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November 1997, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 13 Nov 1997 13:35:14 EST
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Michael Haas writes:
> My answer to the question of US dominance is quite simple.  When the American
> film industry started, the country was a nation of so many immigrants who did
> not understand English very well that only one formula would work--action
> films with a minimum of dialog.  Having established the genre to make money
> with a diverse American audience, the same formula applies to the rest of the
> world.  Hollywood's technical professionalism of action films has remained
> one leg up on all others.
> Aloha,
> Michael Haas
> University of Hawai`i at Manoa
I don't think that there is a single simple explanation.  An explanation that
disregards economic, political and other factors does have some
shortcomings.  One must remember that before WWI, several European cinemas
were extraordinarily well represented in international distribution.  In
America, Pathe, Eclair, Solax, Great Northern, etc. were major presences in
the industry.  To a certain extent, the early American industry was
colonized by companies like these.  I am told that some "branch plant"
studios in N.J. used French as the working language among management and
top creative people, while the less skilled and poorly paid Americans spoke
in the local dialect.
The effect of WWI on the economic base of European companies and the
opportunity that this presented to American film companies gave the U.S.
an advantage in terms of production and distribution that it never
really lost.  While this doesn't completely explain American dominance
(for example, access to capital through investment by such firms as Kuhn,
Loeb & Co., a large and prosperous domestic market, haphazard but
successful strategies to undermine competing cinemas, etc. were also
factors), it certainly was a key event.
Mark Langer
Email address: [log in to unmask]
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