On Hollywood: The Place, The Industry

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Why is the U.S. motion picture industry concentrated in Hollywood and why does it remain there in the age of globalization? Allen Scott uses the tools of economic geography to explore these questions and to provide a number of highly original answers. The conceptual roots of his analysis go back to Alfred Marshall's theory of industrial districts and pick up on modern ideas about business clusters as sites of efficient and innovative production. On Hollywood builds on this work by adding major new empirical elements. By examining the history of motion picture production from the early twentieth century to the present through this analytic lens, Scott is able to show why the industry (which was initially focused on New York) had shifted the majority of its production to Southern California by 1919. He also addresses in detail the bases of Hollywood's long-standing creative energies and competitive advantages. At the same time, the book explores the steady globalization of Hollywood's market reach as well as the cultural and political dilemmas posed by this phenomenon. On Hollywood will appeal not only to general readers with an interest in the motion picture industry, but also to economic geographers, business professionals, regional development practitioners, and cultural theorists as well.
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What People Are Saying

Robert DeFillippi
On Hollywood offers a lively and highly informative history of the origins and early growth of the Hollywood motion picture industry. Scott shows us the rich tapestry of personalities who created the Hollywood system. At the same time, he forcefully and effectively argues that it was self-interested intransigence and the lack of entrepreneurial vision within the New York based film industry that caused New York to squander its early dominant position. The rest, as they say, is history.
Robert DeFillippi, Suffolk University
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691116839
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/25/2004
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Allen J. Scott is Professor of Policy Studies and Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a former Guggenheim Fellow and a corresponding fellow of the British Academy. In 2003, he was awarded the Prix Vautrin Lud.

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Read an Excerpt

On Hollywood

The Place, The Industry
By Allen J. Scott

Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2004 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-11683-9

Chapter One


One of the defining features of contemporary society, at least in the high-income countries of the world, is the conspicuous convergence that is occurring between the domain of the economic on the one hand and the domain of the cultural on the other. Vast segments of the modern economy are inscribed with significant cultural content, while culture itself is increasingly being supplied in the form of goods and services produced by private firms for a profit under conditions of market exchange. These trends can be described variously in terms of the aestheticization of the economy and the commodification of culture (Lash and Urry 1994).

An especially dramatic case of this peculiar conjunction of culture and economics is presented by the motion picture industry of Hollywood. In purely geographic terms, Hollywood proper is a relatively small district lying just to the northwest of downtown Los Angeles (see figure 1.1). It was in this district that the motion picture industry was initially concentrated in pre-World War II days. Today, the motion picture industry and its appendages spill over well beyond this original core, stretching out to Santa Monica in the westand into the San Fernando Valley to the north and northwest. This geographic area is the stage over which the main features of Hollywood as a productive milieu are laid out. At the same time, greater Hollywood, the place, is not simply a passive receptacle of economic and cultural activity, but is a critical source of successful system performance. This recursive relationship between place and industrial performance is a recurrent feature throughout the space-economy of modern capitalism. It is evident, above all, in the propensity for viable production systems to emerge on the landscape as localized complexes forming a mosaic of industrial clusters scattered around the globe.

The primary objectives of the present book are to provide an empirical description of the genesis, changing fortunes, and current market reach of Hollywood, and to offer a number of general contributions to the economic geography of the cultural economy at large. On one side, the discussion can be represented as a sort of natural history or regional description of Hollywood and its various appendages. On the other side, it is an attempt to establish generalizations about Hollywood-like phenomena (i.e., localized articulations of cultural-products industries), and to decipher some of the basic processes in space and time that drive them forward. Above all, the entire argument that follows is focused on the central question of how and why these localized articulations of economic activity are so frequently endowed with large measures of productive efficiency, innovative capacity, competitive advantage, and historical durability, and why it is that globalization, so far from dissolving away these features, actually tends to intensify them. Thus, the analysis presented here has theoretical implications that go well beyond cultural-products agglomerations as such and that provide important clues about all forms of agglomerated economic development in the modern economy, from high-technology manufacturing complexes such as Silicon Valley or Boston's Route 128, to business and financial clusters as found in central New York or the City of London.

The Cultural Economy

Culture and Economy

The cultural economy can be broadly described as a group of sectors (equivalently, cultural-products industries) that produce goods and services whose subjective meaning, or, more narrowly, sign-value to the consumer, is high in comparison with their utilitarian purpose. Bourdieu (1971) refers to the outputs of sectors like these as having socially symbolic connotations. It must be stressed at once that there can be no hard and fast line separating industries that specialize in purely cultural products from those whose outputs are purely utilitarian. On the contrary, there is a more or less unbroken continuum of sectors ranging from, say, motion pictures or recorded music at the one extreme, through a series of sectors whose outputs are varying hybrids of the cultural and the utilitarian (such as office buildings, cars, furniture, kitchen utensils), to, say, iron ore and wheat at the other.

