American Film Exhibition (2013, 1983)

American Film Exhibition book cover
Synopsis: 
This book investigates the evolving market structure of the American motion picture industry between 1963 and 1980. Essentially, the analysis begins with the Paramount litigation and concentrates its focus on domestic exhibition, tracing its changing relationship to the rest of the system that is the American film business.

Production, distribution and foreign exhibition, along with America's theatre owners, are all seen as forming their own separate tiers, exhibiting needs and patterns of business behavior distinct from one another.  Simultaneously, these separate tiers are also conceptualized as being cogs that coordinate in an even larger system, the American motion picture industry.  This within and between tier unit of analysis, then, serves as the basis on which this inquiry is organized.
 
Briefly, the Paramount Decision is analyzed as having fragmented the tier of domestic exhibition, while leaving the power and status of both American production and distribution essentially intact.  Because of slow compliance with the consent decrees, the true effects of the Paramount Decision on the overall structure of the American film business were not substantially felt until 1957.  Following six successive years of industry-wide losses, the market finally started to bottom-out in 1962.  Along with bottoming-out, a new and modern structure for the American motion picture industry in general, and domestic exhibition in particular, began to take hold during 1962-1963. 
 
Traditionally, film industry historians have detailed two specific points, since 1957, where the economy of the American film industry plummeted to critical lows, 1962-1963 and 1968-1972.  This study identifies 1962-1963 as the period when domestic exhibition stabilized and began evolving into the structural configuration it displays today.  The latter years are when the same process began for America's major distributors. 
 
This volume also examines the relationship between domestic exhibition and America's major distributors.  Most times this relationship is an adversarial one, as the reallocation of profits and losses between the two tiers fluctuates sharply during the 1960s and 1970s.  Within tier friction is also evident between domestic theatre owners themselves, as each exhibitor scrambles for parity in a climate of competition, not cooperation.  What results is a market dominated by size and influence, where the industry is controlled by the major distributors, while the tier of exhibition is overshadowed by a handful of major theatre circuits.  The major American film distributors formed a mature oligopoly that has stood in one form or another since the 1930s.By 1980, this same patterning was evident in the tier of exhibition as well. The four major theatre circuits at the time—General Cinema, United Artists Theatres, Plitt and American Multi-Cinema—along with a dozen or so mini-major theatre chains developed a hold on the domestic retailing of movies comparable to the grip exhibited by their counterparts in distribution.  This oligopolistic posturing, combined with the rapid development of subscription television, video-cassettes and video-discs, all contributed to altering what movie-going meant to Americans circa 1980.  This book ends with some thoughts about the future of domestic exhibition during the 1980s and afterwards, and how technological as well as economic contingencies continued to mold the structure of the American film business, expanding its scope into television and video while adding additional tiers to the motion picture industry's original four: production, distribution, domestic and foreign exhibition.
 
This research project was designed to identify and describe the changing role of movie exhibition from the postwar era in America through 1980; conduct one of the first comprehensive structural analyses of the domestic motion picture industry during this time period; provide a working model of this industrial structure while placing exhibition within proper perspective to distribution, production, and the outside environment; and conclude with a summary description of the media symbiosis that was then rapidly developing between each and every tier of the American film industry with the rise of cable and home video.  American Film Exhibition was selected as one of the inaugural entries in the “outstanding dissertations in film series” which was then edited by Dr. Garth Jowett, one of the founding pioneers in film studies as a scholarly discipline.

American Film Exhibition: An Analysis of the Motion Picture Industry's Market Structure, 1962—1980. London and New York: Routledge, 2013 (Reprint). Originally published in New York: Garland, 1983.