Film History of the 1960’s-1980’s : Independent Smart Films and the Rise of the Blockbuster.

I have heard that my film distribution history is a little long to be a blog, so I am shortening it for my readers. Enjoy!

In the 1960’s, Major Studios in desperation started financing independent films and major conglomerates that invested and traded in the studios bought up the studios. A slew of new distribution companies such as American International Pictures, a up and coming production and distribution company, distributed some very popular series of movies, including Roger Corman’s films based on Edgar Allen Poe. American Intl’ Pictures started the genre of marketing films to teenagers. Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro and Francis Ford Coppola got their starts with American International.

In the 1960’s as well, John Cassavetes, considered the father of Independent Film, made courageous new works, such as “Faces” and “Shadows” with no help from financial banks, the major studios. He could not get anyone in America to distribute his film in the US, so he received international help. He did not care for pleasing anyone in monetary standards, a true maverick, only himself. In a interview with Ron Carney, a renown and controversial film critic, he says about Cassevetes films, they were about “change and process” they were about staying free and avoiding being limited by social rules or arrangements”. Carney says the master plot of all his work was to expose fraudulence and self-delusion. His stories weren’t about plot or about events like many movies to date but Cassavetes films “were about character”. (Carney, 2002)

Cassavettes was recognized as a spiritual father of independent filmmaking and although he wasn’t extremely successful because of lack of budgets to distribute his films, he impacted many other filmmakers and they could distribute their movies easier because they had a new niche in the market. By the early 1970’s, Blaxploitation film genres became popular with a commercially successful film by Melvin Van Peebles “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.” Many notable indie filmmakers at the time that featured blaxploitation were Gordon Parks, William Crain and William Levy.

In 1975, the movie world would be changed forever and be a great blow to indie filmmakers that wanted to show their movies in theatres. Steven Spielberg created “Jaws” that caused courageous comeback by the Majors, started the rise of the Blockbuster movie and the rise of saturation marketing. George Lucas started the auxiliary market by betting his toys from his Star Wars trilogy would fund his movies. The studios had no idea of this profitable and lucrative auxiliary market of toys and licensing could be of such benefit to a filmmaker. At this moment of time, the budget of marketing for this film was the greatest amount of money ever spent on a film.

To see the full History of Film from 1890 to Present, click here

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History of Film – 1920’s-1950’s : The Rise of Hollywood and the Fall of Hollywood.

I have heard that my film distribution history is a little long to be a blog, so I am shortening it for my readers. Enjoy!

In the late 1920’s owners that usually retained control of their studio system, started hiring supervisors to run day to day operations and organization started taking place in a producer unit system that included a general manager, executive manager, producer and supervisors. (Bargann, 350) They found that branching out the system by operating with a larger organization of people encouraged quality of movies especially for independents. In the late 1930’s Independents such as Walt Disney, Samuel Goldwyn and David Selznick owned their own studios but started distributing independently and not through the major companies because they refused to give up creative control and because Hollywood had a monopoly over talent and distribution methods. In the late 1930’s the federal government accuses the Hollywood majors of restraint of trade by controlling all means of production, distribution and theatres and shutting independents out. The lawsuit was put on hold for wartime reasons and then in the 1940’s the Government accuses the majors of monopolizing on the best talent and monopolizing on all movies by owning the theatres. The government calls for the studios to break ownership with the theatres. (Cobbles.com, 1) The studios break ownership with the theatres by force of the US government and the fall of Hollywood is inevitable.

To see the full History of Film from 1890 to Present, click here

Film History Before 1920 : Louis Lumiere, Thomas Edison & Carl Laemmle.

I have heard that my film distribution history is a little long to be a blog, so I am shortening it for my readers. Enjoy!

