Tag Archives: Hollywood

1900s: Early Cinema in the United States

1900s: Early Cinema in the United States

This is the 1900s, pre-Hollywood era. The studios are still based mainly in New York but will move to Los Angeles not long after.

The Nickelodeon Boom

The main trend in the American film industry from 1905 to 1907 was the rapid multiplication of film theaters. These were typically small stores, installed with fewer than two hundred seats. Admission was usually a nickel (hence the term nickelodeon) or a dime for a program running fifteen to sixty minutes. Moviegoing had become less a novelty and more a regular entertainment. Film produc­ers took to renting rather than selling films. Since ex­hibitors no longer had to keep running the same films until they made back their purchase price, they could change their programs two, three, even seven times a week.

The Cascade Theater in Newcastle, Pennsylvania, was the first nickelodeon acquired by Jack, Albert, Sam, and Harry Warner. A sign promised:

«Refined Entertainment for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children.»

The Warners went on to careers in exhibition and production, eventually establishing Warner Bros. Carl Laemmle, later the founder of Universal, opened his first nickelodeon in Chicago in 1906. Louis B. Mayer, later of MGM (Metro-Goldwyn­ Mayer), ran a small theater in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Other studio executives who started out running nick­elodeons included Adolph Zukor (later head of Para­mount), William Fox (who formed the company that became 20th Century-Fox), and Marcus Loew (whose Loew’s was the parent company of MGM). These men would help create the basic structure of the Hollywood studio system during the 1910s.


Motion Picture Patents Corporation

Or how Thomas Edison was a dick about the film business

90% of the newspapers, magazines, TV stations, movie studios and online news sources we drink in are run by six massive corporations: Comcast, Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, Time-Warner and CBS. Is this a shocking warning signal of the deterioration of our Information Age? Or is it history repeating itself?

Back in the 1910s, the more established lead­ers of the industry consolidated power among them­selves and tried to exclude newcomers. They realized that control of the burgeoning film industry would be highly profitable.

Since 1897, the Edison company had tried to force its competitors out of business by suing them for patent infringement. After a court decision, some competitors agreed to pay Edison a fee to be able to go on producing (Association of Edison Licensees), but American Mutoscope & Biograph (AM&B) refused to because their camera had a different mechanism and was not subject to Edison’s patents and dealt with years of suing and litigations collecting money mainly from importers (Biograph Asso­ciation of Licensees).

There was Essanay Studios, the first major outfit to lure Charlie Chaplin away from his Mack Sennett roots with a thick, yummy contract. Kalem Studios, the first to try to make Ben Hur into a movie. Selig Studios, which launched the careers of Tom Mix and Harold Lloyd before gradually becoming a zoo (literally). Lubin, based out of Philadelphia. Vitagraph, which was later bought out by Warner Brothers and used to move Looney Tunes cartoons. And American Pathé, the US wing of France’s (and really Europe’s) biggest studio.

That was it, that was the Motion Picture Patents Company – six studios teaming up with Edison and setting up a system that would keep everyone else out of the business.


The oligopoly

But as the market approached chaos and less films were produced due to spending time in legal issues, Edison and AM&B decided to unite licensing forces and created in 1907-1908 the Motion Picture Patents Corporation (MPPC, also known as the Edison Trust). They also tried to limit importations and while Mélies, Pathé and Gaumont were ok, Italian films and Nordisk were banned.

The MPPC hoped to control all three phases of the industry: production, distribution, and exhibition. Only licensed companies could make films. Only licensed dis­tribution firms could release them. And all theaters want­ing films made by members of the MPPC had to pay a weekly fee for the privilege. Eastman Kodak agreed to sell film stock only to members of the MPPC, and in re­turn they would buy no stock except from Kodak.

The independents

That little loop meant functionality and protest.
That little loop meant functionality and protest.

But one third of theaters refused to pay the fee, serving a market for independent producers and distributors. In 1909, Carl Laemmle turned in his license and created the Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP), a small firm that would later form the basis of Universal Studios. These independent companies claimed to use cameras with different mechanisms, and thus the MPPC hired detectives to gain evidence that producers were using cameras with the Latham loop and other devices patented by the MPPC. But the second severe blow to the MPPC came when court ruled that the technique of the Latham film loop had been anticipated in earlier patents, so now everybody could use any kind of camera freely. Also in 1915, the American government ruled against the MPPC as a trust (a group of com­panies acting in unfair constraint of trade)… so there you go Edison, nice try.

Independent film companies had already been forming another oligopoly themselves, the new oligopoly that would become the Hollywood film industry. These were the plucky, fresh-faced independents who beat out Edison and the MPPC, and because of whom today we face a different oligopoly of media; not because of patent-related dickheadery, but because of an increasingly corporate culture, one that does not appear poised to change gears anytime soon. So… yeah.

