As the summer winds down, it is time to release the syllabus for the American Film Industry, a course at CUNY Queens College. This course is an economic history of American film beginning with the first time someone thought it would be a good idea to charge money for the privilege of watching moving pictures. We cover a lot of changes along the way.
Here are some of the highlights of facts you might not know but will in this class:
- Movies were run by cartel, between 1908 and 1915, and its boss was Thomas Edison
the movie capital wasn’t always in Hollywood. It was once in Fort Lee, New Jersey
- Movie studios were really movie factories that borrowed manufacturing principles from the automobile industry.
- Two minor studios in Hollywood, that borrowed a lot of money in the 1920s, spearheaded the transition from silent to sound film. One survived the Depression. The other did not.
- The Production Code and the many rules of what American movies can and can’t do, which were written by a Catholic priest
- Television upending movies as our dominant entertainment form but couldn’t have existed without the film industry.
- The ratings system, the letters that keep kids from watching R-rated movies, actually made it possible for Hollywood to make more racy movies not less!
- Before the birth of the “block buster,” movies were almost never advertised on TV and the summer was the “off-season” for movies.
- Movies no longer exists as an independent entertainment company. Warner Brothers was once owned by a company that parked cars.
- Movie studios fought VHS and home video, despite the fact that half of a movie’s revenue comes from home video.
- The Internet has forever changed the movies. We don’t yet know exactly how… Stay tuned!