Film distribution business’ earliest history can be traced back to the first Kinetescope parlor that was opened at 1155 Broadway, New York City, April 14, 1894. “It was owned by the Holland brothers, who were licensed by the Kinetescope Company to distribute Kinetescopes and Kinetescope films in New York.” (Robinson, p.45) Edison had made an invention and set out to distribute it to this company and others. He had serious competition – (independent from his own creation of the kinetescope) from other companies that sold their own kinetescope and kinethescope movies among the most prominent were the American Mutoscope Company (i.e., Biograph) and the International Film Company in New York; Edward Amet in Waukegan, Illinois; and Sigmund Lubin in Philadelphia. (Muser, 103)

The competition was fierce and this was what independent distribution was created out of – competition. In 1901, Edison gains an ultimate monopoly over distribution over motion pictures. In the history of motion pictures, every time the government steps in to regulate it, the movie business is severely altered.
“Many people were aware of the accomplishments of Edison, the technological advancements he created, but overlooked is his crucial work as a producer and distributor” (Hall, 2007) Edison, from 1900-1910, single-handedly tried to grab hold of the film business for himself, by suing a competitor every time they made a movie and tried to distribute a movie.

This didn’t work out for him, so he formed the Motion Pictures Patents Company (MPCC) in 1909. He involved 9 of the top distribution houses at the time and it was legally ruled that they could only make and distribute films. . Independent Film Distribution was started to break free of control of the MPPC. It is an independent work that does not have to conform to Edison’s standards and is shown without a major studios money or help. In 1909, Laemmle, a wholesale distributor of films to theatres, was infuriated at the MPCC, and he continually challenged them in court over their monopoly until the MPCC stopped distributing films to his company. Angrier than ever, Laemmle created the Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP) and gave life to a new filmmaking force. He started making films and buying films from others and selling them. He creates in 1911, with Pat Powers and Mark Dintenfass, is known as Universal Studios.

A man named Zukor also charged in after the MPCC and started making films and distributing them. They also gave the actors credits on the film and listed their name at the beginning of the movies, the first step in democratizing films. Lamella and the MPCC wouldn’t do this because they were afraid of paying the actors too much. Independent Distribution was simplified for the first time and let a lot of new films in from other filmmakers, such as Howard Hughes. “Laemmmle and Zukor succeeded Edison and Laemmle founded Universal Studios and Zukor founded Paramount Studios. (Hall, 2007) Several new independents (at the time) in 1915, William Fox founds Fox Film Corporation, and combines production, distribution and theatres together and between 1915 and 1924, United Artists, Warner Brothers, MGM and Columbia formed as studios.

To see the full History of Film from 1890 to Present, click here

Answer to : What is a Film Distribution Company?

Thanks for sending in your questions.. I will cover all of them, the first one is very basic as it is important, It was asked by Srikanth Dasari :

QUESTION :

What is a distribution company? I mean once the movie is
produced by the
producer, does he sell them to distribution companies,

And if so then to what price do these distribution
companies sell these
movies to the theatres. How is the cost determined?

Hope you will get back to me. Eagerly waiting for your
reply.

Thanks,
Srikanth Dasari

ANSWER :

A distribution company is a middleman between the theatre and producer/director/filmmamker. At least that is how it should be. Sometimes a distribution company has their own theatre and completley does not do business with an unknown producer/director. This is called a restraint of trade. As you may know, it was illegal in the 1950’s and completely weakened hollywood. Now it is not so and not so illegal anymore. A distribution company acts as a middleman between the theatre and the producer/director. You do not need a distribution company for your film and can choose to “self distribute” it to the theatre. This is all you need, a “theatre”. However, it is not so easy to distribute all over the world, so you most likely will have to use a distribution comany. Check out my post :

https://moviedistributionfacts.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/film-history-from-1890-present/

for more information.

What prices do the distributors sell to the theatres? it usually is 75% for the distributor and producer/director and 25% for the theatre. That my friend, also depends on the budget of a film, if it is a high concept 100 million dollar film or a $500 thousand to 5 million low budget or independent film.

Please reply with any other questions to Jonathan at nyctrader_07@yahoo.com. thanks.

What is a Independent Film? How different is it from Hollywood?

An independent film is a film written and produced without the major studio’s influence or help, that is it. A distribution of a film is the last step in the process of making a film. The story goes through development in the first phase, and organization in the pre-production of the story in the second phase. Thirdly, the story turns into a film in the third phase and the film is edited in the fourth phase and set up for exhibition to the public in the last and fifth phase.

