When did Hollywood start making films?

Hollywood - Myth and Reality

Stars like Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe contributed to the fact that the dream factory Hollywood became known worldwide and today stands for glamor, success and wealth. But the film industry also has a different face. Nowhere do fame and insignificance, poverty and wealth, illusion and reality seem so close together.

Hollywood's beginnings

The story of Hollywood actually begins on the east coast of the USA, in New York. There the two film companies "Biograph" and "Edison" founded the "Motion Picture Patent Company" in 1908 under the direction of Thomas Edison.

They brought together almost all of the major companies in the film industry at the time and thus all patents for film material, cameras and projectors under one roof. The merger created in this way was able to control the entire US film market.

To avoid this rigid licensing practice, a handful of independent producers, including Carl Laemmle, Adolph Zukor, Marcus Loew and William Fox, went to the west coast in 1910 in a small suburb of Los Angeles called Hollywood. Here, far away from the patent attorneys, they began making their films, especially westerns and comedies.

When American courts restricted the Motion Picture Patent Company's monopoly in 1912 and finally declared it illegal in 1915, nothing stood in the way of the independent Hollywood producers' success.

Now they have built the big film studios here like "Famous Players Lasky" (later "Paramount"), "Loew's" ("Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer"), "Warner Brothers", "RKO" and "Fox" (later "20th Century Fox ").

The golden age of the studio system

Hollywood had ideal conditions for film production: the pleasant temperatures made it possible to shoot outdoors all year round, there was enough labor and cheap building land. Every week now every studio brought out a film and business was booming.

Even the great stock market crash of 1929, the film industry survived relatively well, as it was able to conquer a larger market with the help of the newly invented sound film and thus did not suffer any collapse in sales. The big studios are now relying on their own sales companies and their own cinema chains instead of working with independent companies.

Genre productions such as gangster films, westerns, musicals and melodramas became mass-produced. In 1939 the Hollywood film industry reached its peak, around 177,000 people worked here and 338 films were released.

The end of the studio era

The US government's antitrust legislation was primarily responsible for the decline of the studio system in the 1950s. In 1938 the Ministry of Justice brought charges against the studios on behalf of independent cinema operators for attempts at monopoly.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, the so-called Paramount Trial was delayed and did not come before the Supreme Court until 1948. He declared the practices of the film companies illegal and ensured that the studios were separated from their cinema chains. This created many new production companies whose films were shown in independent cinemas.

In addition to the verdict in the Paramount process, there was also a technical innovation that was responsible for the dissolution of the existing studio system: television. In 1946, 78.2 million Americans went to the movies a week, compared to just 15.8 million in 1971. Lean years for the film industry followed.

The film industry is recovering

A generation change took place in Hollywood in the mid-1970s. Young directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were allowed to make films and enjoyed great success at home and abroad.

Films like "Star Wars", "Indiana Jones" or "The Godfather" became big hits. But the films made by the young directors were not always successful. "The Last Movie" or "Apocalypse Now" were award-winning films that did not earn the cost. In the end, that was too risky for the donors.

At the beginning of the 1980s, studios and production companies were therefore relying more and more on successful blockbusters. The time of producers like Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson came. They almost let writers and directors do assembly line productions that functioned according to a simple story: A person from poor or difficult backgrounds fights for a dream and wins. This is how films like "Flashdance", "Top Gun" and "Footloose" worked.

The film business - money, greed and power

In the 1990s, the Hollywood studios were taken over by large, global media groups. Now better marketing structures should also bring higher profits abroad. Today regional peculiarities are already taken into account when planning films, so the films can be better adapted to the interests of the audience.

A film today is a gigantic department store that has everything on offer: streaming rights, soundtrack, toys and even bed linen. That's why it's often more lucrative for funders today to produce a $ 200 million film that can then be marketed better than a relationship comedy for $ 20 million.

The stars in Hollywood

About 300,000 actors live in Los Angeles, but only five percent of them have a job in the film industry. Many are therefore waiters, artists or photographers in order to earn something on the side. Because only the superstars can really make a living from acting.

An actor's fee is based on the success of his films. In the mid-1980s and early 1990s, for example, Meg Ryan was the star in Hollywood after the blockbuster "Harry and Sally". She was then offered the leading roles in "Pretty Woman", "Ghost" and "The Silence of the Lambs", but declined all three.

Julia Roberts became a superstar with "Pretty Woman", Demi Moore's fees rose to over five million dollars after "Ghost" and Jodie Foster won an Oscar for "The Silence of the Lambs". Instead, Meg Ryan hit two flops with "Prelude to A Kiss" and "When A Man Loves A Woman". Since then she has never been able to build on her old success.

Hollywood makes stars, but drops them again just as quickly. Because ultimately, the dream factory is about money. The successful producer Don Simpson ("Top Gun", "Beverly Hills Cop") once said: "There is no obligation to go down in history or to make art. Our only obligation is to make money and to be able to make money "It may be important to go down in history or get involved in art or win a couple of Oscars because that's another ten million dollars more at the box office."