In the early days of cinema, Thomas Edison held a number of patents related to the motion picture industry, including the kinetoscope (a forerunner to the movie projector) and the kinetograph (a motion picture camera). These patents effectively granted Edison a monopoly over the production and exhibition of motion pictures in the United States.
Filmmakers who sought to produce and distribute their own films were therefore forced to pay licensing fees to Edison or risk legal action. As a result, many filmmakers fled to Southern California, particularly to the area around Hollywood, to evade Edison’s patent enforcement efforts.
This migration of filmmakers to Hollywood was facilitated by several factors, including the favorable climate and geography of Southern California, as well as the lack of a strong patent enforcement regime in the region. In addition, the film industry was also attracted to Hollywood due to the presence of a number of film-related businesses and services, including film labs, talent agencies, and set-building companies.
Once established in Hollywood, these filmmakers formed the nucleus of a thriving motion picture industry that eventually came to dominate the world of cinema. Many of the early Hollywood studios, such as Universal, Paramount, and MGM, were founded by these filmmakers and produced some of the most iconic films in the history of cinema.
Edison’s patent enforcement efforts continued for several years, but eventually, the courts ruled that his patents were overly broad and not enforceable. This ruling cleared the way for the growth of the Hollywood film industry and allowed filmmakers to produce and distribute their films without fear of legal action from Edison.
Today, Hollywood remains the center of the motion picture industry, and the films produced there continue to captivate audiences around the world. The migration of filmmakers to Hollywood in the early 20th century was a seminal moment in the history of cinema and played a critical role in shaping the film industry as we know it today.
- “Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company.” The Edison Papers, Rutgers University, edison.rutgers.edu/filmpatents.htm.
- “The History of Hollywood: The First 100 Years.” Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, www.hollywoodchamber.net/explore/the-history-of-hollywood.