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The film business in the United States and Britain during the 1930s

By John Sedgwick and Michael Pokorny


Film was a most important product in the lives of the people during the 1930s. This paper\ud sets out to analyse the underlying economic arrangements of the film industries of the\ud U.S. and Britain during the decade in producing and diffusing this commodity-type to the\ud population at large. In doing this, the paper finds a highly competitive industry that was\ud built around showing films that audiences wanted to see, irrespective of the extent of\ud vertical integration. It also examines the nature of the inter-relationship between the two\ud industries and finds an asymmetry between the popularity of British films in the\ud American market and that of American films in the British market. Our explanation for\ud this is that the efforts of British firms on the American market were not sufficiently\ud sustained to make a significant impact on American audiences

Topics: UOW11
OAI identifier: oai:westminsterresearch.wmin.ac.uk:2852
Provided by: WestminsterResearch

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  1. A similar table of top ranking stars in the British market can be found in Sedgwick, Popular filmgoing,
  2. (1925). During the studio period
  3. (1935). Exceptionally, the opening nights of particularly eagerly awaited films were priced more highly.
  4. (1934). Films included in the sample are those whose principal exhibition was during these 25 months. The records of films released before 1
  5. Given the exchange rate of £1=$4.5.
  6. Historical statistics of the U.S.,
  7. Hollywood’s overseas campaign, Trumpbour, Selling Hollywood, Ulff-Møller, Hollywood’s film wars,
  8. (1937). In Britain the geographic distribution of ownership was much more regular.
  9. (1934). In exceptional circumstances the number of screenings per day was increased. The film Roberta
  10. Inside Variety,
  11. (1992). Interpreting films: studies in the historical reception of American cinema,
  12. (2002). Measuring the cultural discount in the price of exported U.S. Television Programs.’ Paper presented to the
  13. (1994). Melodrama and meaning: history, culture, and the films of Douglas Sirk,
  14. (1936). Motion Picture Almanac,
  15. (1948). Motion picture antitrust’, come to this conclusion in their analysis of the impact of the Paramount divorcement case of
  16. On the economic rationale for the development of stars see also Bakker ‘Stars and Stories’.
  17. Picture Almanac,1946-7. The populations of the cities from which the sample set of cinemas is drawn sum to just under 26 million.
  18. Popular filmgoing,
  19. Popular filmgoing, Chapter 10, Table 10.3.
  20. Product differentiation’,
  21. Profit-sharing contracts’,
  22. (2000). RKO film grosses, 1929-1951: the C.J. Trevlin ledger’,
  23. (2001). Stars and stories: how films became branded products’,
  24. The ledgers are partially reported and analysed
  25. The listings of all cinemas in operation in Britain, found in the Kine Weekly Year Books, suggest that perhaps only six additional cinemas also might have been included in the cities from which the sample was drawn.
  26. The market shares reported in Table 4 are strikingly similar to those for 1939, published by Huettig, ‘Economic control’.
  27. there is no systematic source of information on this aspect of cinemagoing as the Kine Weekly did not record ‘live acts’, although it is likely that ‘live’ entertainment was not so widespread. See Eyles, Granda Theatres.
  28. These distributions underestimate the significance of top ranking films in relation to over the sample period.

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