Throughout the history of cinema the centre of the film industry in the United States of America has always been in Hollywood. Located in Los Angeles, Southern California, there were a number of initial factors which made Hollywood the ideal place to centralise such a business. Principal among these was the Mediterranean-type climate that provided long, bright sunny days, which was important for perfect lighting conditions in early cinema (Cooper, Hall and Wannamaker 2008). As time progressed, camera and lighting technologies improved and these reasons for the location’s prominence in the industry no longer existed, and yet Hollywood has prevailed. Not only has it retained its dominance in the US market but it has also gained more and more of the world’s film market, to become the dominant location in the industry at an international level. The centralisation of talent, technology and resources are all contributing factors to why the film industry remains so firmly located in Hollywood but another key factor, that is critical to Hollywood’s continued dominance, is capital.
The “Big 5” studios – 20th Century Fox, RKO, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros and MGM – were all located in Los Angeles and by the 1920s they had a firm control of the industry from the ground up (Nelmes 1996). This control was retained by a system of vertical integration, which incorporated every aspect of the industry from production to distribution. Systems like block booking and blind-buying were employed by these big studios to keep smaller companies and independent productions from gaining a firm foothold in the national film industry. This practice severely limited the amount of choice and information independent cinemas could have about the types of films they bought exhibition rights for, and was the industry norm until 1948 when the smaller firms took legal action against this practice. This landmark case resulted in what is now known as the ‘Paramount Decree,’ which ordered the cessation of such practices under anti-trust law (Caves 2000).
The decision was made in the interest of protecting the industry from concentration of ownership and the aftermath of this result meant that the big production companies could no longer operate a monopoly in the distribution and exhibition of films. They sought out other sources of revenue and quickly began to stake out a financial interest in television. By the mid 1950s these companies had firmly established themselves in the television production industry. It is easy to argue that from this point on the industry was no longer simply a ‘film industry’, but I will argue that the industries primary product has always been profit, rather than art, and that it is deeply invested in the manufacture of ideology and consent.