What exactly is Independent Film and Independent Distribution and how is it different from Hollywood? The answer changes with time. Carl Laemmle, the founder of Independent film in 1909 founded it to break free of Edison’s stronghold over the industry. Edison continuously tried to patent the process of distribution with film and every process surrounding it. Laemmle did not want to conform to Edison’s standards. David Selznick in the 1930’s did it to break free of Hollywood at the time too, because still Hollywood had a monopoly over the talent and distribution methods. Even still, after the divestiture/split of the theatres from the studios, the 1960’s saw John Cassavettes not wanting to be influenced by Hollywood methods and only be influenced by himself. The list goes on and on till today. All Major studios have done it too with their little boutique “Independent” divisions to muscle out what they call the so called “Independents”. This is when the definition changes with time.

The practice has changed considerably, from producers having one “patented” outlet to sell the film from the 1900’s to 1930’s, then filmmakers had a film festival to showcase and sell their work to internationally in Venice in 1932. Then more film festivals sprung up, i.e. Cannes, Moscow Film festival and suddenly filmmakers had more and more outlets, especially selling to TV in the 1950’s. Filmmaking became more and more democratized up until 1990’s – present day, where independent filmmaking is at its peaks with a huge number of choices to choose from and get their movie distributed. Viewing habits have changed too which make it harder to get your movie seen, too many movies to see and not enough distributor reps to see them. This paper will document the history of Independent film; discover ways to learn from history while examining how to get your film sold today.

CHRONICLE/TIMETABLE OF EVENTS IN FILM DISTRIBUTION HISTORY

1889- Thomas Edison builds the first Motion picture studio.

1902- Henry Miles sets up the first film exchange, allowing exhibitors to rent the films instead of buying them.

1908- Nine leading producers set up the Motion Picture Patents Company, and agree not to sell or lease equipment to any distributors who purchase motion pictures from any other company.

1900-1909, Edison single handedly tried to grab hold of the film business for himself by suing every competitor every time they tried to distribute a movie.

1909 – Carl Laemmle founded the Independent Motion Picture Company disgusted with Edison’s monopoly.

1911 – Credits start to appear in motion pictures.

1912-Carl Laemmle, Pat Powers and Mark Dintenfass merged their studios into what is known as Universal Studios today.

1914- Paramount Pictures is founded – second independent motion picture studio.

1915- William Fox founds Fox Film Corporation, and combines production, distribution and theatres together.

1915-1924- United Artists, Warner Brothers, MGM and Columbia formed as studios.
Late 1920’s- Owners that usually retained control of their studio system, started hiring supervisors to run day to day operations and organization started taking place in a producer unit system that included a general manager, executive manager, producer and supervisors.

1930’s – Hollywood was divided into four groups, majors, minors, “B”studios and independents. All five major studios ran vertically integrated.

Late 1930’s – Walt Disney, Samuel Goldwyn and David Selznick owned their own studios but started distributing independently and not through the major companies.

Late 1930’s- The federal government accuses the Hollywood majors of restraint of trade by controlling all means of production, distribution and theatres and shutting independents out. The lawsuit was put on hold for war-time reasons.

Mid 1940’s- Government accuses the majors of monopolizing on the best talent and monopolizing on all movies by owning the theatres. The government calls for the studios to break ownership with the theatres.

Late 1940’s- Government forces studios to break ownership an in the next year, the Hollywood major’s break from the theatres.

Late 1940’s- Early 50’s – Sam Speigel became a new pioneer of independent movies among with Orson Welles, He created his own distribution company – Horizon Films, and then founded a production method that is still in use by independent producers today – financing films by pre-selling foreign distribution rights.

Early 1950’s to Late 1950’s- NBC became first nationwide TV network and threatens theater audiences, so studios were forced to find ways to make money on television.

Late 1950’s – Major studios forced to break ownership with the theatres started to fall, the golden age of film had reached it’s peak in the late 30’s and fell in the late 50’s.

