Hollywood's Conversion to Color: The Technological, Economic, and Aesthetic Factors
The near total conversion to color in the U.S. film industry between the late 1920s through the 1960s depended on three conditions: technological innovation, economic incentives, and public acceptance. In the early 1930s, unfavorable technological, economic, and aesthetic conditions prevailed, and the use of two-color Technicolor declined almost to nonexistence. Between 1935 and 1955, three-color feature films gradually increased from less than 1 percent to more than 50 percent of the total U.S. output.
Production/distribution costs and potential exhibition markets were economic factors that directly affected the rate of Hollywood's conversion to color film, and it was not until the 1950s that most technological and economic factors favored color over black-and-white films. Between 1955 and 1958 the film industry produced mostly black-and-white films to supply the new television market, which used black-and-white films almost exclusively. Television's conversion to color in the mid- to late 1960s opened up new markets for color feature films (between 1966 and 1970, U.S.-produced color feature films increased from 54 percent to 94 percent); and when network news programs began broadcasting in color in 1965-67, the old associations of color for fantasy and black-and-white for reality no longer obtained.