The Crucible Essays

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Many people are unaware that the greatest output of feature films in the US occurred in the 1920s and 1930s (averaging about 800 film releases in a year). Today, it is remarkable when production exceeds 500 films in a year. Even before the ‘Roaring Twenties,’ a sort of cinema had been discovered and used all over the world. Optical toys, shadow shows, 'magic lanterns’, and visual tricks have existed for thousands of years. Many inventors, scientists, manufacturers and scientists have observed the visual phenomenon that a series of individual still pictures set into motion created the illusion of movement-- a concept termed persistence of vision. A number of technologies, simple optical toys and mechanical inventions related to motion and vision were developed in the early to late 19th century that were precursors to the birth of the motion picture industry: the ‘magic lantern,’ thaumatrope, fantascope, daedalum, kinematoscope, phasmatrope, praxinotrope, zoopraxiscope, kinetoscope, and the kinetophonograph. (Dirks Film History Before 1920) Films really blossomed in the 1920s, expanding upon the foundations of film from earlier years. Most US film production at the start of the decade occurred in or near Hollywood on the West Coast. Throughout most of the decade, silent films were the predominant product of the film industry, having evolved from vaudevillian roots. But the films were becoming bigger, costlier, and more polished; they were being manufactured in Hollywood's 'entertainment factories,' in which production was broken down and organized into its various components. By the mid-20s, movies were big business (with a capital investment totaling over $2 billion) with some theatres offering double features. By the end of the decade, there were 20 Hollywood studios, and the demand for films was greater than ever.
In Hollywood, numerous small studios were taken over and made a part of larger studios, creating the Studio System that would run American filmmaking until the 1960s. Hollywood made it's big entrance in the film industry due to it's inexpensive real estate and sunny climate which greatly appealed to new up and coming film directors. It created a new lifestyle through hard work, emphasizing leisure activities, sports, and the club scene. Hollywood by itself was considered it's own separate ‘colony’ as it became the birthplace of the ‘studio.’ Studios were extremely important when it came to America's image of film making. They were extremely large, sky light buildings that had enormous laboratories, costume and research departments, acres of outdoor sets and contained miniature cities for movies. The studio system was essentially born with long-term contracts for stars, lavish production values, and increasingly rigid control of directors and stars by the studio's production chief and in-house publicity departments. The major studios, The Big Five, were those that had vertically integrated all aspects of a film's development. The Big Five studios included: Warner Bros. Pictures (Bugs Bunny), Paramount Pictures (Popeye), RKO Pictures (King Kong), MGM Pictures (Gone with the Wind and Wizard of Oz), and 20th-Century Fox (Shirley Temple films). (N.p. montgomerycollege.edu) These companies had vast studios with elaborate sets for film production; they owned their own film-exhibiting theatres, as well as production and distribution facilities. They distributed their films to this network of studio-owned, first-run theaters, mostly in urban areas, which charged high ticket prices and drew huge audiences. They required blind or block bookings of films, whereby theatre owners were required to rent a block of films in order for the studio to agree to distribute the one prestige picture that the theatre owner wanted to exhibit. This technique set the terms for a film's release and patterns of exhibition and guaranteed success for the studio's productions. Three smaller, minor studios were dubbed…