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The cinema of the United States, consisting mainly of major film studios (also known metonymously as Hollywood) along with some independent films, has had a large effect on the global film industry since the early 20th century. The dominant style of American cinema is classical Hollywood cinema, which developed from 1910 to 1962 and is still typical of most films made there to this day. While Frenchmen Auguste and Louis Lumière are generally credited with the birth of modern cinema, American cinema soon came to be a dominant force in the emerging industry. With more than 600 English-language films released on average every year As of 2017[update], it produced the fourth-largest number of films of any national cinema, after India, Japan, and China. While the national cinemas of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand also produce films in the same language, they are not part of the Hollywood system. Because of this, Hollywood has also been considered a transnational cinema, and has produced multiple language versions of some titles, often in Spanish or French. Contemporary Hollywood often outsources production to the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The major film studios of Hollywood are the primary source of the most commercially successful and most ticket-selling movies in the world.
|Cinema of the United States
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|14 per 100,000 (2017)
|Produced feature films (2016)
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Hollywood is considered to be the oldest film industry, in the sense of being the place where the earliest film studios and production companies emerged. It is the birthplace of various genres of cinema—among them comedy, drama, action, the musical, romance, horror, science fiction,[dubious – discuss] and the epic—and has set the example for other national film industries.
During 1878, Eadweard Muybridge demonstrated the power of photography to capture motion. In 1894, the world's first commercial motion-picture exhibition was given in New York City, using Thomas Edison's kinetoscope. In the following decades, production of silent film greatly expanded, studios formed and migrated to California, and films and the stories they told became much longer. The United States produced the world's first sync-sound musical film, The Jazz Singer, in 1927, and was at the forefront of sound-film development in the following decades. Since the early 20th century, the U.S. film industry has primarily been based in and around the thirty-mile zone centered in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles County, California. Director D. W. Griffith was central to the development of a film grammar. Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941) is frequently cited in critics' polls as the greatest film of all time.
Many of Hollywood's highest-grossing movies have generated more box-office revenue and ticket sales outside the United States than films made elsewhere. The United States is a leading pioneer in motion picture engineering and technology.
Origins and Fort Lee
The first recorded instance of photographs capturing and reproducing motion was a series of photographs of a running horse by Eadweard Muybridge, which he took in Palo Alto, California, using a set of still cameras placed in a row. Muybridge's accomplishment led inventors everywhere to attempt to make similar devices. In the United States, Thomas Edison was among the first to produce such a device, the kinetoscope.
The history of cinema in the United States can trace its roots to the East Coast where, at one time, Fort Lee, New Jersey, was the motion-picture capital of America. The industry got its start at the end of the 19th century with the construction of Thomas Edison's "Black Maria", the first motion-picture studio in West Orange, New Jersey. The cities and towns on the Hudson River and Hudson Palisades offered land at costs considerably less than New York City across the river and benefited greatly as a result of the phenomenal growth of the film industry at the turn of the 20th century.
The industry began attracting both capital and an innovative workforce. In 1907, when the Kalem Company began using Fort Lee as a location for filming in the area, other filmmakers quickly followed. In 1909, a forerunner of Universal Studios, the Champion Film Company, built the first studio. Others quickly followed and either built new studios or leased facilities in Fort Lee. In the 1910s and 1920s, film companies such as the Independent Moving Pictures Company, Peerless Studios, The Solax Company, Éclair Studios, Goldwyn Picture Corporation, American Méliès (Star Films), World Film Company, Biograph Studios, Fox Film Corporation, Pathé Frères, Metro Pictures Corporation, Victor Film Company, and Selznick Pictures Corporation were all making pictures in Fort Lee. Such notables as Mary Pickford got their start at Biograph Studios.
In New York, the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, which was built during the silent film era, was used by the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields. The Edison Studios were located in the Bronx. Chelsea, Manhattan, was also frequently used. Other Eastern cities, most notably Chicago and Cleveland, also served as early centers for film production. In the West, California was already quickly emerging as a major film production center. In Colorado, Denver was home to the Art-O-Graf film company, and Walt Disney's early Laugh-O-Gram animation studio was based in Kansas City, Missouri. Picture City, Florida, was a planned site for a movie picture production center in the 1920s, but due to the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane, the idea collapsed and Picture City returned to its original name of Hobe Sound. An attempt to establish a film production center in Detroit also proved unsuccessful.
