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The Dynamics of Mass Communication Seventh Edition Joseph R. Dominick Part 3 The Electronic Media Chapter 9 Motion Pictures Motion pictures and TV “work” because of two quirks of the human perceptual system: the phi phenomenon persistence of vision History of the Motion Picture

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the dynamics of mass communication

The Dynamics ofMass Communication


Joseph R. Dominick


Part 3

The Electronic Media


Chapter 9

Motion Pictures

history of the motion picture
Motion pictures and TV “work” because of two quirks of the human perceptual system:

the phi phenomenon

persistence of vision

History of the Motion Picture
edison and early experiments
Using a sprocket-feed device in 1889, Edison and his assistant Dickson invent the first practical movie camera and viewing device, a single-viewer system they call the Kinetescope.

Like radio, movie profits were first expected though sale of hardware, not the software.

In 1896 Edison realized his error and developed a mass projection device he calls the Vitascope.

Edison and Early Experiments
the nickelodeons
Movie interest surges when they “tell a story.”

First movies are filmed with a stationery camera, much like watching a stage production.

The Great Train Robbery is the first film to use roving camera angles and film editing techniques.

New 50-90 seat theaters, called Nickelodeons, meet rising demand for story-based films, charging 5 cents admission.

The Nickelodeons
early films and birth of the mppc
Early film experiments (Queen Elizabeth andBirth of a Nation), indicate that audiences are willing to pay premium prices for longer, better films.

In 1910s, top film firms form the Motion Picture Patents Company to stop competitors; the move backfires as independent producers move to Hollywood. The MPPC is dead by 1917.

Early Films and Birth of the MPPC
the star system
Producers learn that the public identifies with recognizable “star” actors; studios capitalize on the draw power of stars (Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford).

Early stars join to form United Artists Studio.

Public demands more comfortable and elaborate theaters in order to sit through longer films

The Star System
consolidation and growth
Consolidation and Growth
  • Film makers work to insure high profits by taking over all three divisions of the industry:
    • Production
    • Distribution
    • Exhibition
  • The “Block Booking” system helps insure a steady market for film makers
roaring 20s debuts film sound
Roaring 20s Debuts Film Sound
  • The Jazz Singer, the first film with sound, opens in1927 and the silent film era ends almost overnight.
  • Hollywood’s lifestyle excesses tempt government censorship; industry avoids that by forming MPPDA.
  • Film’s now costlier due to move to make bigger, better films, rising salaries and sound.
  • Depression era cuts profits; industry counters with introduction of double featuresandTechnicolor.
the studio years 1930 1950
The Studio Years 1930 - 1950
  • Height of film studios: MGM, RKO, Universal, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Paramount, UA, and Columbia.
  • Back lots expand; musicals, comedy genres strong; film stars groomed; “golden film” era: Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, and Citizen Kane.
  • In 1948, courts order studios to stop block booking and monopoly practices; industry reacts by dropping theater exhibition control.
hollywood reacts to tv
Hollywood Reacts to TV

Believing that TV would hurt profits, the film industry tries to protect itself with several measures:

  • Studios refuse to advertise films on TV.
  • Films are not permitted to run on TV.
  • Film stars forbidden to appear on TV shows.
  • New film novelties introduced
    • 3-D
    • Cinerama and Cinemascope
    • “Spectacle” films
    • adult themes (then unsuitable for early TV)
film in the 1960s and 1970s
Film in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Hollywood finally sees mutual advantages in teaming with television industry; the number of made-for-TV films and made-in-Hollywood TV series increase sharply.
  • The power of major studios erodes quickly with rise of independent producers and “free agent” actors.
  • Industry introduces film rating system (G, GP, R, X), which switches content regulation burden to audiences.
1970s film industry trends
1970s Film Industry Trends
  • film revenues and budgets increase
  • debut of blockbuster films
  • small-budget films can be big hits, investments
  • market research increases as film tool
  • close ties with TV continue
  • rating system adds PG-13, X replaces NC-17
contemporary film trends
Contemporary Film Trends

. attendance levels out; ticket prices, profits higher

. Pay Per View, video/DVD rentals eclipse box office as a film’s primary revenue source

. more theater “screens” than ever, newer ones boast stadium seating and digital sound

. 7 firms dominate industry: Sony, Disney, Warner Brothers, Fox, MGM, Universal, and Paramount

motion pictures in the digital age
Motion Pictures in the Digital Age

Though still in its infancy, digital film technology promises to make significant industry-wide changes, among them:

  • Production: films will soon be shot, edited digitally
  • Distribution: multiple film copy costs disappear, and electronic distribution methods replace physical
  • Exhibition: expensive new projectors will be needed
netplexes and film napsterization
Netplexes and Film Napsterization
  • Films on the Internet?

Technically possible, but in the near future people won’t have bandwidth power to make it practical.

  • “Sharing” films, Napster-like?

Doubtful. Time consuming, little money savings, hard-disk storage limitations, big legal hurdles.

defining features of motion pictures
  • high production, marketing and distribution costs
  • dominated by big conglomerates
  • most expensive mass medium on a per-title basis
  • film has strong “art form” aesthetic dimension
  • going to movies is still a “social experience”
organizational breakdown of the film industry
  • Production
  • Distribution
  • Exhibition
film industry ownership

As of 2000, the top seven studios and owners were:

  • Walt Disney Company (Touchstone and Buena Vista)
  • AOL/Time Warner (Warner Brothers)
  • Paramount (Viacom)
  • Sony (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
  • Vivendi-Universal (French owned)
  • News Corporation (20th Century Fox)
  • MGM/UA (MGM and United Artists)


  • Though differences exist between one studio and another, a typical studio would have three departments:
      • Distribution
      • Film production division
      • TV production division

The Movie Making Process

  • The three distinct phrases in the process are:
      • Preproduction
      • Production
      • Postproduction


  • A typical film revenue breakdown might look something like this:
    • DVD/cassette sales 28 %
    • Domestic box office 22
    • Cable 22
    • Foreign box office 20
    • Broadcast TV 4
    • Other 4

Financing Films

  • Money to finance a film can come in four ways:
    • direct loan from distributor
    • pickup
    • limited partnership
    • joint venture agreement

Dealing with the Exhibitors

  • Distributors and exhibitors must agree on the terms under which a film showing will occur. Three common types of financial agreements are:
      • split percentage
      • sliding scale
      • 90-10 deal
  • Concession sale stands can also bring in up to 90 percent of a theater’s total profit
promoting the film opening
Promoting the Film Opening
  • The first three days of a film’s opening are crucial; if it does not do well then, it generally never will. Some of the more common ways of promoting films include:
  • pre-opening media promotion and advertising blitz
  • trailers (film clips from movie) in theater’s “Coming Attractions”
  • heavy Internet exposure using trailers and sound scores
  • Films can generate feedback in three common ways:
  • Box Office figures monitored by Variety magazine
  • Market Researchusing “focus group” audiences
  • Film Audiences though final audiences are rarely used
cable and video the hollywood revenue connection
Cable and Video:The Hollywood Revenue Connection
  • Film sales and rentals have leveled off, though they accounted for $20 billion in 2000 (sales $12B, rentals $8B).
  • 6 million people rent films daily; 12 million go to the theater.
  • DVD sales and rentals will reach parity with videos in 2003.
  • Pay-Per-View market up (30 million homes now have PPV).
  • Producers also get revenue from premium cable channels such as HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax.