In the late 1940s, after the deprivations of World War II and before the development of television, nearly 100 million Americans, nearly 70% of the then population, went to the movies every week.  It was the defining mass media experience of the day.  By the first decade of this century weekly attendance had dropped down to only 10%.  What had been the dominant public entertainment medium had evolved into a niche pursuit. Television, video recorders, computer games and the web had taken their toll on the audience’s available money and time.   So did this mean that the industry sometimes known just as “Hollywood” was in fundamental decline?  Far from it! The economics of the overall film industry are bigger than ever.  It is simply that by the 21st century only about 20% of the money earned by movies was from selling seats in cinemas. The bulk came from DVDs, videos, television broadcasts, pay TV, books, games and merchandising. Whereas the original Hollywood was focused on making short, silent films the new Hollywood is about creating entertainment franchises which dip their fingers into the consumers’ pockets in many different ways.

Cinema is a complex and highly technical medium, originally combining the chemistry of photographic film with the mechanics of creating an optical illusion. Over a hundred year period cinema has moved from fairground novelty to fine art and high finance by way of the studio system, the power of stars and a ruthless business approach.  It was the proving ground for many of the economic models of the modern media industry.  The movies are still the engine driving much of the other commercial media which is impressive for something that started out as an adjunct to the circus.