There has long been intense debate about whether or not cultural products whose origins lie in business-oriented systems of supply can have any genuine merit as expressions of artistic or intellectual accomplishment. In the case of the cinema, echoes of this same debate resonate around the claims that are sometimes made about the superiority and authenticity of the film d'auteur, in contrast to the allegedly debased products that emanate from the bureaucratized factory-like studios of Hollywood. Contemporary theoretical commentary from scholars like Becker (1982), Crane (1992), or Latour and Woolgar (1979) inclines to the view that this sort of broad normative distinction is invidious. In brief, we need at the outset to understand all cultural activities in indicative terms as immanent social phenomena. This signifies in turn that the moment of genesis of even the most rarified forms of artistic or intellectual accomplishment, just as much as of the most commercialized forms of entertainment, is rooted in concrete conditions of life. If this argument is correct, it suggests that there can be no necessary a priori distinctions between the merits of different cultural products simply on the basis of the social contexts out of which they arise. This proposition does not insinuate that we cannot pass critical judgments in any given instance. Rather, it extends the field of judgment by leading on to the observation that every domain of social life, including capitalism itself, is a legitimate site of cultural production, and potentially a site of even the highest levels of cultural achievement. But if capitalism is just another site of the production of culture, it does not follow that it produces just any culture. To the contrary, the ever-expanding streams of cultural products that emerge from contemporary capitalist business enterprise are deeply inflected by this point of social origin, and this observation provides important clues about both the successes and the failures of these products on different levels of cultural interpretation, an idea that is explored further in the following section.

Fordism, Post-Fordism, and the Cultural Economy

Over much of the twentieth century, cultural-products industries were of comparatively minor economic significance compared to the great leading industries driving national growth and development. This was especially the case in the first half of the century as so-called fordist mass production shifted into high gear and as sectors like cars, machinery, and petrochemicals moved to the forefront of economic expansion.

The rise of fordism was accompanied by all-out product standardization and the pervasive deskilling of workers as central efficiency-promoting strategies (Braverman 1974). These technical aspects of mass production suggest, at first glance, that it was (and is) unlikely to be much adapted to the generation of the aesthetic and semiotic content that is the hallmark of cultural outputs. In the period of high fordism, indeed, a number of critics, most especially adherents of the Frankfurt School (e.g., Adorno 1991; Horkheimer and Adorno 1972), were giving voice to sharp condemnations of commercial culture on the grounds that its vacuity, meretriciousness, and "eternal sameness" induced a sort of ideological stupor in consumers. Even in the era of fordism, however, there were theoretical currents that sought to combine the basic productive dynamics of mass production with ambitious forms of cultural expression, as manifest, for example, in the work of the Bauhaus School and various less-is-more aesthetic programs. All that being said, and while business practices in the motion picture industry of the pre-World War II period were certainly greatly influenced by the ethos of fordism, they never embraced full-blown mass production as such. There was, to be sure, a prevailing attitude among the top echelons of Hollywood executives that fordist principles of manufacturing could eventually be applied to the production of motion pictures, and a number of the studios actually did try to reorganize elements of their internal operations along the lines of a large car factory. Studio managers enthusiastically endorsed this quest for efficiency, and they succeeded in streamlining many kinds of work processes. However, they were unable to push the process to its logical end and install mechanized assembly-line methods, for the very good reason that no commercially viable film can be exactly like any other.

In the years immediately following the Second World War, the flirtation of Hollywood executives with mass production was brought sharply to an end. The system now started to evolve in a different direction altogether, prefiguring as it did some of the essential features of today's so-called new economy. This turn of events followed on the heels of a number of crises that are described in detail in later chapters. The important point for now is that over the 1950s and 1960s, and even though fordism was still in full swing in the United States at large, the entire Hollywood motion picture industry restructured in ways that made it vastly less concentrated in functional terms than it had been before the war. The large studios (or majors) themselves never actually disappeared in this process, though they were subject to considerable downsizing as many of the activities that they had previously carried on in-house were steadily externalized. As a corollary, the production system was significantly reconstituted as a congeries of many small and medium-sized firms linked together in shifting coalitions by flexible production networks. The majors, for their part, took on a variety of new roles, one of the more important of which was to provide central coordinating services to the vertically disintegrated networks proliferating around them.

As these events were occurring, and as part of their inner logic, local labor markets in Hollywood were also being reorganized, above all, by the elimination of many types of workers from permanent studio payrolls. These workers were in some instances reemployed in smaller firms; in other instances (e.g., elite creative workers) they became freelance contractors of their own labor. In any case, long-term employment security in Hollywood was severely curtailed by these events, though it should be added that in contrast to certain other cultural-products industries, such as clothing or jewelry, Hollywood has never had much of a tendency to generate low-wage, low-skill jobs, in large measure because the long-standing guilds and unions have been notably successful in erecting institutional barriers to wage-cutting by employers. The basic labor of making a film was now, too, significantly reorganized on a project-oriented basis (Grabher 2001), with shifting, temporary teams of creative workers and associated technical workers engaging with one another in personalized, open-ended systems of interaction.