The film patents wars of the early 20th century helped facilitate the spread of film companies to other parts of the US, outside New York. Many filmmakers worked with equipment for which they did not own the rights to use. Therefore, filming in New York could be dangerous as it was close to Edison's company headquarters, and close to the agents who the company set out to seize cameras. By 1912, most major film companies had set up production facilities in Southern California near or in Los Angeles because of the region's favorable year-round weather.
Rise of Hollywood
The 1908 Selig Polyscope Company production of The Count of Monte Cristo directed by Francis Boggs and starring Hobart Bosworth was claimed as the first to have been filmed in Los Angeles, in 1907, with a plaque being unveiled by the city in 1957 at Dearden's flagship store on the corner of Main Street and 7th Street, to mark the filming on the site when it had been a Chinese laundry. Bosworth's widow suggested the city had got the date and location wrong, and that the film was actually shot in nearby Venice, which at the time was an independent city. Boggs' In the Sultan's Power for Selig Polyscope, also starring Bosworth, is considered the first film shot entirely in Los Angeles, with shooting at 7th and Olive Streets in 1909.
In early 1910, director D. W. Griffith was sent by the Biograph Company to the west coast with his acting troupe, consisting of actors Blanche Sweet, Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore and others. They started filming on a vacant lot near Georgia Street in downtown Los Angeles. While there, the company decided to explore new territories, traveling several miles north to Hollywood, a little village that was friendly and enjoyed the movie company filming there. Griffith then filmed the first movie ever shot in Hollywood, In Old California, a Biograph melodrama about California in the 19th century, when it belonged to Mexico. Griffith stayed there for months and made several films before returning to New York. Also in 1910, Selig Polyscope of Chicago established the first film studio in the Los Angeles area in Edendale and the first studio in Hollywood opened in 1912.: 447 After hearing about Griffith's success in Hollywood, in 1913, many movie-makers headed west to avoid the fees imposed by Thomas Edison, who owned patents on the movie-making process. Nestor Studios of Bayonne, New Jersey, built the first studio in the Hollywood neighborhood in 1911.[dubious – discuss] Nestor Studios, owned by David and William Horsley, later merged with Universal Studios; and William Horsley's other company, Hollywood Film Laboratory, is now the oldest existing company in Hollywood, now called the Hollywood Digital Laboratory. California's more hospitable and cost-effective climate led to the eventual shift of virtually all filmmaking to the West Coast by the 1930s. At the time, Thomas Edison owned almost all the patents relevant to motion picture production and movie producers on the East Coast acting independently of Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company were often sued or enjoined by Edison and his agents while movie makers working on the West Coast could work independently of Edison's control.
In Los Angeles, the studios and Hollywood grew. Before World War I, films were made in several American cities, but filmmakers tended to gravitate towards southern California as the industry developed. They were attracted by the warm climate and reliable sunlight, which made it possible to film their films outdoors year-round and by the varied scenery that was available. War damage contributed to the decline of the then-dominant European film industry, in favor of the United States, where infrastructure was still intact. The stronger early public health response to the 1918 flu epidemic by Los Angeles compared to other American cities reduced the number of cases there and resulted in a faster recovery, contributing to the increasing dominance of Hollywood over New York City. During the pandemic, public health officials temporarily closed movie theaters in some jurisdictions, large studios suspended production for weeks at a time, and some actors came down with the flu. This caused major financial losses and severe difficulties for small studios, but the industry as a whole more than recovered during the Roaring Twenties.
In the early 20th century, when the medium was new, many Jewish immigrants found employment in the US film industry. They were able to make their mark in a brand-new business: the exhibition of short films in storefront theaters called nickelodeons, after their admission price of a nickel (five cents). Within a few years, ambitious men like Samuel Goldwyn, William Fox, Carl Laemmle, Adolph Zukor, Louis B. Mayer, and the Warner Brothers (Harry, Albert, Samuel, and Jack) had switched to the production side of the business. Soon they were the heads of a new kind of enterprise: the movie studio. The US had at least two female directors, producers and studio heads in these early years: Lois Weber and French-born Alice Guy-Blaché. They also set the stage for the industry's internationalism; the industry is often accused of Amerocentric provincialism.
