The Hollywood film industry compels and receives universal attention, and for obvious reasons: for most of the last 100 years, Hollywood has set the terms of global film culture, and while that pre-eminence has frequently been criticised it has – notwithstanding the many other worldwide centres of cinematic excellence, some of them extremely successful – yet to be seriously challenged. Indeed, as I will repeatedly have cause to note in this book, an important dimension of Hollywood’s enduring success has been its facility in adopting and adapting the attributes and the technical and stylistic innovations of its competitors, from pre-World War I Italy and Scandinavia to Weimar Germany, through the European New Waves of the 1960s, and on to Bollywood and Hong Kong today.
Since the end of World War II above all, Hollywood has been without question the dominant global film industry. The seven decades since 1945 have certainly confronted American cinema with challenges and crises that could not easily have been – and were not – anticipated as the Hollywood studio system prepared in 1945 to enjoy the fruits of victory (Hollywood’s own contribution to the war effort having enhanced its public profile and reputation). Notwithstanding these challenges, and the era-defining social, political and economic changes that gave rise to them, by the end of the so-called ‘American century’ Hollywood’s worldwide dominance remained self-evident – indeed, in a largely borderless global economy the products of the American entertainment industry are more ubiquitous now than ever.
Yet today’s ‘Hollywood’ – that is, the ‘filmed entertainment’ divisions of the transnational media conglomerates NewsCorp, Sony, Time Warner, Walt Disney, GE1 and Viacom, alongside numerous ‘mini-majors’ and independent production companies of various kinds – and how it differs from the old studios of popular legend, remains obscure to most of its audience. This misunderstanding testifies partly to the confusing, ramified and multi-dimensional