Going to the movies is one of the most common hangouts for Americans. In fact, watching movies together has even become a family tradition for most. Whether watching Christmas movies each winter or going to the theater to watch the latest summer action film, Americans love watching their movies. It’s common knowledge that Hollywood plays a central role in the film industry. But did you know that Thomas Edison came close to monopolizing the film industry in America? In this post, we are going to explore several facets of knowledge regarding California’s role in the film industry.
Film interjected itself into the entertainment industry during the 20th century, and it became popular when filmmakers moved to California. Before this move, Thomas Edison nearly had a monopoly on the film industry with his Motion Picture Patents Company. This company, located in New Jersey, was the main film distributor and the top supplier for film stock. Although Motion Picture Patents Company was at the top of the film industry during the early 1900’s, their strict regulations frustrated filmmakers. Originally, they forced filmmakers to produce movies that used only one reel of film, which stored just 13-17 minutes of film! These unacceptable restrictions ultimately made filmmakers move west, and California was their choice of destination.
The weather was far more ideal (and consistent) than the weather on the East Coast, and filmmakers were not at risk of being sued by Edison’s film company for not following their regulations. By 1912, all of the major filmmakers had moved shop to Southern California. The first film studio in Hollywood was the Nestor Company, which was established in 1911. The four major film studios–Paramount, Warner Bros., RKO, and Columbia–created studios in Hollywood, and during the 1920’s, Hollywood’s movie industry became the fifth largest industry in America!
Before these film studios kick-started the industry, there were storefront theaters called “nickelodeons” because their short films only cost a nickel. But when these film studios were built in Hollywood, the film industry really took off. Moviemakers from Europe moved to California after World War I, and Hollywood’s film studios also attracted actors from New York City’s stage life. Sound began to be used by Hollywood’s studios during the 1920’s, and this new feature propelled Hollywood to success. During the early stages of Hollywood, filmmakers stuck to five main categories of film–Westerns, Slapstick Comedies, Musicals, Cartoons, and Biographies. This early stage in Hollywood’s existence reached its zenith during the 1940’s, during which studios created about 400 movies a year! And Americans loved it; about 90 million people watched one movie a week!
The 1950’s through the 1980’s marked a new era for Hollywood. A new generation of directors came of age during this time, and with their coming of age, came new ways by which the art of film would interact with its audience.
The rest, they say, is history. Movies became bigger and bigger for Americans. VHS Tapes brought the medium into Americans’ homes in the 1980’s. And filmmakers took advantage of the widescreen format to make their movies look even better. As you can see, moving to California was the best decision that moviemakers have ever made! Hollywood has been the central source of our favorite movies and shows for over one hundred years, and it will likely stay at the center of the film industry for decades to come.