The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

ests under-represented either in Hollywood or in the mainstream of European cinema itself.

Three sorts of argument therefore came to be deployed in the defence of national cinemas against Hollywood domination: the straightforwardly economic; the national-cultural; and the 'new cinema' argument, whose national rhetoric masked a more urgent concern for change. Economic arguments tended to be the most persuasive-though it was well known that wholesale protection for an industry in the form of tariffs and quotas ran the risk of retaliation from the Americans, as well as encouraging poor-quality domestic production. Cultural arguments began to make headway at the end of the 1950s, when it was realized that a more limited form of support for 'art' and 'quality' could satisfy cultural aspirations without negative economic effects. When De Gaulle returned to power in 1958, with André Malraux as his Minister for Culture, the French government instituted a new system of support for the cinema, designed to encourage quality films which had at least a reasonable chance of box-office returns. Although intended to shore up the mainstream quality tradition and reaffirm French national values in the cinema, the new system proved particularly beneficial to producers willing to back the young and iconoclastic film-makers of the emerging New Wave.

Selective forms of government support were also to play a role in the development of new cinemas in Italy and Germany-and indeed in countries throughout the world where the cinema was regarded as a national cultural asset. Of the main film-producing nations, Britain alone persisted in a completely non-selective support policy, mechanically redistributing a proportion of exhibitors' revenue from all films to 'British' producers on the sole criterion of box-office success. When first introduced in the late 1940s, the 'Eady levy', as it was called, had seemed a quite ingenious and painless way of supporting the sort of British cinema that existed at the time. By the end of the 1950s, however, that cinema was crumbling. By persisting with the levy, and rejecting culturally based calls for selective support for new enterprise, the government discouraged the growth of a new British cinema and helped turn Britain into Hollywood's bargain basement.


Hillier, Jim (ed.) ( 1985), Cahiers du cinéma: The 1950s.

Jarvie, Ian ( 1992), Hollywood's Overseas Campaign.

Jeancolas, Jean-Pierre ( 1988), D'un cinéma é é'autre.

Quaglietti, Lorenzo ( 1980), Storia economico-politica del cinema italiano, 1945-80.

Transformation of the Hollywood System


In the years after the Second World War, the Hollywood film industry underwent a major transformation. Increased competition from foreign films, the decline of cinema audiences, and attacks on the studio structure by government agencies led to a loss of revenue which crippled the American industry, and forced it into rapid and profound change. Perhaps the most important shift began in the late 1940s, when audiences at US movie houses began to fall. By the early 1960s they were half what they had been during the glory days, and thousands of formerly flourishing theatres had closed forever.

This decline cannot simply be blamed on the rise of television, as it began five years before television existed as a viable alternative to movie-going. After the Second World War there was a demographic and cultural shift in urban America that profoundly altered the leisure patterns of US society. People were cashing in the savings bonds accumulated during the war and buying houses in the suburbs, accelerating a trend which had begun at the turn of the century. This took away the demographic heart of the film-going audience. Suburbanization also raised the cost of going out to the movies; upon relocation it became inconvenient and expensive to travel to the centre of town simply to see a film.

The Hollywood studios were not oblivious to these trends. They saw the need to provide new suburban theatres, and, once the necessary building materials became available, began the process of constructing 4,000 driveins throughout the USA. The drive-in theatre offered a pleasant, open space where movie fans in parked cars could watch double features on a massive screen. By June 1956, at the very height of suburbanization and the babyboom, for the first time more people in the USA went to the drive-ins than to traditional 'hard-top' theatres.

A more permanent solution arrived with the shopping centre theatre. As new malls opened in record numbers during the 1960s, the locus of movie attendance permanently shifted. With acres of free parking and ideal access for the car, shopping centres generally included a multiplex with five or more screens.

The shift of movie houses out of town centres and into the suburbs where the audience was now located did


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The Oxford History of World Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Contents xi
  • Special Features xv
  • List of Colour Illustrations xvii
  • General Introduction xix
  • 1 - Silent Cinema 1895-1930 1
  • Origins and Survival 6
  • Early Cinema 13
  • Transitional Cinema 23
  • The Hollywood Studio System 43
  • The World-Wide Spread of Cinema 53
  • The First World War and the Crisis in Europe 62
  • Tricks and Animation 71
  • Comedy 78
  • Documentary 86
  • Cinema and the Avant-Garde 95
  • Serials 105
  • French Silent Cinema 112
  • Italy- Spectacle and Melodrama 123
  • British Cinema from Hepworth to Hitchcock 130
  • Germany- The Weimar Years 136
  • The Scandinavian Style 151
  • Pre-Revolutionary Russia 159
  • The Soviet Union and the Russian émigrés 162
  • Yiddish Cinema in Europe 174
  • Japan- Before the Great Kanto Earthquake 177
  • Music and the Silent Film 183
  • The Heyday of the Silents 192
  • 2 - Sound Cinema 1930-1960 205
  • The Introduction of Sound 211
  • Hollywood- The Triumph of the Studio System 220
  • Censorship and Self-Regulation 235
  • The Sound of Music 248
  • Technology and Innovation 259
  • Animation 267
  • Cinema and Genre 276
  • The Western 286
  • The Musical 294
  • Crime Movies 304
  • The Fantastic 312
  • Documentary 322
  • Socialism, Fascism, and Democracy 333
  • The Popular Art of French Cinema 344
  • Italy from Fascism to Neo-Realism 353
  • Britain at the End of Empire 361
  • Germany- Nazism and after 374
  • East Central Europe before the Second World War 383
  • Soviet Film under Stalin 389
  • Indian Cinema- Origins to Independence 398
  • China before 1949 409
  • The Classical Cinema in Japan 413
  • The Emergence of Australian Film 422
  • Cinema in Latin America 427
  • After the War 436
  • Transformation of the Hollywood System 443
  • Independents and Mavericks 451
  • 3 - The Modern Cinema 1960-1995 461
  • Television and the Film Industry 466
  • The New Hollywood 475
  • New Technologies 483
  • Sex and Sensation 490
  • The Black Presence in American Cinema 497
  • Exploitation and the Mainstream 509
  • Dreams and Nightmares in the Hollywood Blockbuster 516
  • Cinéma-Vérité and the New Documentary 527
  • Avant-Garde Film- The Second Wave 537
  • Animation in the Post-Industrial Era 551
  • Modern Film Music 558
  • Art Cinema 567
  • New Directions in French Cinema 576
  • Italy- Auteurs and after 586
  • Spain after Franco 596
  • British Cinema- The Search for Identity 604
  • The New German Cinema 614
  • East Germany- The Defa Story 627
  • Changing States in East Central Europe 632
  • Russia after the Thaw 640
  • Cinema in the Soviet Republics 651
  • Turkish Cinema 656
  • The Arab World 661
  • The Cinemas of Sub-Saharan Africa 667
  • Iranian Cinema 672
  • India- Filming the Nation 678
  • Indonesian Cinema 690
  • China after the Revolution 693
  • Popular Cinema in Hong Kong 704
  • Taiwanese New Cinema 711
  • The Modernization of Japanese Film 714
  • New Australian Cinema 722
  • New Zealand Cinema 731
  • Canadian Cinema/Cinéma Canadien 731
  • New Cinemas in Latin America 740
  • New Concepts of Cinema 750
  • The Resurgence of Cinema 759
  • Index 785
  • List of Picture Sources 823


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