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The Famous Players-Lasky Antitrust Case

Testimony of W. W. Hodkinson, founder of Paramount Pictures

W. 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 discussed.

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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