films, with Warner Brothers even formulating a policy of making two hot films out of five stories that they made. This led to release of many movies like Red Dust, Red-Headed Woman, Female, and the like. The 'sexual object' portrayal of women, and the purposeful creation of provocative moments, led to anger amongst the social groups in America, and they demanded censoring these movies. These groups felt that these low-content movies were affecting the society as a whole.
✸ Motion Picture Production Code
Shortly after this, the Motion Picture Production Code was formulated, that included some guidelines for filmmaking. It gave clear dos and don'ts regarding the content that could be included in films, so that the movies would be morally right. Thus, the Pre-Code Hollywood era came to an end, and modern Hollywood took its place.
Today's cinema is the reflection of the changing society in present times. Modern Hollywood took some influence from the Golden Era, and revamped the entire idea of filmmaking by introducing new genres, marketing strategies, and filmmaking techniques.
✸ Audience Reach
The audience has matured and so has the technology. Modern-day cinema has also gone domestic. DVDs and CDs of movies are released within a month's time after the movie's release. This enables viewers to watch the movie repeatedly, thus, increasing its popularity even after it has gone off the theaters. Even the people who miss going to the theater can watch a movie, sitting at home.
✸ New Genres
With the increase in the number of movie-going audience, the number of films that are being made has also increased. Keeping with the pace of technological development, movies today have found various other mediums. 3D, cross-cultural, Indie, animated, and short films, are the new branches of the film industry.
✸ Cross-cultural movies
have existed since a long time, but their popularity has increased in recent times. The cultural shift in such movies has made them really popular. Movies like 'The Namesake', 'In America', 'La Misma Luna', etc., have been received well by the audiences. Through the medium of these movies, the global audience has been reached.
✸ Animated movies
have always been there, ever since Walt Disney made 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' in 1973. But the quality of animation has surely improved over time. Modern techniques are being used for creating these graphics. You can make out the difference of the quality improvement by watching the shark in 'Jaws', and comparing it with 'Shrek' or 'Ratatouille'. This genre has improved with time, and promises to do so even more in the future.
✸ 3D movies
have received mixed reaction from the audience and people of the film fraternity. Older movies are being remade into the 3D format by adding the extra dimension to it. New 3D movies have found a new set of audience, who enjoy an in-your-face movie experience.
✸ Increased Budgets
Due to global presence of the movies, the movie industry has, indeed, become a business. The budgets of movies have risen considerably from what they used to be in the early years of Hollywood. Take for example 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End', which was made at a budget of $300 million.
✸ Character Portrayal
Character portrayal has also seen a vast change. Earlier, characters were generally larger-than-life figures with lavish lifestyles, glamorous gowns, tuxedos, etc. Today's cinema portrays their characters in a more natural manner. Their dressing style is more like that of a common man. The boy-next-door image has been cherished by many actors today. The connect with these characters is instant. Having said that, the Golden Era has seen some remarkable women characters, as compared to the ones that we see today.
✸ Musical Dramas
Musicals have lost their way in today's Hollywood. Earlier, musical drama films were popular, and such movies got an overwhelming response from the audience. Movies like 'All that Jazz', 'Dirty Dancing', 'Staying Alive', etc., were made on a regular basis then, but today, the scenario has changed. Apart from the 'Step Up' series, the 'Footloose' remake, the 'Mama Mia' musical, there are very few musicals that have been made in recent times.
✸ As Per Critics
Many movie buffs and film critics feel that the movies today have lost their way. Present-day movies are generally book adaptations or merely sequels/prequels. The creative factor in films is slowly disappearing. Even 3D movies are facing problems in drawing crowds to the theaters. As per critics, unless originality in the movies is not restored, films cannot hold the audience's interest. Also, more and more emphasis is given on the star cast of the movie instead of the storyline. This has also raised a lot of concerns, because star power alone cannot compel audiences to go to the theaters.
Hollywood films have come a long way from the Silent Era to modern-age movies. Even though we have improved technology and modern filming techniques, the 'formula' movies of the Golden Age will be missed. However, with changing times, Hollywood has incorporated necessary changes in the movies that are being made, and Hollywood will continue to entertain us evermore.