Mar 25, 2020 in History

New Hollywood: 1972-1988

According to Schatz, the ‘New Hollywood’, also popularly known as the ‘American New Wave’, is a vital period in the history of American film. He notes that it started in the mid-to late 1960s and proceeded until the 1980s. The period was marked by the emergence of a young generation of filmmakers in the United States. Thus, it had a massive impact on the films’ production and marketing as well as film types and the manner in which the main studios approached film making as a business venture. Burgoyne observes that the period initiated great changes in American history as the director took over the key authorial role that was previously performed by the studio.

There is a stylistic characterization of the films that were made during the New Hollywood period as they demonstrate a big deviation from the classical norms. Generally, most of the films and the film producers of the New Hollywood period were highly successful and marketable. The case of the blockbuster was a good example of the success of the New Hollywood during that time. It was an incredible hit that made many profits during the late 1990s, hence indicating businessmen's potential profitability in Hollywood's film industry. The realization made the movie industry experience great development and offered huge possibilities in the areas of advertising, distribution, and seasonal release, with investments made on ancillary markets. A good look at the historical background of the New Hollywood reveals that the new ancillary markets and strategies were unlocked during the era due to the advent of TV and the decline of some types of film financing.

 

Historical Background of the Development of New Hollywood

The end of the studio system gave room for the emergence of television, which reduced the artistic quality of films and their performance in terms of business worthiness. Diminishing film quality and the loss of market for film industry were undesired occurrences that called for appropriate measures that could revive the industry if it was ever going to be more profitable. The period spanning the mid-1960s and the early 1980s is referred to (In American film industry) as the “New Hollywood” period. Overtime, it has been recognized as a time that has marked artistic and commercial revival of the film industry. The reason for that is that the films produced within that period had the logic of narrative and the subject matter characterized by unconventionality despite the fact that they continued following classical norms.

According to the observation by Burgoyne, the emergence of television and bringing block booking and theater chains ownership by film studios to an end made the traditional studio system become very weak. Initially, the Hollywood studio relied on the use of spectacle to achieve sustainable profitability. There was a need to introduce new measures that would facilitate market retention in response to the advent of television. It is due to that reason that Technicolor became popular alongside several technical advancements such as the introduction of stereo sound and CinemaScope among other technologies. The response to the TV innovation also included the use of widescreen processes and the 3-D that aimed at retaining the decreasing audience in competition with the television. However, the reactions did not achieve the desired results as they failed to increase profits. All of this led to the publication by the Life magazine that referred to the 1950s as the ‘Horrible decade’ for Hollywood.

During this period, Hollywood was largely dominated by musicals and historical epics, among other films, that mainly relied on advanced sounds, wide framing, and large screens. It is for this reason that the New Hollywood period is believed to have started by 1957. Despite the advancements that were realized in the film industry as early as 1957, Byg observes that there was much concern about the dwindling audience share that reached the lowest point in the mid-1960s.

Old Hollywood was increasingly losing market by the 1960s when the baby boomer generation was coming up. The market was lost due to the inability to effectively react to the changes in audience demographics. At that time, the market for the film industry changed to the young college educated population from the middle-aged high school educated audience as, was the case in the mid 1960s. A higher percentage, about 76 percent of movie audience, was aged below 30 years; out of that population, 64 percent had attained college education. There was a big splash in the United States for the European art films such as the French New Wave and Japanese cinema that benefitted disaffected youth. The movies gained popularity among the population due to their oblique narrative structure and popular application of full-frontal nudity for female characters.

It was during that period that studios incurred massive losses resulting from the movie flops; hence, they became desperate for innovative ways by which they could approach the economic down-turn. It is at that time that the decision to give younger directors and producers a change was made, with massive innovations realized to revive the American film industry. To reach out to the audience that became much attracted to Europe’s art films, most studios decided to hire young film producers. It is through the hiring that the upcoming producers were given room to carry out film making without much control. Most of the young filmmakers worked under the mentorship of Roger Corman. The other occurrence that set the stage for the New Hollywood was the new ratings system introduced in 1968 and the breakdown of the Production Code in 1966.

Changes from Traditional Hollywood Movie Studios

Established Hollywood movie studios were no longer in direct control of film production with the exception of Walt Disney’s Buena Vista and Universal. The distribution of films was still mainly done by the established studios while other aspects such as filming, financing, and production were left under the control of independent studios, agents, and producers. The development of the New Hollywood was also characterized by the emergence of new movie stars such as Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman. The new entrants had several skills and competence in serving as character actors with adaptive capacity and flexibility to play several roles by molding their screen images, changes that proved very useful to the initially dwindling industry (United States Federal Bureau of Investigations 8).

