The American film industry driven by profit and consumption

It’s no secret that our company is highly driven by achieving the greatest profit. But what happens when this driving desire begins to uproot creativity? In the world of American cinema, film and television, big business now dominates and controls the surge of dispersed media to the masses. The problem with putting money-driven institutions at the helm of the American film industry is the unfortunate creation of often meaningless entertainment. Movies and TV shows are simply seen as monetary investments and sacrifice quality in favor of selling more quantity.

Although the American film industry has not always been so capitalist, it is important to understand when and how the abandonment of innovation and artistry occurred. Prior to the 1900s, American films were virtually unrestricted by law. The industry was mostly made up of independent filmmakers who only needed the funds and tools to carry out their visionary projects. However, in 1908, Thomas A. Edison pushed for the creation of the Motion Picture Patents Company (also known as The Movie Trust, Edison Trust, or The Trust) to monopolize the American motion picture industry by suppressing filmmakers and independent distributors by generating unreasonable limits. For example, The Trust entered into a contract with the Eastman Kodak Company, the largest film manufacturer at the time, to regulate the distribution of films and ensure that they were distributed only to approved members of the company. In response to this, independent filmmakers and producers abandoned the East Coast – home to The Trust – and moved to Hollywood, California, helping to create America’s movie capital today.

Eventually, The Trust was terminated by court order in 1917. However, a similar pattern of dominance began to emerge in Hollywood as major film studios like Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures and Columbia Pictures were growing. . They became known as the “Big Five” and as of September 2021 held 81% of the film market. These studios are then responsible for the industrialization of the film through generic high-budget entertainment, mass-produced and carefully curated to appeal to as many audiences as possible. By pandering to the masses, these movie studios can increase their profits and continue the cycle of investing in meaningless material with high rewards.

For example, Walt Disney Pictures, among other studies, has recently taken on the idea of ​​recreating pre-existing “classic” Disney movies in live-action format. However, movies like “The Lion King” that don’t offer anything fundamentally new or demonstrate anything particularly creative (except for improved animation and frame rendering that weren’t available at the time of the original film) provide almost no artistic value since they are used as tools for making money. Disney has earmarked around $180 million, on average, for these live-action remakes, attracting large audiences by appealing to their core audience as well as adults who grew up watching the old Disney films. The studio also recruited popular and well-known actors to increase their marketability.

Crown Media Holdings isn’t ranked among the Big Five, but they are responsible for producing Hallmark movies, notoriously known for their repetitive Christmas movies that feature nearly identical unoriginal plots, tropes, and style. The company sets small budgets for these films, less than $2 million on average, and makes a considerable profit. For Christmas movies alone, Hallmark makes $350 million in annual advertising revenue without bringing anything particularly new or unique to the global movie industry itself.

Unlike American films, Soviet films are completely free from the constraints of marketing. Independent filmmakers have the limitless ability to revolutionize cinema and create meaningful art in the absence of a relentless desire to profit from their work. Intellectual editing, poetic visuals, cinematic psychology, etc. are all from great independent Soviet filmmakers like Lev Kuleshov and Dziga Vertov. George Lucas, creator of the infamous Star Wars series, himself said that the absence of trade helps technical innovation, referring to the ingenuity of Soviet filmmakers. If the American film industry were to adopt a similar mindset of putting art above money, perhaps it too could contribute to the world of cinema in a more purposeful way.

Films produced independently by American directors like Wes Anderson, the Coen brothers, Greta Gerwig or Richard Linklater are all excellent examples of the artistic potential of the American film industry. Each film features its own unique cinematography, soundtrack, visuals, and overall vibe that oozes creativity and thoughtfulness. Independent films are not compromised by greed or profit motives. They are simply driven by the director’s desire to produce meaningful art which, at the risk of sounding slightly pretentious, is what movies should be.

Photo by Myke Simon on Unsplash.

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