Although the Paramount Decision opened the door for increased independent film production, independent filmmakers were generally still dependent upon the eight established Hollywood...

     Although the Paramount Decision opened the door for increased independent film production, independent filmmakers were generally still dependent upon the eight established Hollywood studios; why?

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pnrjulius eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a word? Distribution.

Before the landmark Supreme Court decision United States vs. Paramount Pictures (the Paramount Decision), film studios were operated as vertically-integrated oligopoly---frankly almost as feudalism. No one involved in production of a film was allowed to work with other studios once they signed a contract with one studio, and there were only eight major studios producing films at all. As a result workers in the film industry were underpaid and mistreated, while profits for the corporations that owned these huge monopolies were enormous. In 1948 the US government finally brought an end to this system by enforcing anti-trust laws against the film oligopoly and forcing them to allow competition.

(As Disney buys up more and more of the copyrights to beloved franchises---they already own Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel---we may yet see the return of the old studio monopoly system in a slightly different form!)

But while this did open up production of films to more competition, the Paramount Decision did not apply to the distribution of films, which remained under the control of a handful of companies (and does to this day). Much of the monopolistic exploitation that the film production companies had used continued in a new form as independent filmmakers could make their films, but not show them in theaters or on TV without the support of Hollywood corporations.

Fortunately, this too seems to be failing at last, not because of anti-trust enforcement (the US essentially stopped enforcing all anti-trust laws under Ronald Reagan!) but because of the disruptive power of computers, digital video, and the Internet; as it now becomes affordable for an independent filmmaker to shoot, edit, and then stream films for only a few tens of thousands of dollars (instead of millions before), more and more films are being made outside the conventional Hollywood channels and distributed directly from the filmmakers to the viewers.

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