The year 1975 saw the creation of the Creative Artists Agency founded by Michael Ovitz and his colleagues to help in packaging talents for film projects. The creation of the agency led to great competition from agents while the conglomerate investment corporation started purchasing several studio properties to help with their leisure entertainment divisions. The conglomerate Investment Corporation slowly became a defining force behind a number of films to be produced and the potentially profitable projects that had been selected. Packaging involved bringing together all film elements that included a stage play as well as a novel and original screen play that were combined with renounced box office stars, marketing strategies, and directors.

On-location filming that was done through the film studios mounted on wheels or cinemobiles was cheap and, consequently, encouraged location shoots while others were filming on rented facilities. According to Byg, the formal style reduced in American studios due to innovations that availed lightweight cinematographic equipment, cinema verite movement, and faster film stock. The developments gave rise to the emergence of professional filmmakers as film making involved the roles played by director-producers. Among the best personalities remembered for their success in the film industry during the period is director John Avildsen with his sports film Rocky of 1976. The Godfather of 1972 by Coppola also won Best Picture Oscar as Paramount film and became the biggest hit in Paramount history in less than a month.

News Business Markets for Products of Hollywood

The New Hollywood period saw the emergence of ancillary markets for Hollywood's products. In terms of cable television, the first premium TV channel called HBO (Home Box Office) was established in 1972. By 1975, the television channel gained much popularity in its programming to the point that it became the first to apply the use of satellites in its regular transmission of program. This is evidenced by the station’s boxing match featuring Joe Frazie and Muhammad Ali. The program was known as ‘Thrilla in Manila”.

Another major change was the decision to have the main film openings moved from the middle of the week to Fridays with the aim of maximizing profits with the help of the weekend audience. It was believed that the weekends were more suitable for filmopenings as the audience would be having ample time to turn up as compared to mid-week shows that attracted relatively low audiences. With this change, the industry started to attract and accommodate the employed group, which greatly boosted its market size.

To cater for the audiences tastes, it was necessary to have films that were attractive to the majority of the audience. The pay cable television enabled offering sex and profanity to a greater extent than the commercial television could do. For example, the first comedy by the outrageous Comedian George Carlin was shown as an ON Location on HBO with the provision of disclaimers regarding the strong language used as a way of giving precaution to the audience.

Moreover, it was evident that the suburban areas were not left behind in the new developments. Multi-plex theaters proliferated in the areas to replace big movies’ palaces. In addition, the emergence of multi-screen chain theaters made it possible for the movies to be shown to smaller audiences. The anticipated turnover was evident in 1979, when the biggest Cineplex in the world was opened in Toronto.

Film promotion and celebrity watching also changed during the New Hollywood period. Bordwell et al, state that the change was observed at the point where celebrity magazines stopped their weekly publications in 1972. It was because People Magazine took over providing opportunities for celebrity watching and film promotion. Hollywood also reached the realization that through advertising its new productions on television, it could achieve a boost in profit generation. The belief was confirmed as true after launching several television marketing platforms for Jaws in1975. Due to the level of publicity that was created by the use of the television, the film was successfully booked into about 500 theaters ahead of its opening weekend.

Conclusion

Based on this discussion, it is evident that the New Hollywood period is a vital phase in the history of American film industry due to the great changes associated with the period. The move that was taken by Hollywood revolutionized the innovative works of the new generation of directors and independent production, as observed by Byg. The shift was conditioned by the need to maintain market relevance, thereby responding to the societal changes that took place in film viewership, that is the audience. Another instrumental response was coming up with the content that was attractive to the educated youth who made up a high percentage of film audience. Moreover, the revival of the film industry during the analyzed period involved the provision of opportunities for young directors and producers to carry out their roles without much control of the studio as had been observed by Bordwell. They were given a chance to produce the content with the help of modern innovations, which would appeal to the new generation of film audience. Technological advancements, such as the introduction of television technology, also facilitated the transmission of film production. Moreover, the innovative equipment that came up enabled on-location filming, which was less costly. As a result, new markets emerged, with films produced seasonally and the main films shown on Fridays or over the weekends to attract more audience by incorporating the working class.

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