The American Movie Industry: The Business of Motion Pictures

By Gorham Anders Kindem | Go to book overview

Introduction

Why study American film industry history? The study of cinema history can provide an insight into current film problems. Film is an important contemporary art form and communications medium, with a rich aesthetic tradition; but it is also a major entertainment business and industry. Feature films are both cultural and commercial products; and owing to this duality economic considerations are inextricably interwoven with political, social, and aesthetic aspects of film history. Study of the American feature-film industry, which has played a significant role in cinema history, provides a unique opportunity for both students and scholars to examine the complex interaction of these factors from an0 industrial perspective.

The American film industry has traditionally dominated world featurefilm markets, but its economic success has also been the object of scorn and concern both at home and abroad. While some of these objections to American film-industry practice are simply expressions of envy on the part of less successful competitors, others are legitimate concerns about industry priorities, such as the pursuit of profits at the expense of art, culture, or social well being. Certain public interest groups, independent domestic and foreign film businesses, and government agencies have been genuinely concerned about the structure of the American featurefilm industry, the concentration of power in the hands of a few, and the content of American films. Films, they argue, are cultural and aesthetic artifacts that have social and political effects. They are not commercial products pure and simple, although the American courts defined films in this way until 1952, prohibiting them from participating in First Amendment protections against censorship. This tension between film culture and film commerce lies at the heart of American film-industry history and makes the study of this subject of particular interest to students and scholars of arts' management and business in general.

While the feature-film industry has experienced much economic success during the past century, it is important to keep its financial status and

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