The Famous Players-Lasky Antitrust Case
Testimony of W. W. Hodkinson, founder of Paramount Pictures
W. Hodkinson - movie industry pioneer, founder of Paramount
Pictures, and critic of industry consolidation and block booking.
New York Telegraph - April 24, 1923:
The first gun of the Federal Trade Commission's investigation as to whether
the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, in conjunction with a number of
subsidiaries and individuals, constitutes a trust under the Federal law, was
fired yesterday at 29 West Thirty-ninth street, with W. W. Hodkinson in the
witness chair. . . .
The complaint alleges that the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, by
progressive expansion, now dominates the exhibition field, through its ownership
of production, distribution agencies and theatre holdings, and because of this
combination of effort stifles competition, inasmuch as its competitors are
unable to secure first run showings of their pictures. The complaint also
charges that the corporation is the largest theatre owner in the world, and
controls showings of the pictures through its ownership of Paramount Pictures,
the distribution corporation . . . .
Mr. Hodkinson was questioned at length concerning the early days of the
Paramount Pictures Corporation, when he was its president, and described the
first steps in the expansion and merging of the various groups of producers and
distributors into the present organization.
Under examination of Mr. Fuller he declared that upon various occasions, as
early as 1915, he had held conversations with Adolph Zukor relative to the
advisability of combining the producing and distributing divisions of the
industry. Mr. Hodkinson said that he had always been against such a combination
and was of the same opinion yet, but that Mr. Zukor held different views. He
also said that he and Mr. Zukor had on one or two occasions held meetings with
exhibitors at which the possibilities of combining producing and exhibition were
Mr. Hodkinson was then asked to name the "first class, first run"
motion picture houses in New York City. He named six, and stated that three of
these, the Rialto, Rivoli and Criterion theatres, were controlled by the Famous
Players-Lasky Corporation. He was further asked to describe the effect of New
York and "key city" picture presentation upon the success of a given
picture, and replied that such presentation was considered as essential in the
industry as an advertising point in the explanation of a production throughout
the rest of the country. . . . The witness said that the independents had no
opportunity to show at the Rialto, Rivoli and Criterion. . . .
New York Telegraph - April 25, 1923:
Hodkinson said the practices by large producers and owners of a number of
first-class theatres were detrimental to the industry.
"The history of the business has shown that the most successful pictures
have been developed by individual efforts rather than by mass production, where
there is no competition and no necessity to have special regard to
quality," he said. "The independent producer being denied the
patronage of the larger theatre does not receive compensation sufficient to
successfully compete with other independent producers and this stands to lower
the quality of the pictures."
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