Early 1960’s- Major Studios in desperation started financing independent films and the studios were bought up by major conglomerates who invested and traded in the studios.

Early 1960’s- Late 1960’s – American International Pictures, a up and coming production and distribution company, distributed some very popular series of movies, including Roger Corman’s films based on Edgar Allen Poe. American Intl’ Pictures started the genre of marketing films to teenagers. Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro and Francis Ford Coppola got their starts with American Intl’.

Early 1960’s – Late 1960’s – John Cassavetes, considered the father of Independent Film, made courageous new works, such as “Faces” and “Shadows” with no help from financial banks, the major studios. He could not get anyone in America to distribute his film in the US, so he received International help. He did not care for pleasing anyone in monetary standards, a true maverick, only himself.

Late 1960’s, Early 1970’s – Blaxploitation film genres became popular with a commercially successful film by Melvin Van Peebles “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.”. Other notable indie filmmakers at the time that featured blaxploitation were Gordon Parks, William Crain and William Levy. Over 200 films were shown in the 1970’s with black main characters.

1974- Cassavetes independently self distributed his last film “ Under the Influence” that went on to make 16 million dollars.

1975- Steven Speilberg created “Jaws” that caused a comeback by the Majors, started the rise of the Blockbuster movie and the rise of saturation marketing.

1977- George Lucas started the auxillary market by betting his toys from his Star Wars trilogy would fund his movies. The studios had no idea of this profitable and lucrative auxillary market of toys and licensing could be of such benefit to a filmmaker.

1977-79 – Successful independents started that are still successful to this day, Lions Gate Films, Miramax Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

1980’s – Independent Films started gaining large audiences with the works of up and coming directors and distributors, Joel and Ethan Coen, Jim Jarumusch, David Lynch and John Sayles.

1981- Robert Redford founded the Sundance Institute, a non- profit organization offering help to up and coming indie directors.

1980’s – A string of popular majors films were created.

1989- Sex, Lies and Videotape by Steve Soderbergh becomes one of the first indie blockbusters with a budget of a million that made 24 million and one of the best investments in indie film to date at that time.

1990-Present to be continued in new blog post..

FILM HISTORY FROM 1890 – PRESENT

Film distribution business’ earliest history can be traced back to the first Kinetescope parlor that was opened at 1155 Broadway, New York City, April 14, 1894. “It was owned by the Holland brothers, who were licensed by the Kinetescope Company to distribute Kinetescopes and Kinetescope films in New York.” (Robinson, p.45) Edison had made an invention and set out to distribute it to this company and others. He had serious competition – (independent from his own creation of the kinetescope) from other companies that sold their own kinetescope and kinethescope movies among the most prominent were the American Mutoscope Company (i.e., Biograph) and the International Film Company in New York; Edward Amet in Waukegan, Illinois; and Sigmund Lubin in Philadelphia. (Muser, 103)

The competition was fierce and this was what independent distribution was created out of – competition. In 1901, Edison gains an ultimate monopoly over distribution over motion pictures. In the history of motion pictures, every time the government steps in to regulate it, the movie business is severely altered. “Many people were aware of the accomplishments of Edison, the technological advancements he created, but overlooked is his crucial work as a producer and distributor” (Hall, 2007) Edison, from 1900-1910, single-handedly tried to grab hold of the film business for himself, by suing a competitor every time they made a movie and tried to distribute a movie. This didn’t work out for him, so he formed the Motion Pictures Patents Company (MPCC) in 1909. He involved 9 of the top distribution houses at the time and it was legally ruled that they could only make and distribute films.

Independent Film Distribution was started to break free of control of the MPPC. It is an independent work that does not have to conform to Edison’s standards and is shown without a major studios money or help. In 1909, Laemmle, a wholesale distributor of films to theatres, was infuriated at the MPCC, and he continually challenged them in court over their monopoly until the MPCC stopped distributing films to his company. Angrier than ever, Laemmle created the Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP) and gave life to a new filmmaking force. He started making films and buying films from others and selling them. He creates in 1911, with Pat Powers and Mark Dintenfass what studios into what is known as Universal Studios. A man named Zukor also charged in after the MPCC and started making films and distributing them. They also gave the actors credits on the film and listed their name at the beginning of the movies, the first step in democratizing films. Lamella and the MPCC wouldn’t do this because they were afraid of paying the actors too much.

