Studio system

Golden AgeHollywood's Golden Agestudio eraHollywood studio systemBig Fivecontract playercontract playersmajor studiosstudio contractC&C Television Corp.
The studio system (which was used during a period known as the Golden Age of Hollywood) is a method of film production and distribution dominated by a small number of "major" studios in Hollywood.wikipedia
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Classical Hollywood cinema

Golden AgeGolden Age of HollywoodHollywood's Golden Age
The Golden Age is a purely technical distinction and not to be confused with the style in film criticism known as Classical Hollywood cinema, a style of American film which developed from 1917 to 1963 and characterizes it to this day.
The primary changes in American film-making came from the film industry itself, with the height of the studio system.

Block booking

block out
Although the term is still used today as a reference to the systems and output of the major studios, historically the term refers to the practice of large motion picture studios between the 1920s and 1960s of (a) producing movies primarily on their own filmmaking lots with creative personnel under often long-term contract, and (b) dominating exhibition through vertical integration, i.e., the ownership or effective control of distributors and exhibition, guaranteeing additional sales of films through manipulative booking techniques such as block booking.
Block booking was the prevailing practice among Hollywood's major studios from the turn of the 1930s until it was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (1948).

United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.

Paramount Case1948 Supreme Court rulingcase against Paramount
The studio system was challenged under the anti-trust laws in a 1948 Supreme Court ruling which sought to separate production from the distribution and exhibition and ended such practices, thereby hastening the end of the studio system.
In the former, it remains a landmark decision in vertical integration cases; in the latter, it is responsible for putting an end to the old Hollywood studio system.

Universal Pictures

UniversalUniversal StudiosUniversal Film Manufacturing Company
Of these eight, five were fully integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel: Fox Film Corporation (later 20th Century Fox), Loew’s Incorporated (owner of America's largest theater circuit and parent company to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, and Warner Bros. Two majors—Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures—were similarly organized, though they never owned more than small theater circuits.
The new Universal studio was a vertically integrated company, with movie production, distribution and exhibition venues all linked in the same corporate entity, the central element of the Studio system era.

United Artists

UAUnited Artists Media GroupUnited Artists Pictures
The eighth of the Golden Age majors, United Artists, owned a few theaters and had access to two production facilities owned by members of its controlling partnership group, but it functioned primarily as a backer-distributor, loaning money to independent producers and releasing their films.
They were spurred on by established Hollywood producers and distributors who were tightening their control over actor salaries and creative decisions, a process that evolved into the studio system.

Columbia Pictures

ColumbiaColumbia Pictures CorporationColumbia TriStar
Of these eight, five were fully integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel: Fox Film Corporation (later 20th Century Fox), Loew’s Incorporated (owner of America's largest theater circuit and parent company to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, and Warner Bros. Two majors—Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures—were similarly organized, though they never owned more than small theater circuits.
It was one of the so-called "Little Three" among the eight major film studios of Hollywood's Golden Age.

Sound film

talkietalkiessound
The period stretching from the introduction of sound to the beginning of the demise of the studio system, 1927–1948, is referred to by some film historians as the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The following July, Case joined Fox Film, Hollywood's third largest studio, to found the Fox-Case Corporation.

Paramount Pictures

ParamountParamount StudiosParamount Home Entertainment
Of these eight, five were fully integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel: Fox Film Corporation (later 20th Century Fox), Loew’s Incorporated (owner of America's largest theater circuit and parent company to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, and Warner Bros. Two majors—Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures—were similarly organized, though they never owned more than small theater circuits.
This decision broke up Adolph Zukor's creation, with the theater chain being split into a new company, United Paramount Theaters, and effectively brought an end to the classic Hollywood studio system.

Film studio

movie studiostudiofilm studios
Although the term is still used today as a reference to the systems and output of the major studios, historically the term refers to the practice of large motion picture studios between the 1920s and 1960s of (a) producing movies primarily on their own filmmaking lots with creative personnel under often long-term contract, and (b) dominating exhibition through vertical integration, i.e., the ownership or effective control of distributors and exhibition, guaranteeing additional sales of films through manipulative booking techniques such as block booking.
Five large companies, 20th Century Fox, RKO Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer came to be known as the "Big Five," the "majors," or "the Studios" in trade publications such as Variety, and their management structures and practices collectively came to be known as the "studio system."

Cinema of the United States

HollywoodAmericanUnited States
The studio system (which was used during a period known as the Golden Age of Hollywood) is a method of film production and distribution dominated by a small number of "major" studios in Hollywood.
Movie-making was still a business, however, and motion picture companies made money by operating under the studio system.

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl ZanuckZanuckDaryl F. Zanuck
Although RKO was an exception, the heads of studios on the west coast, the 'movie moguls', had mostly been in place for some years: Louis B. Mayer at MGM, Jack L. Warner at Warner Bros., Adolph Zukor at Paramount, Darryl F. Zanuck (at 20th Century Fox from 1935), Carl Laemmle at Universal, and Harry Cohn at Columbia.
He played a major part in the Hollywood studio system as one of its longest survivors (the length of his career was rivaled only by that of Adolph Zukor).

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

MGMMGM Studiosmgm.com
Of these eight, five were fully integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel: Fox Film Corporation (later 20th Century Fox), Loew’s Incorporated (owner of America's largest theater circuit and parent company to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, and Warner Bros. Two majors—Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures—were similarly organized, though they never owned more than small theater circuits.
As the studio system faded in the late 1950s and 1960s, MGM's prestige faded with it. In 1957 (by coincidence, the year Mayer died), the studio lost money for the first time in its 34-year history.

