This is an archived course. Visit the most recent syllabus.

Course Description

After World War I, the American film industry became the dominant cinema throughout the world, dwarfing national cinemas in number of productions and in box office revenues. Since then, the industry vertically integrated into the Hollywood studio system, was broken up by the US courts, threatened by television and new media, acquired by global conglomerates, and challenged by emerging cinemas in East and South Asia.

By most measures, however, the American film industry remains a dominant force in the culture industries of the world. This course examines the economic history of the American film industry since 1912. We will also focus on the technological and cultural changes of the industry, and pay special attention to how film has responded to successes and challenges of the US film industry and the changes to its business practices.


Juan Monroy


Office Hours

G Building, Room 103
Tuesday, 9:20 – 10:20 PM

Course Materials


The following textbooks are available through online retailers, and on reserve at Rosenthal Library.

Reserve Readings

Required course readings not found in the above textbooks are available electronically as PDFs on the course website.


Subscribe to The Business, a weekly radio show on the “the business of show business,” produced by KCRW-FM, Santa Monica and available as a podcast.


If you don’t use it already, I highly recommend using Dropbox to exchange files with me. You can sign up for free and receive two (2) gigabytes of cloud based storage. This is an invaluable tool for accessing all of your files anywhere without having to carry a USB flash drive. I hate those things.


We will not be using Blackboard for this course.


This class consists of five components. You cannot satisfactorily complete this course without all five of these.


Each lecture will form the basis of the material I expect you to know for the exams. I will present on the historical and cultural context relevant to the material covered that particular week. I will post outlines and slides from each lecture, but believe me, those serve as poor substitutes for attending each week’s lecture.


There will be an in-class screening each week, usually following the lecture. I will lead a brief discussion after these screenings, depending on time constraints.

On certain weeks, you are required to watch a few films available online. Links to the screenings are listed on the Course Schedule (below).


Please read the assigned course material prior to each week’s class. Consult the Course Schedule for the required reading assignments.


All assignments must be completed on time in order to receive full credit. Late assignments will be penalized by a 10% reduction for each 24-hour period it is late. After seven calendar days, the assignment will not be accepted and you will likely fail this class.


Exams comprise half of your course grade and are written to reward regular attendance and diligent studying. Exams will be administered in class and must be taken at the specified date and time.

Course Policies


Please respect the classroom environment. You should pay attention to the lecture, take notes, and avoid distractions, such as web surfing and using your mobile phone. Studies have consistently shown that students using laptops and mobile phones perform about 11% worse than students who are not distracted by these devices. On a personal note, it’s very difficult to stay motivated as a teacher if I see students seemingly disinterested in their own education. If I find you engaging in disruptive behavior, such as watching online videos, passing notes, instant messaging, chatting, or texting, I will remove you from the classroom and have you withdraw from the class.

Late Work and “Incomplete” Grades

Please submit your work on time. Late work will be penalized by a 10% reduction for each 24-hour period it is late. After one calendar week, the assignment will not be accepted and you will likely fail this class.

There will be no incomplete grades for this class except in the case of a documented emergency in the final weeks of the semester. If you experience such an emergency, please contact me immediately, and we will work out a schedule for you to complete the outstanding work before the beginning of the following semester.

But aside from these circumstances, no late work will be accepted and no “incomplete” grades will be granted. If you have difficulty keeping up with coursework, consider giving yourself extra time to complete assignments, reducing your overall course load, and/or taking this class at a later semester.

Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty is prohibited in The City University of New York. Penalties for academic dishonesty include academic sanctions, such as failing or otherwise reduced grades, and/or disciplinary sanctions, including suspension or expulsion. Examples of Academic Dishonesty include cheating, plagiarism, obtaining an unfair advantage, and falsification of records and official documents.

Cheating is the unauthorized use or attempted use of material, infonnation, notes, study aids, devices or communication during an academic exercise. Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person’s ideas, research or writings as your own. Obtaining Unfair Advantage is any action taken by a student that gives that student an unfair advantage in his/her academic work over another student, or an action taken by a student through which a student attempts to gain an unfair advantage in his or her academic work over another student.

For tips and information on how to maintain academic integrity, consult Writing at Queens document, “What is Plagiarism?”.

Mobile Phones

Please silence or turn off the radio in your mobile phone (power down the phone or set to “Airplane” mode). Not only do ringing phones disrupt class, most phones will also interfere with the media equipment in the room.

Students must surrender mobile phones and tablets on exam days.


Please check your QC email account ( on a daily basis, if not more frequently. I will broadcast announcements and send point-to-point communiques using your official email address.

Please note that I am not allowed to discuss your grade from an account that is not your official email account.

