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The Road West

29.12.2010

This was another major change from the days of Edison—film production was now firmly anchored on the West Coast, and by the time D. W Griffith produced Intolerance in Los Angeles in 1916, 60 percent or more of the industry was located there. New York, however, remained a powerful force in the financing and distribution of motion pictures, and all the major studios maintained East Coast branches to keep abreast of new developments in the theatrical world (then as now centered on Broadway, with vaudeville—live song and dance theaters—added to the mix). The weather in Los Angeles was also more reliable, so that film production could continue uninterrupted.


What brought the film companies to Hollywood was, in truth, a range of reasons. The constant sunshine was one factor, as well as the greater variety of filming locations. Another reason was the distance from Edison’s Trust. In addition, the West Coast provided producers the opportunity to juggle checks from banks all the way across the country. Some of the smaller companies in Los Angeles would draw a check on a New York bank, rush into production with a short film, and then quickly release the film to exhibitors.


By the time the box office takings were in, they could cover the New York bank draft—or, if necessary, another check drawn on a Los Angeles bank could temporarily cover the overdraft. Thus, some of the nervier independents obtained free bank loans for their films, although the practice was discontinued as soon as a more sound financial footing was achieved.


By this time, Hollywood received a second shot in the arm, in the unlikely form of World War I. From 1914 to 1918, while the rest of the world concentrated on fighting the innumerable battles of the war, America kept cranking out a steady stream of film productions for international distribution. With their native studios on virtual hiatus, the rest of the world gobbled up Hollywood product, which was easy to export, particularly given the fact that since all films were silent, all that was needed for foreign audiences was a new set of intertitles.



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