Independent Distribution was simplified for the first time and let a lot of new films in from other filmmakers, such as Howard Hughes. “Laemmmle and Zukor succeeded Edison and Laemmle founded Universal Studios and Zukor founded Paramount Studios. (Hall, 2007) Several new independents (at the time) in 1915, William Fox founds Fox Film Corporation, and combines production, distribution and theatres together and between 1915 and 1924, United Artists, Warner Brothers, MGM and Columbia formed as studios.

In the late 1920’s owners that usually retained control of their studio system, started hiring supervisors to run day to day operations and organization started taking place in a producer unit system that included a general manager, executive manager, producer and supervisors. (Bargann, 350) They found that branching out the system by operating with a larger organization of people encouraged quality of movies especially for independents. In the late 1930’s Independents such as Walt Disney, Samuel Goldwyn and David Selznick owned their own studios but started distributing independently and not through the major companies because they refused to give up creative control and because Hollywood had a monopoly over talent and distribution methods. In the late 1930’s the federal government accuses the Hollywood majors of restraint of trade by controlling all means of production, distribution and theatres and shutting independents out. The lawsuit was put on hold for wartime reasons and then in the 1940’s the Government accuses the majors of monopolizing on the best talent and monopolizing on all movies by owning the theatres. The government calls for the studios to break ownership with the theatres. (Cobbles.com, 1)

Sam Spiegel in the early 1950’s, became a new pioneer of independent movies among with Orson Wells, He created his own distribution company – Horizon Films, and then founded a production method that is still in use by independent producers today – financing films by pre-selling foreign distribution rights. (Aberdeen, 1)

In the 1960’s, Major Studios in desperation started financing independent films and major conglomerates that invested and traded in the studios bought up the studios. A slew of new distribution companies such as American International Pictures, a up and coming production and distribution company, distributed some very popular series of movies, including Roger Corman’s films based on Edgar Allen Poe. American Intl’ Pictures started the genre of marketing films to teenagers. Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro and Francis Ford Coppola got their starts with American International.

In the 1960’s as well, John Cassavetes, considered the father of Independent Film, made courageous new works, such as “Faces” and “Shadows” with no help from financial banks, the major studios. He could not get anyone in America to distribute his film in the US, so he received international help. He did not care for pleasing anyone in monetary standards, a true maverick, only himself. In a interview with Ron Carney, a renown and controversial film critic, he says about Cassevetes films, they were about “change and process” they were about staying free and avoiding being limited by social rules or arrangements”. Carney says the master plot of all his work was to expose fraudulence and self-delusion. His stories weren’t about plot or about events like many movies to date but Cassavetes films “were about character”. (Carney, 2002) Cassavettes was recognized as a spiritual father of independent filmmaking and although he wasn’t extremely successful because of lack of budgets to distribute his films, he impacted many other filmmakers and they could distribute their movies easier because they had a new niche in the market.

By the early 1970’s, Blaxploitation film genres became popular with a commercially successful film by Melvin Van Peebles “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.” Many notable indie filmmakers at the time that featured blaxploitation were Gordon Parks, William Crain and William Levy.

In 1975, the movie world would be changed forever and be a great blow to indie filmmakers that wanted to show their movies in theatres. Steven Spielberg created “Jaws” that caused courageous comeback by the Majors, started the rise of the Blockbuster movie and the rise of saturation marketing. George Lucas started the auxiliary market by betting his toys from his Star Wars trilogy would fund his movies. The studios had no idea of this profitable and lucrative auxiliary market of toys and licensing could be of such benefit to a filmmaker. At this moment of time, the budget of marketing for this film was the greatest amount of money ever spent on a film.

