Hollywood has been the undisputed capital of film history since the 1900s. Its dominance has endured for almost a century but it wasn’t always that way.
In fact, for the first 20 years of the American film business; Hollywood was just a tiny agricultural village without a studio in sight.
For the fact in these coming minutes, you will discover a familiar yet unfamiliar name in this stream of life created the pathway or inadvertently transformed this small patch of the village into a global movie powerhouse that we know today.
Hollywood Was Growing Citrus Trees In The Early 1900s
At the dawn of the 20th century (in 1908 to be precise) the people of Hollywood were growing citrus trees.
Now a simple question must be arising on your mind as who was the predecessor film industry king city in the world, to be your surprise it was neither New York nor Miami nor even London, it was Beau et romantique Paris de France (Just Paris), where two biggest studios alone which are Gaumont and Pathe-Freres produced and distributed twice as many films in the US; more than all the American studios combined.
Ironically even though America played a huge part in the development of film technology, in terms of actually making movies but the US was practically a backwater and this was not by any chance but by design.
The Battle Of Patents And The Entry of ‘X’
The first decade of the 20th century saw a massive battle for the future of the American movie business called: A Battle of Patents.
Where the most powerful participant was X (Just keeping the name of the person hidden). As in 1893, X built the first American movie studio and held many of the most important patents for motion picture cameras and projectors and many important pieces of stuff required for film making.
As the time passed, X went on to buy movie patents in dozens and he would file lawsuits against pretty much anyone who dared to compete with him.
His approach was so successful that throughout the 1890s the American movie industry was just effectively his company.
Only one organisation who had deep pockets like X had the power to oppose X’s litigation: known as Biograph, who had held another patent for inventing a different camera from one covered by X’s patents.
As Nickelodeons movie theaters widely spread across America from 1905 onwards, X’s studios became the second one in America only failing behind Biograph, which produced over 1200 movies in its first ten years including what is almost certainly first cat video in existence.
At One Point However X’s Camera started becoming too successful: New Studios emerging to capture immense profits to be had in the Nickelodeon business faster than X could Sue them.
Time to Get Together: X’s New Strategy
But in 1908 X finally decided to switch strategies: instead of trying to sue everyone he eventually decided to bring all the studios together as to create one single entity that would dominate the entire industry.
Eventually, by pooling all their patents and connections, the movie studios could ensure that no one would challenge them and surprisingly almost everyone backed X for this proposal.
The Motion Picture Patent company came to encompass all the big names of American film and it secured a total control over the nickelodeon’s business.
The Film Trust as it came to be known, started charging Nickelodeon theaters for everything. As in the past Nickelodeons could outright buy movies from the studios but now they could only rent them for a price of 13 cents per foot of film per month and top of that they had to pay licensing fee of 5$ per projector per month and a $2 per week for the theater itself.
The nickelodeons on the other hand had no choice they could either pay fess or have no movies to show. But some theaters opted a 3rd option as importing movies from Europe.
Now during all these patent battles in America European movies had matured significantly.
Feature-length films were being popular in Paris and from there they make their way to America where they were eventually more hit.
Such As Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth (in 1912).
Pretty soon some studio executives started to make their own films but as known earlier the film trust wouldn’t allow them. As these feature-length films were a competitor of nickelodeon which is why X was fully against them.
How a village named ‘Hollywood’ in the ‘West Coast’ became the Movie Capital of the World?
The earlier film powerhouse, The Film trust was based on the east so anyone who wants to make feature-length films will have to move as far as possible from there.
As the west coast, especially Los Angeles became the destination of choice for renegade movie-makers seeking to usurp X’s Monopoly.
As LA had several benefits that made it very attractive, as a developed rail line from the east to transport stuff and it was approx. less than 150 miles from Mexico where these producers could stealthily hide their equipment if X successfully sued them.
Of course, the renegade producers weren’t filthy rich so they didn’t be able to buy lands in the LA mainland but an outskirt from the town, where land was cheap i.e. Hollywood.
It’s there in 1912 four studios began their quest to bring feature-length film to America. They were none other than
- Universal Films
- Paramount Pictures
- 20th Century Fox
- Warner Bros
And it was a successful venture as the young Hollywood movie industry expanded at an incredible pace.
As the four Studios grew in power, they started fighting back in only just 3 years as in 1915 they supported antitrust prosecution by US govt, which deemed the film trust to be an illegal monopoly and ordered to break it up.
With the east coast monopoly gone Hollywood was now free to take over the movie industry not only in America but in Europe as well as the first world war decimated local film production.
Of course, X didn’t really care all that much about this missed opportunity. Neither was he really into film making, always on the technological side of things.
Who was this ‘X’?
But Anyways X was none other than the ‘King of Patents’ Thomas Alva Edison; the brain and the cheater behind the first commercial light bulb.
The first American movie studio was built by him that was named Black Maria.