With millions of dollars having been invested in the technological revolution that endowed the silent film with synchronized sound, cinema in the 1930s had to be made to pay its way. As the novelty value of soundtracks wore off, the wider economical effects of the Depression helped contribute to a substantial decline in movie attendance in the USA: approximately one third of the nation's movie-theatres were forced to shut down in 1933, by which time audiences had dwindled to two-thirds of their former size over a period of just two years. The industry survived the crisis largely on account of its aggressive promotion of a formulaic product designed to appeal to a mass spectatorship. The conveyor-belt production line responsible for establishing this lingua franca of narrative film-making – represented by what is customarily termed the ‘classical’ film, in which music was destined to become (for the most part) as stereotypical as other parameters of film production – was squarely located in the studios of Hollywood.
Small production companies had first installed themselves in Hollywood around 1908, when it was just a village, and when American film-making still had to compete with European output. California held attractive possibilities for convenient location shooting in generally fine weather; its scenery was varied, and could be made to pass for a wide range of geographical regions, from pseudo-Mediterranean and tropical seascapes to the deserts of the Wild West, from lush vegetation to spectacular mountainous regions. The West Coast was also attractive in offering a less fiercely regulated and litigious environment than that prevailing on the East Coast.
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