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Contemporary Hollywood

Nick Lacey | Friday October 07, 2011

Categories: Film Industry, Films & Case Studies, Hollywood Films, Hot Entries

Most people in the world know that Hollywood is a district in Los Angeles where movies are produced but Hollywood is also an institution that dominates the world’s film industries.

Since the end of the First World War Hollywood has been an international film industry that has continued to expand through the appeal of its films and through protectionist support from the American government.

Hollywood has been very effective at spreading the message about the American Dream. A few countries, India for example, can beat Hollywood in their home market but most struggle to compete. Hollywood’s hegemony has increased in recent years; even South Korea, which had a robust domestic return at its box office, has succumbed and local film’s share was down to 7.8% in May 2008 (Hendrix, 2008).

What is the recipe for Hollywood’s success?

Hollywood is a business and, as such, is a capitalist institution; that is, it exists solely to generate profit for its shareholders. Hollywood films are therefore, from the studios’ perspective, commodities and, as such, directly comparable to baked beans. The analogy breaks down, however, when we consider that each Hollywood product is unique, whilst every tin of a manufacturer’s baked bean are, essentially, the same.

This uniqueness makes filmic commodities difficult to sell and so Hollywood developed, in the early years of the 20th century, a formula that reduced the differences between the films they produced. The key elements of the formula consist of genre, narrative and stars.

By defining a film, through marketing, as belonging to a genre (or genres), the uniqueness of the film is immediately alleviated, as audiences know what it will be similar too.

Consider the image above, a ‘genre’ poster for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008). The film is clearly, primarily, action (the sword raised) adventure (the exotic setting).

However, romance (the woman behind the hero’s shoulder)...

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