Other moviemakers arrived from Europe after World War I: directors like Ernst Lubitsch, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang and Jean Renoir; and actors like Rudolph Valentino, Marlene Dietrich, Ronald Colman, and Charles Boyer. They joined a homegrown supply of actors—lured west from the New York City stage after the introduction of sound films—to form one of the 20th century's most remarkable growth industries. At motion pictures' height of popularity in the mid-1940s, the studios were cranking out a total of about 400 movies a year, seen by an audience of 90 million Americans per week.
Sound also became widely used in Hollywood in the late 1920s. After The Jazz Singer, the first film with synchronized voices was successfully released as a Vitaphone talkie in 1927, Hollywood film companies would respond to Warner Bros. and begin to use Vitaphone sound—which Warner Bros. owned until 1928—in future films. By May 1928, Electrical Research Product Incorporated (ERPI), a subsidiary of the Western Electric company, gained a monopoly over film sound distribution.
A side effect of the "talkies" was that many actors who had made their careers in silent films suddenly found themselves out of work, as they often had bad voices or could not remember their lines. Meanwhile, in 1922, US politician Will H. Hays left politics and formed the movie studio boss organization known as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA). The organization became the Motion Picture Association of America after Hays retired in 1945.
In the early times of talkies, American studios found that their sound productions were rejected in foreign-language markets and even among speakers of other dialects of English. The synchronization technology was still too primitive for dubbing. One of the solutions was creating parallel foreign-language versions of Hollywood films. Around 1930, the American companies[which?] opened a studio in Joinville-le-Pont, France, where the same sets and wardrobe and even mass scenes were used for different time-sharing crews.
Also, foreign unemployed actors, playwrights, and winners of photogenia contests were chosen and brought to Hollywood, where they shot parallel versions of the English-language films. These parallel versions had a lower budget, were shot at night and were directed by second-line American directors who did not speak the foreign language. The Spanish-language crews included people like Luis Buñuel, Enrique Jardiel Poncela, Xavier Cugat, and Edgar Neville. The productions were not very successful in their intended markets, due to the following reasons:
- The lower budgets were apparent.
- Many theater actors had no previous experience in cinema.
- The original movies were often second-rate themselves since studios expected that the top productions would sell by themselves.
- The mix of foreign accents (Castilian, Mexican, and Chilean for example in the Spanish case) was odd for the audiences.
- Some markets lacked sound-equipped theaters.
Classical Hollywood cinema and the Golden Age of Hollywood
Classical Hollywood cinema, or the Golden Age of Hollywood, is defined as a technical and narrative style characteristic of American cinema from 1913 to 1962, during which thousands of movies were issued from the Hollywood studios. The Classical style began to emerge in 1913, was accelerated in 1917 after the U.S. entered World War I, and finally solidified when the film The Jazz Singer was released in 1927, ending the silent film era and increasing box-office profits for film industry by introducing sound to feature films.
Most Hollywood pictures adhered closely to a formula – Western, slapstick comedy, musical, animated cartoon, biographical – and the same creative teams often worked on films made by the same studio. For example, Cedric Gibbons and Herbert Stothart always worked on MGM films, Alfred Newman worked at 20th Century Fox for twenty years, Cecil B. De Mille's films were almost all made at Paramount, and director Henry King's films were mostly made for 20th Century Fox.
At the same time, one could usually guess which studio made which film, largely because of the actors who appeared in it; MGM, for example, claimed it had contracted "more stars than there are in heaven." Each studio had its own style and characteristic touches which made it possible to know this – a trait that rarely exists today.
For example, To Have and Have Not (1944) is notable not only for the first pairing of actors Humphrey Bogart (1899–1957) and Lauren Bacall (1924–2014), but because it was written by two future winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature: Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961), the author of the novel on which the script was nominally based, and William Faulkner (1897–1962), who worked on the screen adaptation.
After The Jazz Singer was released in 1927, Warner Bros. gained huge success and were able to acquire their own string of movie theaters, after purchasing Stanley Theaters and First National Productions in 1928. In contrast Loews theaters owned MGM since forming in 1924, while the Fox Film Corporation owned the Fox Theatre. RKO (a 1928 merger between Keith-Orpheum Theaters and the Radio Corporation of America) also responded to the Western Electric/ERPI monopoly over sound in films, and developed their own method, known as Photophone, to put sound in films.