Students with Disabilities

Queens College has a history of commitment to the enhancement of education of students with disabilities. The Office of Special Services for Students with Disabilities was established in 1974 to provide equal opportunities for a college education to academically qualified students with physical disabilities. The office offers comprehensive support services to students with various disabilities. Queens College prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities and it ensures full access and equal opportunity to qualified students with disabilities to all academic programs and social activities on campus.

To receive these services, a student must first register with the office in Kiely 171. To do so, you must bring proper documentation pertaining to the nature of your disability from a qualified professional. To learn more about CUNY Assistive Technology Services and the office located at Queens College, call (718) 997–3775 or visit Kiely Hall 173. For more information, visit The Office of Special Services.


Timeline of Historical Events

I will give you twenty-five (25) events relevant to the history of American film and culture. Give the four-digit, numerical year in which this event occurred. You are welcome to use to any sources to complete this assignment.

Historical Event Summary

Select one of the events from the Timeline of Historical Events assignment, and write a four-hundred word summary of that event and its relevance for the US film industry. We will work on writing a thesis sentence for this assignment in class in preparation for this assignment.

To research your assignment, you must consult at least four research sources. Two must be primary sources, and two must be secondary sources. None of these can be standalone Internet sources. You must cite your sources, according to MLA or Chicago.

You may also post your summary on the course blog for five (5) extra credit points.

  • Due: October 8, in class
  • Weight: 15%

American Film and Industry Blog Post

At the second week of class, each student will be randomly assigned a film to watch and research with a specific deadline. Before your assigned deadline, post tothe blog a 750-word review of the film that connects the film to its historical moment and reflects on its importance on the American film industry. You should consult at least four research sources and include a graphic illustration in your post. Your blog post should answer the following questions:

  • How does the historical moment and its contemporary culture act on this film?
  • Has the meaning and the importance of the film changed over years?
  • How did the film impact the business practices of Hollywood?

Your specific deadline will be assigned September 10:

  • Length: 750 words
  • Weight: 20%


Midterm Exam

The exam will consist of identification and short essay questions. The questions will be based on the material we covered in the first-half of the course, corresponding to the American film industry under the Studio System.

  • October 29
  • Weight: 25%

Final Exam

The Final Exam is a take-home exam, consisting of identification and short essay questions. The questions will be based on the material we’ve covered during the entire course with an emphasis on the material we covered in the second-half of the course, corresponding to the American film industry after the advent of television.

Course Schedule

September 3: Welcome and Beginnings of Film

  • Dickson Camera Test (Edison Manufacturing Company, USA, 1891)
  • Men Boxing (Edison Manufacturing Company, USA, 1891)
  • Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
  • Luis Martinetti Contortionist (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
  • Athlete with Wand (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
  • Buffalo Dance (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
  • Imperial Japanese Dance (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
  • Fire Rescue Scene (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
  • Boxing Cats (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
  • The Kiss (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1896)
  • Star Theatre (American Mutoscope and Biograph, USA, 1901)
  • President McKinley at Home (American Mutoscope and Biograph, USA, 1896)
  • Skyscrapers of New York City, from the North River (Edison Manufacturing Company, 1903, 3 min.)
  • A Wringing Good Joke (Edison Manufacturing Company, USA, 1903)
  • The Gay Shoe Clerk (Edison Manufacturing Company, USA, 1903)

September 10: Nickelodeons and the Trust


You will be assigned a film and deadline for American Film and Industry Blog Post today in class.

  • Lewis, Jon. “Early Cinema, 1893–1914.” American Film: A History (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), 3–41.
  • Merritt, Russell. “Nickelodeon Theaters, 1905–1914: Building an Audience for Movies.” In Tino Balio, ed. The American Film Industry, rev. ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. 83–102.
  • Sklar, Robert. “The Birth of a Mass Medium,” “Nickel Madness,” and “Edison’s Trust and How It Got Busted.” In Movie-Made America, 3–47. New York: Vintage, 1994.
  • Anderson, Robert. “The Motion Picture Patents Company: A Reevaluation.” In Tino Balio, ed. The American Film Industry, rev. ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. 133–152.
  • Jack and the Beanstalk (George Fleming and Edwin S. Porter, 1902, 10 min.)
  • The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter, 1902, 12 min.)
  • Life of an American Fireman (Edwin S. Porter, 1903, 10 min.)
  • The Kleptomaniac (Edwin S. Porter, USA, 1905, 10 min.)
  • Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest (Edwin S. Porter and J. Searle Dawle, USA, 1908, 6 min.)

September 17: The Innovative Independents

  • Lewis, Jon. “The Silent Era, 1915–1928.” American Film: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. 43–89.
  • Sklar, Robert. “D. W. Griffith and the Forging of Motion-Picture Art.” In Movie-Made America, 48–64.
  • Sklar, Robert. “The House that Adolph Zukor Built.” In Movie-Made America, 141–157.
  • Wu, Tim. Dossier on Silent Film. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
  • A Girl and Her Trust (D.W. Griffith, USA, 1912, 15 min.)
  • The Cheat (Cecil B. DeMille, 1915, 75 min.)

