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Thursday, 20 January 2011

Is Hollywood bad for the movies?

There was a fascinating documentary on the BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4 that explored the dominance of America and more specifically Hollywood in the global film industry. The first part titled Hollywood: The Prequel, broadcast this week looks at how Hollywood came to dominate whilst the second part, Hollywood: The Sequel, to be broadcast next week will ask if the digital revolution means that Hollywood is losing its dominance in global cinema.

Francine Stock hosts the program and the first episode was very enlightening and explains how Hollywood came to dominate in the first place. The answer is simple, so simple in fact that I wonder why I've never thought of it before. Once Europe was equal to Hollywood in film production - France pioneered epic films and it was Britain that first introduced colour into the movies. Hollywood was but one player in a truly global base of film production and indeed it was only the First World War that allowed Hollywood to take the lead. With most of Europe affected by hostilities, Hollywood were able to take the lead and have enjoyed the position ever since. Film Historians put the date that America gained the upper hand variously between 1915 and 1917. There is greater consensus on the reasons: the outbreak of war in Europe, limits imposed in London on the export of flammable materials (film stock and gunpowder were close relatives), and the increasing integration of US industry.

Asta Nielsen - early Danish sex symbol
Not long after Henry Ford introduced a moving assembly line at the Ford Motor Company in 1913, ambitious film companies spotted the benefit of their own production lines – from the cameras to the popcorn. They controlled shooting stages and distribution and they built and ran movie theatres. The Americans soon had a huge internal market for their home-grown product and began attracting the brightest European talents.

Hollywood The Prequel featured vintage interview from the likes of Mary Pickford and can be found on the BBC iPlayer for the next week. Film buffs and those interested in movies will find it an informative and captivating listen. One particularly interesting section stated that another of the reasons Hollywood overtook British films were that they were better paced and this is something I largely agree with. The example of the old Brit comedies was given where we would constantly see characters running up and down stairs. In American they cut out those parts and got straight to the point. It's not that the UK can't make blockbuster type movies it just seems they don't want to.


1 comment:

Oscar said...

Nice post. I think publicity has a to to do with it, e.g., hardly any foreign film publicity in the US, but I think it is improving with the foreign press awards.