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Chapter 2 Hollywood’s Commercial Aesthetic “It’s all about money.” --opening line, Pretty Woman (1990) What gives the movies life? The viewer’s eye Persistence of vision Critical flicker fusion Speed of projection The viewer’s psychic energy

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Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 l.jpg

Chapter 2

Hollywood’s Commercial Aesthetic

“It’s all about money.”

--opening line, Pretty Woman (1990)


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What gives the movies life?

  • The viewer’s eye

    • Persistence of vision

    • Critical flicker fusion

    • Speed of projection

  • The viewer’s psychic energy

    • Transformed into segments of action on the screen

    • Provokes an emotional response from the viewer

    • Releases tension, creating pleasure


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What is entertainment?

  • Pleasure

  • Non-cerebral activity

  • Leisure (not working) time

  • No lasting impact on participant

  • Escape from reality into Utopia

    • Actions disassociated from consequences

    • Resolutions based on wish fulfillment, not on likelihood


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Why is formula so important?

“Hollywood’s product, the experience of escape packed into a two-hour story in which a sympathetic character overcomes a series of obstacles to achieve his or her desire, has consistently provided the basis of Hollywood’s appeal to its audiences”

--Maltby, Hollywood Cinema


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Does Garry Marshall know his audience?

“Welcome to Hollywood, what’s your dream? This is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t, but keep on dreamin’. This is Hollywood, always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.”

--Homeless Man, Pretty Woman (1990)


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What is Hollywood’s Commercial Aesthetic?

  • Entertainment is a commercial commodity

  • Hollywood turns pleasure into a product we can buy

  • Formal conventions ensure our pleasure through their predictability and the variation within that predictability

  • Economic and social forces regulate the kind and amount of pleasure offered


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What is Hollywood’s Commercial Aesthetic?

  • Pleasure depends on the principles of regulated difference

    • Standardization

    • Interchangeability

    • Minor variation

    • Market placement

  • How did your test group feel about these principles?


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How well does standardization work?

This can be measured by box office figures:

  • What patterns can you find in the 2007 box office figures for the top 50 grosses?

  • Is there a pattern in what kind of movies do best?

  • Are there patterns in domestic vs. international box office for these films?


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Singin’ in the Rain

In Singin’ in the Rain, we can see Hollywood assessing itself, reflecting back on 50 years of movie history and telling the story in what was then one of the most popular and enduring genres: the musical.


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