Paramount, which acquired Balaban and Katz in 1926, would answer to the success of Warner Bros. and RKO, and buy a number of theaters in the late 1920s as well, and would hold a monopoly on theaters in Detroit, Michigan. By the 1930s, almost all of the first-run metropolitan theaters in the United States were owned by the Big Five studios—MGM, Paramount Pictures, RKO, Warner Bros., and 20th Century Fox.
Rise and decline of the studio system
Motion picture companies operated under the studio system. The major studios kept thousands of people on salary—actors, producers, directors, writers, stunt men, crafts persons, and technicians. They owned or leased Movie Ranches in rural Southern California for location shooting of westerns and other large-scale genre films, and the major studios owned hundreds of theaters in cities and towns across the nation in 1920 film theaters that showed their films and that were always in need of fresh material.
In 1930, MPPDA President Will Hays created the Hays (Production) Code, which followed censorship guidelines and went into effect after government threats of censorship expanded by 1930. However, the code was never enforced until 1934, after the Catholic watchdog organization The Legion of Decency—appalled by some of the provocative films and lurid advertising of the era later classified Pre-Code Hollywood- threatened a boycott of motion pictures if it did not go into effect. The films that did not obtain a seal of approval from the Production Code Administration had to pay a $25,000 fine and could not profit in the theaters, as the MPPDA controlled every theater in the country through the Big Five studios.
Throughout the 1930s, as well as most of the golden age, MGM dominated the film screen and had the top stars in Hollywood, and they were also credited for creating the Hollywood star system altogether. Some MGM stars included "King of Hollywood" Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore, Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jeanette MacDonald, Gene Raymond, Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland, and Gene Kelly. But MGM did not stand alone.
Another great achievement of American cinema during this era came through Walt Disney's animation company. In 1937, Disney created the most successful film of its time, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This distinction was promptly topped in 1939 when Selznick International created what is still, when adjusted for inflation, the most successful film of all time in Gone with the Wind.
Many film historians have remarked upon the many great works of cinema that emerged from this period of highly regimented filmmaking. One reason this was possible is that, with so many movies being made, not every one had to be a big hit. A studio could gamble on a medium-budget feature with a good script and relatively unknown actors: Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles (1915–1985) and often regarded as the greatest film of all time, fits this description. In other cases, strong-willed directors like Howard Hawks (1896–1977), Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980), and Frank Capra (1897–1991) battled the studios in order to achieve their artistic visions.
The apogee of the studio system may have been the year 1939, which saw the release of such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Only Angels Have Wings, Ninotchka and Midnight. Among the other films from the Golden Age period that are now considered to be classics: Casablanca, It's a Wonderful Life, It Happened One Night, the original King Kong, Mutiny on the Bounty, Top Hat, City Lights, Red River, The Lady from Shanghai, Rear Window, On the Waterfront, Rebel Without a Cause, Some Like It Hot, and The Manchurian Candidate.
The studio system and the Golden Age of Hollywood succumbed to two forces that developed in the late 1940s:
- a federal antitrust action that separated the production of films from their exhibition; and
- the advent of television.
In 1938, Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released during a run of lackluster films from the major studios, and quickly became the highest grossing film released to that point. Embarrassingly for the studios, it was an independently produced animated film that did not feature any studio-employed stars. This stoked already widespread frustration at the practice of block-booking, in which studios would only sell an entire year's schedule of films at a time to theaters and use the lock-in to cover for releases of mediocre quality.
Assistant Attorney General Thurman Arnold—a noted "trust buster" of the Roosevelt administration—took this opportunity to initiate proceedings against the eight largest Hollywood studios in July 1938 for violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The federal suit resulted in five of the eight studios (the "Big Five": Warner Bros., MGM, Fox, RKO and Paramount) reaching a compromise with Arnold in October 1940 and signing a consent decree agreeing to, within three years:
- Eliminate the block-booking of short film subjects, in an arrangement known as "one shot", or "full force" block-booking.
- Eliminate the block-booking of any more than five features in their theaters.
- No longer engage in blind buying (or the buying of films by theater districts without seeing films beforehand) and instead have trade-showing, in which all 31 theater districts in the US would see films every two weeks before showing movies in theaters.
- Set up an administration board in each theater district to enforce these requirements.