September 24: Fox, Warners, and the Coming of Sound


Timeline Assignment due today in class.

  • Lewis, Jon. “Technical Innovation and Industrial Transformation, 1927–1938.” American Film: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. 91–102.
  • Gomery, Douglas. “The Coming of Sound: Technological Change in the American Film Industry.” In Tino Balio, ed. The American Film Industry, rev. ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. 229–251.
  • Allen, Robert. “William Fox Presents Sunrise.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 2.3 (1977): 327–338.
  • Studio Flashes.” New York Times (1923-Current File), February 13, 1927.
In-Class Screening
  • The Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland, 1927, 88 min.)
Outside Screenings

Phonofilm shorts

Movietone Shorts

October 1: The Big Five, Little Three, and the Code

  • Lewis, Jon. “Technical Innovation and Industrial Transformation, 1927–1938.” American Film: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. 102–145.
  • Gomery, Douglas. “US Film Exhibition: The Formation of a Big Business.” In Tino Balio, ed. The American Film Industry, rev. ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. 218–228.
  • Sklar, Robert. “Hollywood and the Dawing of the Aquarian Age.” In Movie-Made America, 67–85.
  • Sklar, Robert. “The Golden Age of Turbulence and the Golden Age of Order.” In Movie-Made America, 175–194.
  • Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. “A Code to Maintain Social and Community Values in the Production of Silent, Synchronized and Talking Motion Pictures.” Reprinted in “Documents on the Genesis of the Production Code.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 15.4 (1995): 60–63.
  • Little Caesar (Mervyn Le Roy, 1931, 78 min.)

October 8: Wartime Hollywood


Historical Event Summary due today in class.

  • Lewis, Jon. “Hollywood In Transition, 1939–1945.” American Film: A History (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008). 147–168.
  • Schatz, Thomas. “The Motion Picture Industry During World War II.” Boom and Bust: American Cinema in the 1940s. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997. 131–168.
  • Sklar, Robert. “Hollywood at War for America and at War With Itself.” In Movie-Made America, 249–268.
In-Class Screening
  • Down Argentine Way (Irving Cummings, 1940, excerpt)
  • The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, 1940, excerpt)
  • The Clock (Vincente Minnelli, 1945, 90 min.)
Outside Screening

October 22: The Beginning of the End of the Studio System

  • Lewis, Jon. “Adjusting to Postwar America, 1945–1955.” American Film: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. 193–200.
  • Schatz, Thomas. “MGM: Last Gasp of the Studio Era.” The Genius of the System. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010. 440–462.
  • Sklar, Robert. “The Disappearing Audience and the Television Crisis.” In Movie-Made America, 269–285.
  • On the Town (Stanley Donen, 1949, 97 min.)

October 29: Midterm Exam

We will take our midterm exam in class. You need not supply any paper, blue books, or any exam form.

November 5: Hollywood vs. Television

  • Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Frank Tashlin, 1957, 93 min.)

November 12: 1967 and the Youth Audience

  • Lewis, Jon. “Moving Toward A New Hollywood, 1955–1967.” American Film: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. 273–279.
  • Sklar, Robert. “Hollywood’s Collapse.” In Movie-Made America, 286–304.

November 19: New Hollywood

  • Lewis, Jon. “A Hollywood Renaissance, 1968–1980.” American Film: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. 281–327.
  • Schatz, Thomas. “The New Hollywood.” In Jim Collins, Hillary Radner, and Ava Preacher Collins, eds. Film Theory Goes to the Movies. New York: Routledge, 1993. 8–36.
  • The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974, 113 min.)

November 26: Wasserman, MCA/Universal, and the Blockbuster

  • Gomery, Douglas. “Modern Hollywood Studio System,” and “Universal.” The Hollywood Studio System: A History. London: BFI Publishing, 2005. 202–225.
  • Sklar, Robert. “Nadir and Revival.” In Movie-Made America, 321–338..
  • Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975, 124 min.)

December 3: Sundance and Independent Hollywood

In-Class Screening
  • Fargo (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 1996, 97 min.)
Oustide Screening

December 10: The Big Six and Hollywood’s Second Century

  • Lewis, Jon. “The End of Cinema as We Know It, 1999–2006.” American Film: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. 401–425.
  • Gomery, Douglas. “Coda: The Modern Conglomerate Studio System,” The Hollywood Studio System: A History. London: BFI Publishing, 2005. 309–317.
  • Coming Attractions

December 17: Final Exam

The take home exam will be due on December 17, 8:15 PM. Please submit your responses as a PDF, via email, to