For as long as there has been moving images, there has been a Hollywood film industry. It originated more than a century ago and is the oldest and most recognisable film industry in the world. Nothing says show-business and glamour like Hollywood, right?
Old Hollywood, refers to the period in which a small number of studios known as ‘The Majors’ most notably; 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros Pictures, Paramount, RKO and MGM, dominated the film industry. New Hollywood refers to American cinema post-WW2 when the infamous Studio System of Hollywood’s Golden Age crumbled as a result of the Paramount Decree of 1948. Here, the US Supreme Court ruled that the ‘Majors’ dominated the industry too much and deemed it illegal. The ruling lead to a new era of ‘Hollywood’.
Not only did it make way for smaller independent studios to challenge the ‘Majors’ dominance, but Hollywood would now have to compete with the emergence of television in the 1950s, and so production values increased, and Hollywood did what could not be done on television. This marked the birth of the blockbuster.
Nowadays, we can immediately identify Hollywood blockbusters through their big budgets, high octane action sequences, and recognisable linear narratives that rarely stray from tradition. We see this through the likes of James Bond and the Marvel franchise for example. We know what to expect from a Hollywood film.
‘Jaws’ has been recognised as the first ever summer blockbuster that set the bar for Hollywood films thereafter. It has been 40 years since it was first released and has remained a pop-culture icon, but why was it so successful?
‘Jaws’ had a huge influence not only on American cinema but cinema worldwide, and welcomed a new era of film mass marketing and merchandising. Universal made it impossible for anyone to not know about the film’s upcoming release. The studio spent $2 million on marketing alone through radio and television interviews, unrelenting TV Spots on prime time television and not to mention the huge array of merchandise on sale.
One of the most recognisable aspect to film is its score, that simple but nonetheless suspenseful sound of two alternating notes that is now synonymous with impending danger. Even if you haven’t seen the film, it is so prominent in modern culture that we instantly recognise what it is and where it is from.
‘Jaws’ was the first major film to be shot on location in the middle of the ocean. Although this presented a number of challenges, resulting in the film exceeding its budget and running over schedule, it added a realism to the film that shooting in a studio simply would not provide.
The film’s $7 million dollar budget seems incredibly small nowadays compared to the average Marvel film’s $250 million budget! Despite this, Hollywood seems to think that the more money put into a film, the more successful it will be however, the blockbusters of today seem to lack the flare and spirit that films such as ‘Jaws’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Titanic’ have. For me, the magic of ‘the dream factory’ is fading. As movie budgets increase, films may not be able to earn their budgets back at the box-office. Could this spell the end of Hollywood as we know it? Forget needing a bigger boat, you’re gonna need a bigger bank account!
Instead of looking down the jaws of success, we could be well on the way to staring down the jaws of death of the Hollywood blockbuster.
“Smile you son-of-a-bitch!”
Richard Maltby – Hollywood Cinema – https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Hollywood_Cinema.html?id=lbaoy4Kr6JwC