Every decade there were new and successful independents outside the sphere of Hollywood that are still successful to this day, Lions Gate Films, Miramax Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

At this time in the 1980’s Independent Films started gaining large audiences with the works of up and coming directors and distributors, Joel and Ethan Coen, Jim Jarumusch, David Lynch and John Sayles. (Pramaggiore & Wallis, 391) Reagan’s economic plan causes mergers and acquisitions to boom as many independents and failing Hollywood studios are bought up by huge conglomerates. The Sundance Institute – a nonprofit for indie filmmakers’ talents was created by Robert Redford. A major breakthrough for an independent film in the late 1980’s – Sex, Lies and Videotape by Steve Soderbergh becomes one of the first indie blockbusters with a budget of a million that made 24 million and one of the best investments in indie film to date at that time. Steve Soderbergh’s film is yet another deeply character based film that has not much plot. “Soderbergh laid bare the urgency of his vision without belittling his audience through esoteric overkill. Soderburgh had a cross-over hit that was liked by art film houses as well as the big theatres. Soderburgh was known for his extreme dialogue that depicted reality at the time, his great linear filmmaking and his “editing in such a way that no single truth or story would emerge; rather a mosaic of truths, fables and formats emerged” (Daly, 2003)

The 1990’s New technologies began to arise, cutting costs for independent and the majors with computer editing system and other technologies. Audiences gains access to more independent film festivals. Today, there is a film festival in 44 of the 50 US States. 2 States have more than 10 film festivals a year. The Independent Film Channel is broadcasted by Bravo TV that exclusively shows indie movies. Home audience watching gained critical momentum due to many new distribution technologies of films, i.e. Pay-Per-View and increased consumer sales of buying movies. In 1995- Home viewing accounted for half of all movie sales, which is great news for Indie filmmakers that skip formal distribution methods and sell straight to DVD. The DVD format is released. DVD format is a combination of MMCD and SD technology that can store up to 10 times more information than a CD can. It is released in the U.S in 1997. In the late 1990’s – a plethora of medium sized indie distribution companies opened, among them, Magnolia Pictures, IFC Films, Fox Searchlight and Paramount Vantage. The most successful independent studios at this time are owned by Hollywood except for IFC Films. Near the dawn of the century, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez, two indie filmmakers movie is presented to Hollywood and becomes the most profitable independent movie ever. It costed 30,000 thousand and netted 140 million.

From 2000 to present, Major Hollywood Studios that don’t have Indie production create one, i.e. Picturehouse from New Line and HBO, Weinstein Company- Miramax, Focus Features- Universal, among others. The way that indie prodco’s are progressing, Independent filmmaking will soon be dominant with more an more production companies opening up.

Hal Hartley created a new genre in independent filmmaking that received a cult following, He releases “Fay Grim” through Netflix’s Red Envelope productions. In 1997, Reed Hastings opened a branch of Netflix, Red Envelope Productions which distributes the DVD’s by mail. According to Ted Saunders, “Eventually, we’ll be coming to Sundance and saying, “We can buy everything, there is a market for every film.” (Biba, 2) As of 2006, less than 1% was filming digitally, 99% were editing digitally, 5% were distributing digitally and less than 1% was exhibiting digitally. (Bargam, Table A7, 369) The switch of independent and Hollywood to fully digitally status won’t happen to estimated year of 2025. (Bargam, Table A7, 369)

Since 1990 to present day, opportunities for independent filmmakers have jumped by leaps and bounds. With the creation of more and more niche markets and audiences, filmmakers could get their whole movie budget paid for without having start production on it. Distributors by the dozens started picking up movies at a dramatic pace and paying producers advances with the presale market that was born out of niche markets and audiences. This brings us to present day where the supply is more than demand and the acquisition prices of movies have begun to fall.
There are many opportunities for filmmakers to sell DVD’s, as Henrig, Henrig-Thrau, Sattler, Eggers and Houston report in their study in 2007, “The Last Picture Show” that 58% of all sales of movies are on DVD’s. The demand for watching movies at home has been increasing at a steady pace. More people download legal movies online or rent from Netflix and Blockbuster Online.

Any questions please contact Jonathan@privateislandparty.com, while you are there checkout our 21st Birthday Sashes.