The "Little Three" (Universal Studios, United Artists, and Columbia Pictures), who did not own any theaters, refused to participate in the consent decree. A number of independent film producers were also unhappy with the compromise and formed a union known as the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers and sued Paramount for the monopoly they still had over the Detroit Theaters—as Paramount was also gaining dominance through actors like Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake, Betty Hutton, crooner Bing Crosby, Alan Ladd, and longtime actor for studio Gary Cooper too- by 1942. The Big Five studios did not meet the requirements of the Consent of Decree during WWII, without major consequence, but after the war ended they joined Paramount as defendants in the Hollywood antitrust case, as did the Little Three studios.
The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. that the major studios ownership of theaters and film distribution was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. As a result, the studios began to release actors and technical staff from their contracts with the studios. This changed the paradigm of film making by the major Hollywood studios, as each could have an entirely different cast and creative team.
The decision resulted in the gradual loss of the characteristics which made Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures, RKO Pictures, and 20th Century Fox films immediately identifiable. Certain movie people, such as Cecil B. DeMille, either remained contract artists until the end of their careers or used the same creative teams on their films so that a DeMille film still looked like one whether it was made in 1932 or 1956.
New Hollywood and post-classical cinema
Post-classical cinema is the changing methods of storytelling in the New Hollywood. It has been argued that new approaches to drama and characterization played upon audience expectations acquired in the classical period: chronology may be scrambled, storylines may feature "twist endings", and lines between the antagonist and protagonist may be blurred. The roots of post-classical storytelling may be seen in film noir, in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and in Hitchcock's storyline-shattering Psycho.
The New Hollywood is the emergence of a new generation of film school-trained directors who had absorbed the techniques developed in Europe in the 1960s as a result of the French New Wave; the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde marked the beginning of American cinema rebounding as well, as a new generation of films would afterwards gain success at the box offices as well. Filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, and William Friedkin came to produce fare that paid homage to the history of film and developed upon existing genres and techniques. Inaugurated by the 1969 release of Andy Warhol's Blue Movie, the phenomenon of adult erotic films being publicly discussed by celebrities (like Johnny Carson and Bob Hope), and taken seriously by critics (like Roger Ebert), a development referred to, by Ralph Blumenthal of The New York Times, as "porno chic", and later known as the Golden Age of Porn, began, for the first time, in modern American culture. According to award-winning author Toni Bentley, Radley Metzger's 1976 film The Opening of Misty Beethoven, based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (and its derivative, My Fair Lady), and due to attaining a mainstream level in storyline and sets, is considered the "crown jewel" of this 'Golden Age'.
At the height of his fame in the early 1970s, Charles Bronson was the world's No. 1 box office attraction, commanding $1 million per film. In the 1970s, the films of New Hollywood filmmakers were often both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. While the early New Hollywood films like Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider had been relatively low-budget affairs with amoral heroes and increased sexuality and violence, the enormous success enjoyed by Friedkin with The Exorcist, Spielberg with Jaws, Coppola with The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, Scorsese with Taxi Driver, Kubrick with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Polanski with Chinatown, and Lucas with American Graffiti and Star Wars, respectively helped to give rise to the modern "blockbuster", and induced studios to focus ever more heavily on trying to produce enormous hits.
The increasing indulgence of these young directors did not help. Often, they would go overschedule, and overbudget, thus bankrupting themselves or the studio. The three most notable examples of this are Coppola's Apocalypse Now and One From The Heart and particularly Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, which single-handedly bankrupted United Artists. However, Apocalypse Now eventually made its money back and gained widespread recognition as a masterpiece, winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes.
Rise of the modern blockbuster and independent films
This section is missing information about film as an artistic medium beyond being a form of technology or an entertainment product; cinematic styles such as, for instance, neo-noir and American Eccentric Cinema; Pixar; and the entire 1980s. (August 2023)
In the US, the PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984 to accommodate films that straddled the line between PG and R, which was mainly due to the controversies surrounding the violent content of the PG films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins (both 1984).
Film makers in the 1990s had access to technological, political and economic innovations that had not been available in previous decades. Dick Tracy (1990) became the first 35 mm feature film with a digital soundtrack. Batman Returns (1992) was the first film to make use of the Dolby Digital six-channel stereo sound that has since become the industry standard. Computer-generated imagery was greatly facilitated when it became possible to transfer film images into a computer and manipulate them digitally. The possibilities became apparent in director James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), in images of the shape-changing character T-1000. Computer graphics or CG advanced to a point where Jurassic Park (1993) was able to use the techniques to create realistic looking animals. Jackpot (2001) became the first film that was shot entirely in digital. In the film Titanic, Cameron wanted to push the boundary of special effects with his film, and enlisted Digital Domain and Pacific Data Images to continue the developments in digital technology which the director pioneered while working on The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Many previous films about the RMS Titanic shot water in slow motion, which did not look wholly convincing. Cameron encouraged his crew to shoot their 45-foot-long (14 m) miniature of the ship as if "we're making a commercial for the White Star Line".