Film Booking Offices of America

FBORobertson-ColeFBO Studios
In January, General Electric acquired a sizable interest in Film Booking Offices of America (FBO), a distributor and small production company owned by Joseph P. Kennedy, father of future president John F. Kennedy.
Kennedy soon brought stability to FBO, making it one of the most reliably profitable outfits in the minor leagues of the Hollywood studio system.

Lew Wasserman

Lew and Edie WassermanWasserman
(Because of Hollywood accounting, studios still received much of the revenue before any profit sharing; thus, they preferred 50% of profit to 10% of gross.) The larger paychecks also increased the power of talent agents such as Lew Wasserman of MCA, whose office was now nicknamed "Fort Knox".
Lewis Robert Wasserman (March 22, 1913 – June 3, 2002) was an American talent agent and studio executive, sometimes credited with creating and later taking apart the studio system in a career spanning more than six decades.

RKO Pictures

RKO Radio PicturesRKORKO Radio
Of these eight, five were fully integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel: Fox Film Corporation (later 20th Century Fox), Loew’s Incorporated (owner of America's largest theater circuit and parent company to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, and Warner Bros. Two majors—Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures—were similarly organized, though they never owned more than small theater circuits.
In its original incarnation, as RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. (a subsidiary of Radio-Keith-Orpheum, aka: RKO) it was one of the Big Five studios of Hollywood's Golden Age.

Keith-Albee-Orpheum

Keith Vaudeville CircuitKeith-AlbeeKAO theater
In October, through a set of stock transfers, RCA gained control of both FBO and the Keith-Albee-Orpheum theater chain; merging them into a single venture, it created the Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corporation, Sarnoff chairing the board.
In May 1928, a controlling portion of stock was sold to Joseph P. Kennedy, from whom it was purchased in October by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) as part of the deal, along with Film Booking Offices of America (FBO), that created the major motion picture studio Radio Keith Orpheum (RKO Pictures).

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. PicturesWarner BrothersWarner Bros. Entertainment
Of these eight, five were fully integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel: Fox Film Corporation (later 20th Century Fox), Loew’s Incorporated (owner of America's largest theater circuit and parent company to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, and Warner Bros. Two majors—Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures—were similarly organized, though they never owned more than small theater circuits.
It presents a complete view of the production process during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Heaven's Gate (film)

Heaven's GateHeaven’s GateHeaven
Meanwhile, the uncontrolled budget of Heaven's Gate (1980), and its limited box-office revenue, led to the sale of United Artists.
Its resulting financial problems and United Artists' consequent demise led to a move away from the brief 1970s period of director-driven film production in the American film industry, back toward greater studio control of films, as had been predominant in Hollywood until the late 1960s.

B movie

second featureB-movieB
At the beginning of the 1960s the major studios began to reissue older films for syndication and transformed into mainly producing telefilms and b-movies to supply TV's demand for programming.
The major studios, at first resistant to the double feature, soon adapted.

Harry Cohn

Harry
Although RKO was an exception, the heads of studios on the west coast, the 'movie moguls', had mostly been in place for some years: Louis B. Mayer at MGM, Jack L. Warner at Warner Bros., Adolph Zukor at Paramount, Darryl F. Zanuck (at 20th Century Fox from 1935), Carl Laemmle at Universal, and Harry Cohn at Columbia.
Along with Jack Warner, Cohn was the last Hollywood movie mogul of the studio system era, retaining power after the departures of such rivals as Darryl F. Zanuck and Louis B. Mayer.

George Lucas

LucasGeorge Luca$George Lucas Award
The onset of George Lucas's Star Wars (1977) became the prototype for the modern blockbuster.
In 1969, Lucas co-founded the studio American Zoetrope with Coppola—whom he met during his internship at Warner Bros.—hoping to create a liberating environment for filmmakers to direct outside the perceived oppressive control of the Hollywood studio system.

Independent film

independentindieindie film
As these films risk losing money at the box-office (and some, in fact, have), an opportunity opened up for independent companies to produce films that in recent years have upset other major studio films for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Though these decisions succeeded at legalizing independent film, they would do little to remedy the de facto ban on small productions; the independent filmmakers who had fled to Southern California during the enforcement of the trust had already laid the groundwork for the studio system of classical Hollywood cinema.

Cary Grant

GrantCary GraniteArchibald Leach
Cary Grant, for example, received more than $700,000 from his 10% of the gross for To Catch a Thief (1955), while director and producer Alfred Hitchcock received less than $50,000.
Grant was one of the first actors to go independent by not renewing his studio contract, effectively leaving the studio system, which almost completely controlled all aspects of an actor's life.

Pre-Code Hollywood

pre-CodePre codepre-Code film
*Pre-Code Hollywood
Studio system

Filmmaking

filmmakerfilm productionproduction
Although the term is still used today as a reference to the systems and output of the major studios, historically the term refers to the practice of large motion picture studios between the 1920s and 1960s of (a) producing movies primarily on their own filmmaking lots with creative personnel under often long-term contract, and (b) dominating exhibition through vertical integration, i.e., the ownership or effective control of distributors and exhibition, guaranteeing additional sales of films through manipulative booking techniques such as block booking.