Old Hollywood versus New Hollywood

April 1, 2023

Gorgeous shots, meticulous editing, and transatlantic accents once adorned the films of Old Hollywood.

At the time, an average individual could not direct or film a blockbuster. Completing these tasks took time, effort, and skill that only bestowed itself upon a person once in a generation. Such things became rarities due to the once-difficult production process: taking snapshots of each scene frame, lining them up on film, and playing them through a projector.

Those in the film industry in the 1930s through the 1960s pioneered hundreds of ways to produce films, and they were ridiculously innovative. Alfred Hitchcock, for example, essentially began modern cinema with his creation of Psycho (1960). John Ford influenced English teachers (and, of course, all of Hollywood) after directing The Grapes of Wrath (1940), a dynamic, emotion-inducing film depicting American family struggles during the Dust Bowl.

Even in later years, when digital technology began replacing film cameras, the occupation of a director or filmmaker seemed impossible to someone born lacking that artistic gene. After all, knowing how to position a camera, focus it on the proper object, decide on the appropriate symbolic colors to include in a scene, and even record with a steady hand could be daunting. James Cameron shot Avatar (2009) digitally, and many deem him one of the best filmmakers of our modern era. Notably, though, he produced Avatar before social media overtook our world.

Today, almost anyone can make a movie (or even a short video) and garner nearly the same acclaim for their much lesser effort.

TikTok and YouTube have allowed people globally to edit short clips of any topic they please and reach thousands through their algorithms. Anyone can inform anyone of anything. Anyone can become a video editor with CapCut or Adobe After Effects and upload their piece. Anyone can view whatever they wish without having to go through the hassle of buying movie tickets and sitting in the theater.

Though this sharp change from the difficulty of movie direction to the easiness of video editing may have lost directors and filmmakers some of their sparkle, it has given way to new jobs. With easy access to social media and editing apps, anyone can become an influencer and make large quantities of money through it. According to Vox, an influencer with 10,000 to 50,000 followers can earn between $40,000 to $100,000 a year simply by posting and making brand deals. Macro-influencers, like the Kardashians, can make thousands of dollars from a single post.

These videos, though, are almost always short – under 60 seconds. In fact, according to research conducted by Dr. Gloria Marl, a professor at UC Irvine, the average time a human can pay attention to one screen has shrunk from 2 ½ minutes in 2004 to 47 seconds in 2023. Of course, this corresponds directly to the film industry’s business. If the average human attention span has continuously shrunk due to our acclimation to shorter videos, how much longer can filmmaking of 2 ½ hour movies be lucrative?

Social media has impacted the film industry in other ways, too. During the Golden Age, a movie star’s promotion of films did not occur as much as the filmmaker’s promotion of that star. Now, numerous studios require actors to promote their films on social media, as movie traffic stems much from that advertisement type today. In a 2015 study by Kerynne Tejada, a student at California Polytechnic State University, 34.62% of participants chose social media as the most common means of discovering new movies to see.

Besides just social media impacting the movie industry, the presence of film conglomerates and franchises has dominated this “New Hollywood” phenomenon. Movie stars are slowly becoming extinct, and Tom Cruise is the last of them (but not even Top Gun: Maverick could garner more than one Oscar)!

After the diminishing of the star system of the Golden Age, when studios regarded image more highly than acting ability, and morality clauses in contracts were all the rage, the number of movie stars had already begun its steady decrease. Today, studios have refocused on the idea rather than the person. These ideas have not intentionally sprung only single films but entire franchises.

Disney has gained such considerable control over the film industry with Star Wars, Marvel, and their princesses that their characters have become stars. Roles are no longer defined by their actor, but the actor has become known by their role. Hence, actors in recurring roles have gained more fame in recent years than actors in different ones.

For years, the Olsen twins were known for their cuteness and featured in plenty of movies and television shows, like Full House. Now, with no franchise to back their careers, they have become obsolete compared to their sister, Elizabeth Olsen, who has risen to worldwide fame with the role of Wanda Maximoff – also known as the Scarlet Witch – in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Franchises now receive far more monetary success than single movies. For instance, each of Robert Downey Jr.’s top 10 grossing films (earning between $500 million and $2 billion) is part of the MCU or Sherlock Holmes. His single flicks, such as Dolittle and The Judge, never earned nearly as much box office revenue. This shift has completely altered the film industry, which once never consisted of such distributed control.

All this to say, movie stars no longer exist, and single movies no longer succeed like they once did. The film industry has become a conglomeration of companies vying for the top spot, avariciously racing to create the greatest spectacle possible.

Though, one must not regard New Hollywood as utterly unpleasant. New actors, directors, and others have made extraordinary changes to the film industry as it has evolved. Films have become less traditional, focusing on relevant topics and issues left undiscussed decades ago. We have seen a drastic increase in diverse casts across all film genres, providing plenty of opportunities to actors of all races, genders, religions, and other backgrounds. So, while this shift from Old to New Hollywood may seem grim in some respects, these new happenings have led to a much-needed and beneficial reshaping of film that outweighs many negative consequences.

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