April 3, 2020
How Thomas Edison (Accidentally) Created Hollywood

How Thomas Edison (Accidentally) Created Hollywood


Hollywood: the undisputed capital of the movie
industry. Hollywood’s dominance has endured for almost
a century, but it wasn’t always that way; in fact, for the first twenty years of the
American film business, Hollywood was just a tiny agricultural village without a studio
in sight. In this video, we’re gonna see how Thomas
Edison inadvertently transformed this village into the global movie powerhouse that we know
today. This video is brought to you by Skillshare. Watch my classes on how the stock market works
for free by registering with the link in the description. At the dawn of the 20th century, the people
of Hollywood were growing citrus trees. The center of the film industry wasn’t New
York either, nor any other city in America. Instead, that title belonged to Paris, where
the two biggest studios alone were distributing twice as many films in the US as all the American
studios combined. Ironically, even though America played a huge
part in the development of film technology, in terms of actually making movies the US
was practically a backwater and this was not by chance, but by design. You see, the first decade of the 20th century
saw a massive battle for the future of the American movie business: a battle of patents. Thomas Edison was the most powerful participant:
in 1893 he had built America’s first movie studio and he held many of the most important
patents for motion picture cameras and projectors. Using his vast resources, Edison would buy
up movie patents by the dozens and he would file lawsuits against pretty much anyone who
dared to compete with him. Edison’s approach was so successful that
throughout the 1890s the American movie industry was effectively his company and the one competitor
who had the pockets to oppose Edison’s litigation: a company known as Biograph, which had invented
a different camera from the one covered by Edison’s patents. As Nickelodeons spread across America from
1905 onwards, Edison’s studio became the second biggest one in America, behind only
Biograph. It produced over a thousand movies in its
first ten years, including what is almost certainly the first cat video in existence. At one point, however, Edison’s camera started
becoming too successful: new studios were emerging to capture the immense profits to
be had in the Nickelodeon business faster than Edison could sue them. In 1908, Edison finally decided to switch
strategies: instead of trying to sue everyone, Edison would bring all the studios together
to create one single entity that would dominate the entire industry. By pooling all their patents and connections,
the movie studios could ensure that no one would challenge them and unsurprisingly, almost
everyone backed Edison in this proposal. The Motion Picture Patents Company came to
encompass all the big names of American film and it secured total control over the Nickelodeon
business. The Film Trust, as it came to be known, started
charging Nickelodeon theaters for everything: in the past Nickelodeons could outright buy
movies from the studios, but now they could only rent them. On top of that they had to pay a licensing
fee for every projector and $2 a week for the theater itself. The Nickelodeons, of course, had no choice:
they could either pay the fees or have no movies to show. But some of the theaters went with a third
option: they started importing movies from Europe. Now, during the patent battles in America,
European cinema had matured significantly. Feature-length films were becoming increasingly
popular in Paris and from there they made their way to America, where they actually
became big hits. Pretty soon some studio executives were trying
to make feature films of their own, but there was one big problem: the Film Trust would
not allow them. You see, in the eyes of the Film Trust, feature-length
films were a competitor to their Nickelodeon shorts, which is why Edison was fully against
them. Now, because the Film Trust was based out
of the East Coast, anyone who wanted to make movies “illegally” had to move as far
away from there as they reasonably could. The West Coast and specifically Los Angeles
became the destination of choice for renegade movie makers seeking to usurp Edison’s monopoly. LA had several benefits that made it very
attractive: it was connected by rail to the East Coast where all the technology was coming
from, and yet it was also just about a hundred miles from the Mexican border, where any film
producer could hide their equipment in case Edison successfully sued them. Of course, the renegade producers weren’t
exactly flush with cash, so they didn’t buy land in LA itself, but rather in a small
town on the outskirts where land was cheap: Hollywood. It is there in 1912 that four studios first
began their quest in bringing the feature-length film to America. You can see just how successful they were
in this chart: from 1912 onwards the young Hollywood movie industry expanded at an incredible
pace. As the four studios grew in power they started
fighting back and in 1915 they supported antitrust prosecution by the US government, which deemed
the Film Trust to be an illegal monopoly and ordered it to be broken up. With the East Coast monopoly gone, Hollywood
was free to take over the movie industry and not just in America, but in Europe as well,
where the First World War had decimated local film production. Of course, Thomas Edison didn’t really care
all that much about this missed opportunity: he was never really into filmmaking, always
more on the technological side of things. But if you’re passionate about movies and
wanna learn how to make them you’re gonna enjoy watching the awesome selection of courses
on Film Production offered by Skillshare. Whether you’re curious about cinematography
or editing, be it for short films or documentaries, on Skillshare you can learn anything and in
fact if you’re one of the first 500 people to use the link in the description you’ll
get a 2-month free trial of Skillshare to start learning right now. Then, once you’ve made your first blockbuster
hit you’re probably gonna have to learn what to do with all that money, in which case
you should watch my two Skillshare courses on investing in the stock market. Once you’re done with all that, you can
also share this video with your friends and, more importantly, you can follow me on my
new Instagram page, where I’m gonna share awesome side content and teasers for future
videos. You can expect to see my next video in about
two weeks, and until then: stay smart.

