Vertical Integration during the Hollywood Studio Era
The Hollywood studio system—production, distribution, and exhibition vertically integrated—flourished until 1948, when the famous Paramount decision forced the divestiture of theater chains and the abandonment of a number of vertical practices. Although many of the banned practices have since been posited to have increased efficiency, evidence of an efficiency-enhancing rationale for theater ownership has not been presented. This paper explores the hypothesis that theater chain ownership promoted efficient ex post adjustment in the length of film runs—specifically, abbreviation of unexpectedly unpopular films. Extracontractual run-length adjustments are desirable because demand for a film is not revealed until the film is actually exhibited. The paper employs a unique data set of cinema booking sheets. It finds that run lengths for releases by vertically integrated film producers were significantly—economically and statistically—more likely to be altered ex post. The paper documents and discusses additional practices intended to promote flexibility.
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