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Foundations of the Prolific Film Industry

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Foundations of the Prolific Film Industry:

Films really blossomed in the 1920s, expanding upon the foundations of film from earlier years. Most US film production at the start of the decade occurred in or near Hollywood on the West Coast, although some films were still being made in New Jersey and in Astoria on Long Island (Paramount). By the mid-20s, movies were big business (with a capital investment totaling over $2 billion) with some theatres offering double features. By the end of the decade, there were 20 Hollywood studios, and the demand for films was greater than ever. Most people are unaware that the greatest output of feature films in the US occurred in the 1920s and 1930s (averaging about 800 film releases in a year) - nowadays, it is remarkable when production exceeds 500 films in a year.

Throughout most of the decade, silent films were the predominant product of the film industry, having evolved from vaudevillian roots. But the films were becoming bigger (or longer), costlier, and more polished. They were being manufactured, assembly-line style, in Hollywood's 'entertainment factories,' in which production was broken down and organized into its various components (writing, costuming, makeup, directing, etc.).

Nanook of the North - 1922Even the earliest films were organized into genres or types, with instantly-recognizable storylines, settings, costumes, and characters. The major genre emphasis was on swashbucklers, historical extravaganzas, and melodramas, although all kinds of films were being produced throughout the decade. Films varied from sexy melodramas and biblical epics by Cecil B. DeMille, to westerns (such as Cruze's The Covered Wagon (1923)), horror films, gangster/crime films, war films, the first feature documentary or non-fictional narrative film (Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North (1922)), romances, mysteries, and comedies (from the silent comic masters Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd).

The Major Film Studios: The Big Five

1920-1930 was the decade between the end of the Great War and the Depression following the Stock Market Crash. Film theaters and studios were not initially affected in this decade by the Crash in late 1929. The basic patterns and foundations of the film industry (and its economic organization) were established in the 1920s. The studio system was

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