Hollywood History, Part 3 - The Growth of Hollywood and of the Studios, 1910-1920

Zukor, Fox, Laemmle, Goldwyn and Lasky
Zukor, Fox, Laemmle, Goldwyn and Lasky

The years 1908 to 1920 saw the transference of movie making from the East coast to the West as Hollywood grew rapidly to world dominance. Also, the large number of small emerging studios gradually amalgamated and merged until the nucleus of the Hollywood's future Golden Age studios was left: MGM, Paramount, Universal, Fox, Goldwyn and Warner Bros.

1) Growth of Hollywood

The first motion picture to be shot in Hollywood was called, appropriately, 'In Old California', made by a young actor-turned-director, named D. W. Griffith. It was made in 1910 and filmed for the Biograph Studios back in New Jersey.

The first movie studio to set up in Hollywood was the Nestor Company, which was set up in 1911 by the Centaur Studios, hitherto based with all the other studios in New Jersey. Nestor shot its first film in Hollywood in October, 1911. It would later merge with Universal Studios.

The number of studios moving west from New York soon changed from a trickle to a steady stream. Hollywood suited them well. As well as being a comfortable distance from Thomas Edison and his Motion Picture Patents Company, the near constant sunshine made shooting films much easier, enabling production to move at a steady pace with greater consistency. In addition there was close by, a variety of diverse settings for movies, ranging from town streets to seaside to mountains to desert. Almost any sort of background setting could be found within easy reach of the rapidly growing town.

A further advantage was the fact that, initially at least, property was much cheaper in California than New York. Finally the proximity to Mexico meant a constant supply of cheap, non-union labor close by.

The first house in the new community of Beverly Hills was begun in 1907. The district of Hollywood was merged with Los Angeles in 1910.

The end of Edison's MPPC

For a few years movie production was divided between the East and West Coast studios but the Hollywood movie industry continued to grow in defiance of the MPPC. In 1910 a number of independent studios, including Nestor, Majestic, Rex, Lux and Comet, united behind William Fox and Carl Laemlle to form the Motion Picture Distributing and Sales Company.

Eventually they sued the MPPC under government antitrust laws. Although the MPPC responded with violence and intimidation, employing gangs to destroy equipment, the MPPC in October 1915, was declared an illegal monopoly, and in 1917 was finally ordered to disband by the US Supreme Court and was officially dissolved by 1918.

The dominance of East Coast studios was over, as Hollywood became the center of film production, and many of the small independents on the West Coast grew into bigger companies through amalgamation and takeovers. As audiences demanded longer films beyond one or two reels, large studios were becoming the norm.

By 1915, over 60 per cent of the American film industry was based in Hollywood, and this figure was rising. But external events would catapult Hollywood into its dominant position as the movie capital of the world.

First World War

The 1914-1918 World War paralysed the budding film industries in France, Germany, Italy and Britain. European motion-picture production was brought to a halt due to significant shortages of labor, power and supplies. It never recovered its dominance in the marketplace. In one stroke the Hollywood movie industry lost its serious competition and it thrived on the economic boom created in America.

The independents seized the opportunity to strengthen their position through more mergers and takeovers, and used their profits to produce even bigger and better motion pictures. The Hollywood of the Golden Age was beginning to take shape.

2) Growth of the Studios

Among the millions of immigrants who swept into America in the early twentieth century were a group of men who would recognise the opportunity which the new movie industry presented and who would seize control of it. Many were East European Jews who started their careers outside movies but who knew a good thing when they saw it. They were charismatic, ruthless, hard-nosed businessmen and they changed Hollywood forever. The main players were as follows:

William Fox founded the Fox Film Corporation in 1915 and the Fox West Coast Theatres chain in the 1920s.

Samuel Goldwyn was a founding member of Famous Players-Lasky before resigning in 1916 and forming Goldwyn Pictures. In 1924 Goldwyn Pictures would be merged into the Metro Pictures Corporation which became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Although his name was included, Goldwyn remained an independent and had no role in the new company.

Carl Laemmle founded IMP (Independent Motion Picture Company) in New York in 1909 and in 1912 moved to Hollywood and reformed and renamed the company as Universal Studios .

Adolph Zukor established Famous Players Film Company in 1912. It evolved into Famous Players-Lasky and then became Paramount Pictures .

Louis B. Mayer created Metro Pictures Corporation in New York in 1916 and two years later formed his own production company, Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation which was later amalgamated into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer .

Warner Brothers founded the Duquesne Amusement & Supply Company in 1904, in Pittsburgh to distribute films. They began producing films in 1913 and in 1918 they opened Warner Bros. studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Sam and Jack moved to Hollywood to control movie production, while Harry and Albert, dealt with finance and distribution in New York City.

Hollywood History, Part 1 - Early Technology 1888-1900

Hollywood History, Part 2 - The Movie Industry Evolves 1900-1910

Hollywood History, Part 3 - The Growth of Hollywood and of the Studios 1910-1920

Hollywood History, Part 4 - The Development of Silent Movies 1910-29

Hollywood History, Part 5 - The Rise of the Studios

Hollywood History, Musicals - pre 1940