Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer

By Brian Taves | Go to book overview

6
The Prescient Failure

On June 18, 1915, the New York Times reported the plan of Harry E. Aitken, president of Mutual Film, to create a chain of theaters stretching across the country devoted to presenting movies at a charge of $2 for the best seats. Aitken had produced Birth of a Nation, which it was said cost $200,000, achieving a spectacle that was able to sell tickets at that price. He noted, “The once lowly movie…has grown in ten years from a few scattered nickelodeons into a combination that ranks fourth or fifth among the great business enterprises of the country. The annual earnings of the film interests are not far short of a billion dollars at present.”1 In addition to leasing a chain of theaters, Aitken’s new company, Triangle, would engage many stage stars, and conquer foreign lands on behalf of American motion picture making.2 Aitken planned to take over four hundred theaters in the United States, and up to two hundred overseas. Their acquisition was proving easy, because of a shortage of product.3 His view was that fewer but improved and more distinctive movies and shorts would serve the needs of the industry better than quantity, resulting in more heavily patronized theaters.4

The New York Motion Picture Corp. was largely bought out by Triangle.5 Aitken went to Wall Street and secured $4 million in capital, planning to make movies through the unit system with three vice presidents of production, representing the pinnacle of production as well as a range of talent. He signed D. W. Griffith, Mack Sennett, and Thomas Ince as art directors, directors general to make the pictures, each pro-

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Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Screen Classics ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part 1 - Beginnings, 1880–1912 15
  • 1 - Stage Apprenticeship 17
  • 2 - Starting in Films 23
  • Part 2 - Making a Reputation, 1912–1915 39
  • 3 - The Job of a Producer 41
  • 4 - Establishing a Studio 53
  • Part 3 - Innovations, 1914–1917 73
  • 5 - Generic Experimentation 75
  • 6 - The Prescient Failure 89
  • Part 4 - Paramount, 1917–1921 109
  • 7 - A Fresh Start 111
  • 8 - The Star Series 119
  • 9 - World War I and Specials 143
  • Part 5 - The Perils of An Independent, 1919–1924 159
  • 10 - Associated Producers, 1919–1921 161
  • 11 - The Inevitable Merger, 1921–1922 177
  • 12 - War with First National, 1922 189
  • 13 - The Studio Resumes Production, 1922–1923 199
  • 14 - Case Study of a Production and Its Personnel- Her Reputation, 1922–1923 211
  • 15 - Initial Distribution beyond First National, 1923 231
  • 16 - At the Crossroads, 1923–1924 247
  • 17 - The Steady Hum of Independent Production, 1924 255
  • Epilogue 271
  • Notes 283
  • Bibliography 343
  • Index 355
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