|As compiled by The Numbers
Even The Blair Witch Project (1999), a low-budget indie horror film by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, was a huge financial success. Filmed on a budget of just $35,000, without any big stars or special effects, the film grossed $248 million with the use of modern marketing techniques and online promotion. Though not on the scale of George Lucas's $1 billion prequel to the Star Wars Trilogy, The Blair Witch Project earned the distinction of being the most profitable film of all time, in terms of percentage gross.
The success of Blair Witch as an indie project remains among the few exceptions, however, and control of The Big Five studios over film making continued to increase through the 1990s. The Big Six companies all enjoyed a period of expansion in the 1990s. They each developed different ways to adjust to rising costs in the film industry, especially the rising salaries of movie stars, driven by powerful agents. The biggest stars like Sylvester Stallone, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Kevin Bacon, and Julia Roberts received between $15–$20 million per film and in some cases were even given a share of the film's profits.
Screenwriters on the other hand were generally paid less than the top actors or directors, usually under $1 million per film. However, the single largest factor driving rising costs was special effects. By 1999 the average cost of a blockbuster film was $60 million before marketing and promotion, which cost another $80 million.
This section is missing information about other types of films other than superhero or blockbuster, discussion about studios other than the typical A-list, discussion regarding superhero fatigue, and information on the 2023 Hollywood labor disputes. (May 2023)
Since the beginning of 21st century, the theatrical market place has slowly been dominated by the superhero genre. As of 2022[update], they are the best-paying productions for actors, because paychecks in other genres have shrunk for even top actors.
In 2021, despite the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, blockbuster films such as Black Widow, F9, Death on the Nile and West Side Story were released in theaters after being postponed from their initial 2020 release dates.
Various studios responded to the crisis with controversial decisions to forgo the theatrical window and give their films day-and-date releases. NBCUniversal released Trolls World Tour directly to video-on-demand rental on April 10, while simultaneously receiving limited domestic theatrical screenings via drive-in cinemas; CEO Jeff Shell claims that the film had reached nearly $100 million in revenue within the first three weeks. The decision was opposed by AMC Theatres, which then announced that its screenings of Universal Pictures films would cease immediately, though the two companies would eventually agree to a 2-week theatrical window. By December 2020, Warner Bros. Pictures announced their decision to simultaneously release its slate of 2021 films in both theaters and its streaming site HBO Max for a period of one month in order to maximize viewership. The move was vehemently criticized by various industry figures, many of whom were reportedly uninformed of the decision before the announcement and felt deceived by the studio.
2019 onwards has seen the rise of American streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Disney+, Paramount+, and Apple TV+, which came to rival traditional cinema. Industry commentators have noted the increasing treatment of films as "content" by corporations that correlate with the increased popularity of streaming platforms. This involves the blurring of boundaries between films, television and other forms of media as more people consume them together in a variety of ways, with individual films defined more by their brand identity and commercial potential rather than their medium, stories and artistry. Critic Matt Zoller Seitz has described the release of Avengers: Endgame in 2019 as "represent[ing] the decisive defeat of 'cinema' by 'content'" due to its grand success as a "piece of entertainment" defined by the Marvel brand that culminates a series of blockbuster films that has traits of serial television.
The films Space Jam: A New Legacy and Red Notice have been cited as examples of this treatment, with the former being described by many critics as "a lengthy infomercial for HBO Max", featuring scenes and characters recalling various Warner Bros. properties such as Casablanca, The Matrix and Austin Powers, while the latter is a $200 million heist film from Netflix that critics described "a movie that feels more processed by a machine [...] instead of anything approaching artistic intent or even an honest desire to entertain." Some have expressed that Space Jam demonstrates the industry's increasingly cynical treatment of films as mere intellectual property (IP) to be exploited, an approach which critic Scott Mendelson called "IP for the sake of IP."