By the early 1980s, these sea changes in productive organization and local labor markets in the Hollywood motion picture industry were becoming increasingly evident in a large number of other sectors in the advanced capitalist countries. Various technology-intensive, service-oriented, and crafts sectors were most directly affected by these changes, and the overall trend itself was rapidly labeled by students of industrial organization as the expression of a mounting shift to flexible specialization or post-fordism, or some combination of the two (Hirst and Zeitlin 1992; Leborgne and Lipietz 1988; Piore and Sabel 1984). Today, these labels seem generally to have given way before the more neutral notion of the "new economy." Above all, a new creative economy comprising many different kinds of design-intensive, cultural-products sectors now began to move to the leading edges of economic expansion and innovation in the American economy at large.

Like the restructured Hollywood motion picture industry, these cultural-products sectors are typified by an abundance of small and medium-sized firms caught up in extended transactional networks, sometimes in association with larger firms that carry out basic functions of financing, coordination, marketing, and distribution. Despite this shift in favor of smaller firms, large-scale producers of selected cultural products have by no means disappeared; rather, in many cases, they have become yet more common as globalization has intensified. These complex features of productive organization in the cultural economy are mirrored in final markets in which a limited number of hit products (films, recordings, computer games, books, and so on) float within a mass of highly differentiated offerings addressed to a wide variety of specialized niche markets.

The Cultural Economy and the City

The great expansion of commercialized cultural production that has occurred over the last couple of decades has been very largely based in major urban centers. Places like Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, or Tokyo have always been important hubs of cultural production. Today, the same places, along with other burgeoning world cities like Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Bombay, or Mexico City, are assuming even greater importance as foci of the global cultural economy, and they are the sites of diverse creative industries such as publishing, fashion, music, architecture, graphic arts, and, of course, film. Cultural-products industries, in short, are preeminently attracted to large metropolitan areas, and the most successful of all are almost always concentrated in cosmopolitan cities with extended global influence (Scott 2000a).

Within any given metropolitan area, firms in these industries typically gather together in tightly defined quarters or districts. More accurately, their locational pattern in the metropolis is usually characterized by a dense nucleated core of specialized producers surrounded by a more scattered pattern of firms, sometimes extending to the outer edges of the built-up area. Hollywood is just such an industrial district within the urban fabric of Los Angeles. The propensity of firms in cultural-products sectors to converge together in distinctive spatial clusters within the city is above all a reflection of an organizational structure in which each individual unit of production is organically caught up in a wider system of socioeconomic interactions, on which it depends for survival. Above all, firms have a strong incentive to come together in communities or ecologies within the city because mutual proximity often greatly enhances the availability of agglomeration economies and increasing-returns effects (or in a less technical language, benefits that accrue to producers precisely because they are close to other producers). By clustering together, firms are able to economize on their spatial interlinkages, to reap the multiple advantages of spatially concentrated labor markets, to tap into the abundant information flows and innovative potentials that are present wherever many different specialized but complementary producers are congregated, and so on (Scott 1988a, 1988b; Storper 1997). Clustering is especially prone to occur in cases where the relations between firms cannot be planned over extended periods of time so that useful interfirm contacts need to be constantly programmed and reprogrammed. The formation of complex institutional arrangements and social conventions within and around industrial districts is also a factor that tends to reinforce the durability of localized production systems on the landscape. Concomitantly, vibrant agglomerations of cultural-products industries become magnets for talented individuals from other areas. Capable and aspiring neophytes recognize that personal and professional fulfillment in their chosen line of work can best be attained by migrating to a center where that sort of work is well developed and highly valued (Menger 1993; Montgomery and Robinson 1993). Thus, visual artists are attracted in droves from all parts of the world to Paris and New York, and aspiring scriptwriters, film directors, actors, and so on, to Hollywood. In this manner, new aptitudes flow continually into particular clusters from outside, thus helping to enlarge their production capabilities and to refresh their pools of talent.


Excerpted from On Hollywood by Allen J. Scott Copyright © 2004 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures vii
List of Tables ix
Preface xi
Chapter 1 Preliminary Arguments: Culture, Economy, and the City 1
Chapter 2 Origins and Early Growth of the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry 11
Chapter 3 A New Map of Hollywood 35
Chapter 4 The Other Hollywood: Television Program Production 61
Chapter 5 Dream Factories: Studios, Soundstages, and Sets 79
Chapter 6 The Digital Visual Effects Industry 95
Chapter 7 Local Labor Markets in Hollywood 117
Chapter 8 Hollywood in America and the World: Distribution and Markets 138
Chapter 9 Cinema, Culture, Globalization 159
References 177
Index 189
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"On Hollywood offers a lively and highly informative history of the origins and early growth of the Hollywood motion picture industry. Scott shows us the rich tapestry of personalities who created the Hollywood system. At the same time, he forcefully and effectively argues that it was self-interested intransigence and the lack of entrepreneurial vision within the New York based film industry that caused New York to squander its early dominant position. The rest, as they say, is history."—Robert DeFillippi, Suffolk University

Read More Show Less

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