100 thoughts on “How Thomas Edison (Accidentally) Created Hollywood

  1. By January 1879, at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, Edison had built his first high resistance, incandescent electric light. It worked by passing electricity through a thin platinum filament in the glass vacuum bulb, which delayed the filament from melting. Still, the lamp only burned for a few short hours.

  2. The major studios of Hollywod Classical era were 5, not 4: Paramount, Warner Bros., Fox, MGM, and United Artists. Besides that, great video.

  3. As often as Edison comes up in the usual Edison vs Tesla talks, this has never been mentioned. Very interesting, cool video!

  4. Ahh ok. I always thought LA became the center of the filming industry because of the natural light conditions in that part of the country.

  5. Hollywood, the undisputed capital of the movie industry"

    Atlanta would like a word. Huge amounts of money and productions from big studios like Marvel/Disney has helped explode the industry in Atlanta. I think Hollywood has already been de-throned in terms of total production budgets/revenues.

  6. You should check out the story of how edison funded the electric chair as part of his war against George Westinghouse.

  7. Thomas Edison was on the more money side of things . That guy was an idiot misusing Nikola Tesla and a lot of other stuff like that . He was only interested in money .

  8. Hey! Which is the music you used in your into and ending? I have heard it before, but I didn't get a chance to figure out its name.

  9. No matter how great ppl describe Thomas Edison, I cannot accept what he done to Nikola Tesla.

    Edison is a jerk!!!

  10. once again copyright law ruins creative endeavors. or maybe this was the first time. either way copyright law ruins everything.

  11. Nice to know that Paris was the center of the movie industry in the begining. I don't think they will ever regain that position with Hollywood being number 1 and Bollywood number 2. Thomas Edison East coast movie monopoly help create Hollywood.

  12. so all of Hollywood is from descended anti patent pirates, those hypocrites. ideologically caring for nothing they just want to be the ones controlling what others do.

  13. Edison just like Rockefeller or Carnegie were businessmen with questionable ethics in today's standards but who nevertheless built our modern world

  14. BC, would you please make a video about the Dell computer corporation? I’d like to learn the history of Dell because it seems to be the most popular Windows PC used commercially. I can’t remember working anywhere that wasn’t using Dell computers for the business. How did Dell get so big and popular?
    Video, please! 😃

  15. Ofcourse Edison was never into film making, he was into the technological side of things
    Stealing others' patents you mean

  16. this video is a real prove why you should become Thomas Edison, and not Nikola Tesla
    even Elon Musk himself admire Thomas Edison, Tesla name is just because of the engine of the car nothing more
    please dude, look at reality, Nikola Tesla is just a lonely poor old man who died alone his apartment room,
    he's seriously trying to build a tower for ambitious project and it was a failure, while Edison accidentally build Hollywood

  17. I would like you to make a video on Research in Motion LTD now BlackBerry LTD soon. You do a great job. Keep it up. Thanks.

  18. It's kinda come to full circle. Hollywood was formed by copyright offenders (or IP thief, "illegal" use of patented technology etc.) and now the are the one who chasing "illegals user" of their own IP, copyright, patent etc.

  19. Great video! The impact of Edison on American history can never be understated.

    I understand that the first World War 1 impacted film production in Europe but are their any other reasons European feature length films were not able to compete with Hollywood in the United States after the war?

    Europe produced some fine film makers during the 1920s such as Fritz Lang.

  20. Can you sound less kosher vampire? It’s just the deflection of jewish crimes against Edison and America are too obvious.

  21. You "forgot" to mention exactly (((who))) were the guys who went west to escape the iron hand of Edison's trust. But then again you wouldn't wanna have your video taken down on "hate speech", eh?!

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