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Film And Business History: The Development Of An American Mass Entertainment Industry

D. Gomery
Published 1984 · History

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Increasingly, historians employ feature films in their studies of political, social, and cultural change. Most often, American historians rely on the products of Hollywood to tender clues to broad trends in mass tastes and desires. Since the American film industry has long used an assembly-like process of production to fashion products for mass consumption, Hollywood features ought to be intimately interwoven with the fundamental ideas and beliefs of the average American. Recent work in film and history has recognized that there exist significant methodological pitfalls in this type of analysis, principally the necessity to specify how films have created meaning, how films have been treated by social and political forces, and how films have been received by audiences. But for Hollywood in particular, the historian first needs to understand how film-making as an institution has functioned. Hollywood exists as an industry, a collection of corporations seeking profits. Paul Smith expressed this dimension of the study of film and history in the following terms:
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