The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History

By Lewis Jacobs | Go to book overview

XXI
NEW AFFILIATIONS AND CONSOLIDATIONS

THE ten years from 1929 to 1939 have been dire ones economically for the world at large and for the motion picture industry in particular. The industry's two major events in 1929--the stock- market crash and the acceptance of sound--had far-reaching effects upon industrial and financial organization in the movie world. Although they were radical in effect, they did not alter the character of movie making as big business, but rather extended its scope and concentrated its capital into a higher peak than ever before. Sound gave the medium its maturity, and the depression gave the industry its modern financial rank.

The merging and remerging of companies into fewer and larger producer-distributor-exhibitor corporations had gone on merrily in the post-war decade, the bulk of power being centralized more and more in Wall Street. Upon the advent of sound, the enormous expense of installing sound equipment and undertaking the production of talking films required a further concentration of capital and put the motion picture industry, after a long and bitter battle, under the indirect control of the two dominating financial groups in the United States today--the Morgan group (telephone interests) and the Rockefeller group (radio interests). Between these two financial powers now rests the control of the motion picture industry.

The fight for theatres as the key to control of the market--a fight that had been raging since the war--came to a climax in 1929 when First National, completely weakened with the loss of its major theatre circuits to rivals, finally expired after Warner Brothers acquired its only remaining valuable circuit, the Stanley group. In

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