The Independent "Pirates": Adolph Zukor (Paramount), William Fox (Twenty Century Fox), Carl Laemmle (Universal), Samuel Goldwyn (MGM), William Wadsworth Hodkinson (Paramount). Defied the law and didn
The Independent “Pirates”: Adolph Zukor (Paramount), William Fox (Twenty Century Fox), Carl Laemmle (Universal), Samuel Goldwyn (MGM), William Wadsworth Hodkinson (Paramount). Defied the law and didn’t pay Edison’s MPPC Patents.

1910: The Move to Hollywood

By 1910 productions began to move from New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Philadelphia to Florida and, especially, Los Angeles. The reasons were:

  • Weather: Its clear, dry weather permitted filming outdoors most days of the year.
  • Diversity of Locations: Southern California offered a variety of landscapes, including ocean, desert, mountain, forest, and hillside. Also, Westerns emerged as one of the most popular American genres and such films looked more authentic when filmed in the real West rather than in New Jersey.
  • Escaping the Patent Wars in New York
  • Assembly line of production:  Europe was devastated by war and could never catch up to Hollywood’s mass production industrial system were everything was controlled (production, distribution and exhibition).

Not only was Southern California the best guarantee of sunshine in the country, along with a bountiful variety of natural topography for different movie genres, but it was an entire nation away from Edison and the other MPPC companies, which were all located in the northeast. As an added bonus, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, was not known for enforcing patent law.


1920s: The Roaring Twenties

In contrast to this fiscal conservatism, society seemed to lose much of its restraint during the Roaring Twenties. The passage of the Volstead Act (1919), outlawing all forms of alcoholic beverages, led to the ex­cesses of the age of Prohibition. Bootleg liquor was readily available, and outing the law by visiting speakeasies or attending wild drinking parties became common even among the upper classes. The film industry benefited from the high level of capital available during this period, and its films reflected the fast pace of life in the Jazz Age and the arrival of sound to movies.

Vertical Integration

The most obvious indication of the growth of the film industry was its increasing vertical integration. The biggest firms jockeyed for power by combining produc­tion and distribution with expanding chains of theaters. This three-tiered vertical integration guaranteed that a company’s films would find distribution and ex­hibition. The bigger the theater chain owned by the firm, the wider its films’ exposure would be. In dealing with the theaters they did not own, they employed block booking, which meant that any ex­hibitor who wanted certain films with high box-office potential had to rent other, less desirable films from the same company.

Vertical integration was an important factor that contributed to Hollywood’s international power. During this same period, Germany was just beginning to develop a vertically integrated film industry. France’s leading firm, Pathé, was backing away from ver­tical integration by moving out of production. No other country developed a studio system as strong as that of the United States.

Big Three and Little Five

The vertically integrated firms that controlled big the­ater chains and constituted the Big Three at the top of the American film industry were:

  • Paramount-Publix,
  • Loew’s MGM, and
  • First National.

Trailing behind them, but still important, were the Little Five, firms that owned few or no theaters:

  • Universal,
  • Fox,
  • the Producers Distributing Corporation,
  • the Film Booking Office, and
  • Warner Bros.

Assembly line production style

The studios developed methods of making films as efficiently as possible. By 1914, most big firms had differentiated between the di­rector, who was responsible for shooting the film, and the producer, who oversaw the entire production. A series of films could be made simultaneously on sets built side by side. The labor of filmmaking was increasingly divided among expert practitioners. The continuity script also al­lowed people working on the film to coordinate their efforts, even though they might never communicate di­rectly with each other. Again, no other country could match Hollywood’s approach. Few firms employed so many different film specialists, and only a small number of studios outside the United States could boast of facilities as extensive as those of big companies like Paramount.


Previous: 1900s: The Beginnings of Cinema Industry in Europe
Next: Classical Hollywood Cinema

West Hollywood Halloween Carnival

West Hollywood Halloween Carnival

For a moment there Los Angeles felt like Berlin.

Careless, loud, colourful, free, gay, happy, boisterous, cheap, techno. And for a moment I was back, home. It is this awkward time of the year when girls dress up as sluts and guys dress up as girls. But some very interesting ideas too! West Hollywood was celebrating its annual Halloween parade on Santa Monica Boulevard, between Doheny Dr. and Holloway St. and this is what happened.

