Abstract: Entertainment Industrialized: The Emergence of the International Film Industry, 1890-1940 [Krooss]

Gerben Bakker


Comparing developments in Britain, France, and the United States, the dissertation shows how, at the end of the nineteenth century, consumption of entertainment was rising rapidly. When further process innovations yielded decreasing returns, a few smart entrepreneurs adopted a product innovation, cinema, to automate and standardize live entertainment and make it tradable. Production costs rose gradually, until, in the mid-1910s, a few unique firms escalated their outlays on film production and moved into distribution and exhibition, leading to the emergence of the feature film and to the industrial and geographical concentration of the industry in Southern California. European film producers—which at times had supplied as much as two-thirds of the U.S. market—were marginalized. Only a fringe of small, flexibly specialized European companies remained. Interacting with consumer preferences, the emerging Hollywood studios increasingly used stars and stories as heavily promoted brands to overcome the short product life cycle of the films themselves. By the late 1930s, cinema had significantly changed the everyday lives of most consumers in the Western world and generated substantial social savings to society at large. Cinema, then, was not only first in a row of media industries that industrialized entertainment, but also the first in a series of international industries that industrialized services. The evolution of the early film industry thus may give insight into technological change in many service industries to come.