Magazine article American Cinematographer


Magazine article American Cinematographer


Article excerpt

The organization founded by visionary film craftsmen to further the progress of this newest of art forms, now, in its Golden Year, commands worldwide respect

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, represents one of the four major industries in Southern California's economy.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Census, the motion picture industry nationwide is a $5 billion-a-year business, with more than 200,000 employees earning about$1.5 billion.

As the major film center in the nation, Hollywood shares substantially in these figures. This, of course, impacts directly, or indirectly, on every segment of business in Southern California, because those in the film industry spend most of their income locally on food, clothing, shelter, transportation, health care and luxury items.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, the film industry practically dominated the economy of the southern half of the state, but since then, the economic base of the region has widened substantially, reducing the financial impact of the cinema industry on the business community.

Commercial film-making in Los Angeles began about 1909, and Hollywood rapidly became a Mecca for those interested in movie careers. Between 1900 and 1920, Hollywood's population zoomed from 500 residents to 50,000, with real estate prices skyrocketing.

While many movies were made in the giant film factories that sprang up around Hollywood, a lot of directors took their casts and crews into the field for authentic scenery, filming on location at desert, mountain and sea from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Early studios also existed in Santa Barbara and Long Beach.

By the mid-1940s, the artistic and technical excellence of Hollywoodmade movies was recognized throughout the world, and audiences were huge. In 1946, for example, 4,230,000,000 admission tickets were sold.

Having reached the pinnacle, the Hollywood movie industry could only proceed in one direction - down! The decline of Hollywood came through a number of factors. Taxes and higher costs, including labor, resulted in Hollywood moviemakers shifting productions to Europe and the Orient. Foreign film-makers began competing aggressively with U.S. films.

By 1968, so-called "runaway" film production had hurt Hollywood's movie labor pool seriously. Of Hollywood's 30,000 film union members, more than 12,000 - or more than 40 per cent were unemployed.

Ironically, television, which initially hurt movie attendance, starting in the mid-1950s, later helped stave-off total disaster. With its insatiable appetite for entertainment, television turned to the picturemakers. Hollywood's film factories soon were grinding out television films by the hundreds.

Hollywood moviemakers also adapted to the changing conditions. Where a major studio once made 60 pictures a year, the same studio might make only 15 today. But many of the films produced now are blockbusters, costing millions of dollars, featuring top name stars in profusion. They are also films that require large screens, not TVsized screens. Films like "The Towering Inferno", "Earthquake", "Jaws" and "Midway".

By 1975, the number of admission tickets sold had slipped to 1,035,000,000. But audiences, who once paid 40 cents for admission, today are willing to pay an average of $2.05 to see a movie. This domestic revenue is augmented by income from foreign screenings, accounting for about 50 per cent of the total earnings of the average film.

A recent survey disclosed that the total of moviegoers in America, age 12 and above, was 109 million people, of which 89 per cent were under 40. Since 1969, the number of moviegoers has increased by 15 per cent, while the civilian population went up by only 10 per cent.

"It bodes well for our industry's future that so many young people go to the movies," says Walter Mirisch, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a multiple Oscar-winning producer. …

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