Scary Clown Photobombing
Scary Clown Photobombing
The whole family
The whole family
American Horror Story present!
American Horror Story present!
Some cool party going on there
Some cool party going on there
Even the Teletubbies were there!
Even the Teletubbies were there!
"Cheeky" policeman.
“Cheeky” policeman.
Ferrero + Cookie Dough + Banana = Best Shake Ever... or simply "Mr. Pink" at Millions of Milkshakes
Ferrero + Cookie Dough + Banana = Best Shake Ever… or simply “Mr. Pink” at Millions of Milkshakes
Hedy Lamarr: Beauty and the Brains

Hedy Lamarr: Beauty and the Brains

It seems the entire Internet recently discovered the Hedy Lamarr patent story. She would’ve been 100 on November 9th. Hedy Lamarr was a beautiful actress in the 1930′s-40′s, but also is the named co-inventor on patent number 2292387, on August 11th 1942, for an anti-jamming system for guiding torpedoes. The system relied on a frequency hopping scheme, employing a player piano roll to switch frequencies. Frequency hopping is a type of spread spectrum technology that eventually made its way into the modern cell phone.

Great story, right? Beautiful actress by day is secretly a brilliant inventor by night. Today, it’s clear that Lamarr was a seriously complicated and arguably awesome woman; for decades, she was just a broken, bitter lady, the spoiled wreckage of the star system.


Hollywood and Malibu

Hollywood and Malibu

On our second morning in LA, we figured we would go and learn about the movie studios all the way in Burbank (other side of the hills). For that we rented a convertible (yes, in december!), but I’m telling you about that on my next post, to be able to keep this one right under novel length —hehe.


On our way back we had time to visit the Hollywood area where classic movie stars used to live.

Homes of Betti Davis and Charles Chaplin
Homes of Betti Davis and Charles Chaplin
Homes of Fran Sinatra and Doris Day
Homes of Fran Sinatra and Doris Day
Homes of Jane Withers and Gourcho Marx
Homes of Jane Withers and Gourcho Marx
Homes of Judy Garland and Jean Harlow
Homes of Judy Garland and Jean Harlow
Homes of Marilyn Monroe and Kirk Douglas
Homes of Marilyn Monroe and Kirk Douglas

Hollywoodland Sign

The Hollywood sign

The HOLLYWOODLAND sign was erected in 1923 to advertise a new housing development in the hills above the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. In 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce contracted to repair and rebuild the sign. The contract stipulated that “LAND” be removed to reflect the district, not the housing development. Each letter of the sign is 10m wide and 15m high.

(1976) — The Hollywood sign was altered to read HOLLYWeeD in January 1976, following the passage of a state law decriminalizing marijuana.

Hollywood Sign Retoration

(2012) — Space Shuttle Endeavour makes its final flight to LAX on September 21, 2012 as it passes over Disney Hall and the Hollywood Sign.

Endeavor Shuttle - 2012

The sign is not accessible by car and you must park and keep on walking about an hour. Glad we asked because the sun was already coming down and we weren’t going to be able to make it, so guess what I discovered…

path to the sign

Ok, please don’t attempt that way if you’re not wearing proper shoes, and definitely not a tight mini skirt! Luckily no snakes were in our way, but we did see the warning signs.

down the hills - the difficult way

Back in Hollywood, mandatory stop at In-N-Out to try our first (and only) burger from this chain. I must say the burger is ok for a fast food bistro, but the fries are waaaaay too bad. If I ever go back to Cali I will try two burgers instead of a combo, as our acquaintance had. We met a moldavian guy there, married to an american and living with a green card for two years now. He told us about interesting highlights for our future stop in Las Vegas.


Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard is a street in Hollywood formerly named Prospect Avenue from 1887 until 1910, when the town of Hollywood was annexed by the City of Los Angeles.

In 1958 the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which runs from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue (and an additional three blocks on Vine Street), was created as a tribute to artists working in the entertainment industry.

In early 2006, the city made revamping plans on Hollywood Boulevard for future tourists. The three-part plan was to exchange the original streetlights with red stars into two-headed old-fashioned streetlights, put in new palm trees, and put in new stoplights. The renovations were completed in late 2006.

By the way, don’t drive a convertible without a ponytail:

when driving a convertible

Walk of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises more than 2,500 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street. The stars are permanent public monuments to achievement in the entertainment industry, bearing the names of a mix of actors, musicians, directors, producers, musical and theatrical groups, fictional characters, and others. The Walk of Fame is administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and maintained by the self-financing Hollywood Historic Trust. It is a popular tourist destination. Gene Autry (fun fact — he created the christmas carols “Rudolph the red nose reindeer” and “Here comes Santa”) is the only honoree with stars in all five categories.

