FILM 2401- STUDY NOTES
Chapter10- Hollywood’sDecline (1945-1970)
Movie attendance reachedit’speakedafter WWII.
In 1946, weekly movie attendance in the US peaked at 90 million, but shortly after,
By 1956, the average weekly attendance was what half of what it was ten years ago. It
continuedtofalleven furtheruntilitbottomedoutin the late 1960s.
US wasstillaffected bythe war,even though notasdevastatingasother nations.Some
of the more obvious effects of this “total war” were the changes that took place in the
Consumer goods became scarce because all the factories went into making products
that couldbe usedin thewar.
Labor shortages caused by the enlistment of so many men and women into the armed
services led to significant wage increases for those who remained to build the
equipment necessary for victory. 15 million American served in the military during
Those that remained behind had little else to spend on other than basic necessities.
Another place theycan spendtheir moneyonwasgoing tothemovies.
American movie industry was one of the few industries that weren’t adversely affected
bythetransformation ofthe economy.
US government wanted the industry to produce more movies to help convince
Americans of the necessity of fighting the war. Also they wanted a place for Americans
tohave aplace togoandforget abouttheir troublesandworries.
In some cities, movie houses operated around the clock so that shift works could go to
After the war ended, the demand for movies began to disappear. Factories were
converted back to the production of consumer goods. Absence of these goods had a
tremendous pent-up demand and going to the movies was not the only place where
Housing shortages in many of the major cities across the country led many developers
tobuildtractsofnew houseson theoutskirtsofthemajorcities.
The creation of an interstate highway system and the construction of other freeways
linking the city with these new “suburbs” made moving to these new communities
20-year period after the war saw a significant migration of people from the older cities
The American movie industry suffered from this because they had invested a significant
amount of capital in building large and elaborate movie theatres in the cities.
Eventually, the movie industry built movie theatres in the suburbs, particularly in the
new mallsthat began popping up allover suburbia.
They also began building drive-in theaters to cater to the car culture that suburban
living fostered. Unfortunately these developments were not enough numbers to stop
theoveralldecline in attendance.
The Baby Boom (1946-1964)was the period in whichAmericans experienced faster rate
ofnaturalgrowth totheir population in historytothatpoint. Parents with young children generally had a harder time getting out. They often had to
The costs of going to movies were also another factor because if the suburb didn’t have
any theatres, they would have to drive downtown and this means they would have to
payfor moregasandparking expenses.
LegalProblems—The ParamountDecision (1948)
Many complaints from independent movie exhibitors complained about practices such
as block booking and holding back releases until they finished their runs in theatres
Courtcaseslaunchedagainstthemajorstudiosin thelate 1930swere eventuallysettled
when the Big Five and Little Three (producer-distributor companies) signed a consent
decree in 1940. They “agreed to eliminate blind-booking, limit block-booking and
In 1944, unsatisfied that the results of the 1940 agreement did little to curtail the power
of major studios, the Justice Department renewed its suit against the majors. This case
eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1948, the court
found the major companies were still in violation of anti-trust law. A subsequent lower
court decision (in 1949) ordered the majors to divest themselves of ownership or
controlofallfirstrun movie theatres.By1954allofthemhadcomplied.
This ended the vertical integration of the movie industry and contributed to a decline in
This created a more competitive environment for movie theatre owners but this led to
an increase in the price of tickets at the box office, as they had to compete with each
other to get the best first run movies. This led to a decline in attendance by audience
McCarthyismandThe Black List
The Cold War had a huge impact on politics in the US. Just about every politician in
both major parties tried to outdo his rivals in demonstrating “anti-Communist”
Joseph McCarthy was a congressmen whose hearings into the alleged Communist
infiltration of the State Department and later the Army gave him a high profile in the
post war media. Congressional investigations have become generally known in the
Before WWII, in 1941, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began
investigating some of the people in the movie industry for their “premature anti-
In 1947, HUAC was reconvened under Chairman J. Parnell Thomas to investigate
ongoing concerns about Communist influence in Hollywood. This investigation was
motivated by a number of factors. A minority of Hollywood workers and artists,
particularly writers, joined the American Communist Party during the Depression or
during the war; the Roosevelt administration had asked Hollywood to make some pro-
Russian movies during the war to promote good relations with their ally and Hollywood
had complied; and then there was the fact the widespread labour unrest that swept