In the 1950s, the after-effects of the 1948 Paramount Decree were devastating on the Hollywood Studio System. The courts ordered that the film industry’s vertically integrated structure of production, distribution and exhibition had to be separated into distinct corporate entities, and the studios were ordered to sell of their theaters. This ended block booking, which says that theaters had to only show certain movies produced by their company (one good movie and three bad ones). This resulted in a rise in the independent studios, which eventually brought the quality of cinema up universally because the big five studios had to compete with the independents for theater slots; the studios needed to make good movies, there was an overall increase in competition, thus the stakes were higher. As a result, the annual number of independent films more than doubled. Large studios could no longer “carry” bad films, or in other words studios concentrated on making fewer, but better quality films.
Unfortunately, by the mid-1950s the studio system began to fall apart. RKO, one of the big five, went out of business in 1957. As a result of families moving away from the cities and the big theaters, families began doing more local activities like picnics, barbeques or other community social events. Families began to wait for the next “big film” and found radio, television and records more accessible and relevant to the entire family. By 1959, 90% of homes owned a television (Post War Hollywood).
Hollywood responded to the rise of television by using the philosophy, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Early television relied on a log of B films to fill its airtime. Eventually, studios began to produce content for television. The television image of the early 1950s was small, indistinct, and black-and-white. Film producers attempted to draw spectators out of their living rooms and back into theaters by changing the look and sound of their movies (Post War Hollywood).
Color filmmaking was an obvious way to differentiate moves from television, thus the proportion of Hollywood color films jumped from 20 to 50 percent. Eastman introduced a monopack (single strip) color film that could be exposed in any camera and easy to develop. The simplicity and convenience of Eastman’s monopack emulsion helped increase the number of films shot in color. In addition, directors began to experiment with bigger images as well or in other words, widescreen processes. CinemaScope was introduced by 20th Century Fox and became incredibly popular because it utilized conventional 35mm film and fairly simple optics. Some early examples were, The Robe, Oklahoma! and How to Marry a Millionaire. Visually all studios adopted Scope, however only Paramount clung to its own system, VisaVision. After 1954, most Hollywood films were designed to be shown in some format winder than 1.37:1. (Post War Hollywood). Wider images required bigger screens, brighter projection and modifications in theater design. Producers also demanded magnetically reproduced stereophonic sound.
The television shows started to create their own hit television shows like Columbia and its hit series “Father Knows Best” (1954-1962). As film production declined at the big studios, they generated income by renting out their production facilities for independent filmmaking and television broadcasts. After a few years, the film industry stopped competing with the television industry by simply adjusting and expanding their activities to encompass both entertainment media.
Finally, a man named Lew Wasserman started giving disgruntled starts an option for better contracts through the art of negotiation and representation, thus giving rise to the Hollywood agents, star power and packaging. Wasserman began negotiating with major studios for major actors and actresses like Betty Davis, Jimmy Stuart and even renowned director Alfred Hitchcock. He negotiated that all these stars get their usual fee plus a substantial amount of their films overall profit. Eventually, producers began packaging stars, scripts and eventually directors, giving agents financial and creative power. Studios also began off-loading some of the risk for trying something new or letting the director express his auteur.