Mickey Roony  and Judy Garland - 1940

Locations of individual stars are not necessarily random or arbitrary. Stars of most legendary and world-famous celebrities—the so-called “show business royalty”—are found in front of TCL (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre. Oscar winners’ stars are usually placed near the Dolby Theatre, site of the annual Academy Awards presentations. Decisions are occasionally made with a dollop of whimsy: Mike Myers’s star, for example, lies in front of an adult store called the International Love Boutique, an association with his Austin Powers roles, Roger Moore’s star is located at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard in recognition of his seven James Bond films, Ed O’Neill’s star is located outside a shoe store in reference to his character’s occupation on the TV show “Married…with Children”…

Walk of Fame

Hollywood Pacific Theater

In the picture, the Hollywood Pacific Theatre. A movie theatre located at 6433 Hollywood Blvd. Originally known as the Warner Bros. Theatre or Warner Hollywood Theatre. Warner Bros. owned radio station KFWB positioned its radio transmitter towers on top of the building, which remain to this day. Though covered by “PACIFIC” lettering, the original “WARNERS” lettering can still be seen inside each tower. In 1968,Stanley Warner sold the theatre to Pacific Theatres, which renamed it the present day Hollywood Pacific Theatre.

The theatre finally closed its doors as a full-time cinema on August 15, 1994. This was mostly due to water damage to the basement caused by the construction of the Hollywood Subway Red Line and structural damage caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Dolby Theater

After Kodak filed for bankruptcy, Dolby would sign an agreement with CIM, owner of Hollywood & Highland Center, to be the new teathre sponsor. Hollywood & Highland Center is a destination in the center of the Hollywood tourist attractions, shopping mall and entertainment complex on Hollywood Boulevard. Dolby updated the sound system first by installing Dolby Atmos. The company plans to continue updating the auditorium with newer technologies as they become available.

The Dolby Theatre hosts The Oscars year after year. It doesn’t look like it when you’re there, so I searched for photos of the event for a proper comparison. The Hollywood Boulevard would be nicely carpeted in red, and there’d be a 30 metre long curtain hanging from the gallery entrance. In fact, shops in the inside are also dressed and covered. The lighted columns in the hall and staircase list Academy Award Best Picture winners of past four decades. I went all the way up to the door of the theatre, but nothing could be seen other than quite a bit of dust I hope they are cleaning away already… The Oscars are due in weeks time.

Dolby Theater

Graunam’s Chinese Theatre

Built over 18 months, from January 1926 by a partnership headed by Sid Grauman, the theatre opened May 18, 1927, with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s film The King of Kings. It has since been home to many premieres, including the 1977 launch of George Lucas’s Star Wars, as well as birthday parties, corporate junkets and three Academy Awards ceremonies. Among the theatre’s most distinctive features are the concrete blocks set in the forecourt, which bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of popular motion picture personalities from the 1920s to the present day. The TCL Chinese Theatre has partnered with IMAX Corporation to introduce the single largest IMAX auditorium in the world. The new theatre seats 932 people, and hosts the third largest commercial movie screen in North America.

Capitol Records

Capitol Records is a major American record label that is part of the Capitol Music Group and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Universal Music Group. Founded in 1942 by three industry insiders, the label has recorded and released material by artists such as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, The Kingston Trio, Les Paul, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Glen Campbell, Megadeth, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, and Katy Perry among many others.

Capitol’s recording studios were designed by guitarist and sound expert Les Paul to minimize noise and vibration. The studios feature 25cm concrete exterior walls, surrounding a 2.5cm air gap, surrounding an inner wall that floats on layers of rubber and cork – all in an effort to provide complete sound isolation.

The facility features echo chambers: subterranean concrete bunkers allowing engineers to add reverberations during the recording process. The eight chambers are located 9m underground. They are trapezoidal-shaped with 25cm concrete walls and 30cm concrete ceilings. The chambers feature speakers on one side and microphones on the other, permitting an echo effect of up to five seconds.

Hollywood Bowl

The Hollywood Bowl is a 1920s amphitheater used primarily for music performances. It is known for its band shell, a distinctive set of concentric arches that graced the site from 1929 through 2003, before being replaced with a somewhat larger one beginning in the 2004 season. The shell is set against the backdrop of the Hollywood Hills and the famous Hollywood Sign to the Northeast.

Downtown LA

We also headed Downtown in the convertible to have a look at the Staples Center, the Nokia Plaza and the Walt Disney Theatre, yet another Frank Gehry design.

Staples Center
Walt Disney Theater
Nokia Plaza
driving a convertible

Malibu Farm

Next day we woke up to the sunny Malibu. We were continuing our trip east to Las Vegas, but we wanted to check out this piece of paradise first.


Want an awesome unique experience for breakfast? Malibu Farm delivers not only a panoramic view of Malibu but also provides a great place to eat healthy organic local food right on the Malibu Pier.

Malibu Farm

Peggy Sue’s

A deep breath of ocean breeze, suitcases packed, and back in the road this time heading to Las Vegas. On our way we found the most authentic 50s diner: Peggy Sue’s. True discovery, real hamburgers, cute walls full of memorabilia… and a clear inspiration for spanish restaurants with the same name. Perhaps they already knew about this gem in Getafe.

Peggy Sue
Peggy Sue

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