Martin Scorsese has warned that cinema as an art form is "being systematically devalued, sidelined, demeaned, and reduced" to "content" and called blockbusters' overemphasis on box-office returns "repulsive". Quentin Tarantino opined that the 2020s were one of the "worst" eras "in Hollywood history" on a podcast interview. During a masterclass at the 2023 Sarajevo Film Festival, Charlie Kaufman criticized mainstream blockbusters, stating that "[a]t this point, the only thing that makes money is garbage" and encouraged industry professionals to "make movies outside of the studio system as much as possible". James Gray noted in an interview with Deadline, "When you make movies that only make a ton of money and only one kind of movie, you begin to get a large segment of the population out of the habit of going to the movies", which causes viewership to decrease, though clarified that he has "no problem with a comic book movie". As a solution to the lack of "investment in the broad-based engagement with the product", he suggests that studios "be willing to lose money for a couple of years on art film divisions, and in the end they will be happier."
Hollywood and politics
In the 1930s, the Democrats and the Republicans saw money in Hollywood. President Franklin Roosevelt saw a huge partnership with Hollywood. He used the first real potential of Hollywood's stars in a national campaign. Melvyn Douglas toured Washington in 1939 and met the key New Dealers.
Endorsements letters from leading actors were signed, radio appearances and printed advertising were made. Movie stars were used to draw a large audience into the political view of the party. By the 1960s, John F. Kennedy was a new, young face for Washington, and his strong friendship with Frank Sinatra exemplified this new era of glamour. The last moguls of Hollywood were gone and younger, newer executives and producers began pushing more liberal ideas.
Celebrities and money attracted politicians into the high-class, glittering Hollywood lifestyle. As Ron Brownstein wrote in his book The Power and the Glitter, television in the 1970s and 1980s was an enormously important new media in politics and Hollywood helped in that media with actors making speeches on their political beliefs, like Jane Fonda against the Vietnam War. Despite most celebrities and producers being left-leaning and tending to support the Democratic Party, this era produced some Republican actors and producers such as Clint Eastwood and Jerry Bruckheimer. Support groups such as the Friends of Abe were set up to support conservative causes in Hollywood, which is perceived as biased against conservatives. Former actor Ronald Reagan became governor of California and subsequently became the 40th president of the United States. It continued with Arnold Schwarzenegger as California's governor in 2003.
Today, donations from Hollywood help to fund federal politics. On February 20, 2007, for example, Democratic then-presidential candidate Barack Obama had a $2,300-a-plate Hollywood gala, being hosted by DreamWorks founders David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg at the Beverly Hilton.
Native advertising is information designed to persuade in more subtle ways than classic propaganda. A modern example common in the United States is copaganda, in which TV shows display unrealistically flattering portrayals of law enforcement, in part to borrow equipment and get their assistance in blocking off streets to more easily film on location. Other reputation laundering accusations have been leveled in the entertainment industry, including the burnishing the image of the Mafia.
Product placement also has been a point of criticism, with the tobacco industry promoting smoking on screen. The Centers for Disease Control cites that 18% of teen smokers would not start smoking if films with smoking were automatically given an 'R' rating, which would save 1 million lives.
Hollywood producers generally seek to comply with the Chinese government's censorship requirements in a bid to access the country's restricted and lucrative cinema market, with the second-largest box office in the world as of 2016. This includes prioritizing sympathetic portrayals of Chinese characters in movies, such as changing the villains in Red Dawn from Chinese to North Koreans. Due to many topics forbidden in China, such as Dalai Lama and Winnie-the-Pooh being involved in the South Park's episode "Band in China", South Park was entirely banned in China after the episode's broadcast. The 2018 film Christopher Robin, the new Winnie-the-Pooh movie, was denied a Chinese release.
Although Tibet was previously a cause célèbre in Hollywood, featuring in films including Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet, in the 21st century this is no longer the case. In 2016, Marvel Entertainment attracted criticism for its decision to cast Tilda Swinton as "The Ancient One" in the film adaptation Doctor Strange, using a white woman to play a traditionally Tibetan character. Actor and high-profile Tibet supporter Richard Gere stated that he was no longer welcome to participate in mainstream Hollywood films after criticizing the Chinese government and calling for a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Hollywood also self-censored any negative depictions of Nazis for most of the 1930s in order to maintain access to German audiences. Around that time economic censorship resulted in the self-censoring of content to please the group wielding their economic influence. The Hays Code was an industry-led effort from 1930–1967 to strict self-censorship in order to appease religious objections to certain content and stave off any government censorship that could have resulted.