The Break-Up of the Hollywood Monopoly

“Every spring scores of salesmen roar out of 31 U. S. cities to sell some 17,000 theatre owners a full year’s supply of films (100 to 300 per theatre), sight unseen. They do not sell the films by name, since none has been completed and only a few planned. Instead they sell their studio’s reputation. From the poke sticks a real pig’s ear or two, a few guaranteed bristles: ‘three Gables, four Rooneys, two Mervyn LeRoy specials,’ etc. To get these, an exhibitor must buy a full schedule of unknowns, many of which will prove to be not pigs but turkeys. This is the system known as block booking and blind selling.” This is how Time magazine described the practice that was the background for the anti-trust suit filed today in 1938 by The United States Department of Justice against the movie studios which also owned movie theaters.  The case would eventually result in a break-up of the industry in 1948.

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