Postclassical Hollywood production and reception criteria

There is now a fairly broad consensus among film scholars how to understand the transformations of Hollywood picture-making that took place between the 1960s and the 1980s, which have led to the unexpected revitalization of the American cinema as both an economic and a cultural force. Among the key features are the gradual undoing of the consequences of the Paramount decree of 1947/48, which obliged the studios to divest themselves of their theatre chains and to break up the vertical integration that had sustained the film industry as a trust or cartel for the previous 25 years. Several waves of mergers and acquisitions within the audio-visual, televisual, and telecommunication sectors in the US during the 1970s and 1980s (favoured by a lax governmental anti-trust policy and accompanied by radical changes in management and business practices) did ensure that by the mid-1980s something rather similar to vertical integration had been re-established.

However, the engine of the revival and the symbol of the new clout of

Hollywood was the blockbuster, a heavily marketed, high-concept, multifunctional audio-visual entertainment product, which also served as showcase for new technologies in sound (Dolby) and image (special effects, computergenerated images). Able to attract new audiences and benefiting from saturation media exposure and global distribution, a blockbuster could reap huge revenues in a relatively short period. These encouraged sequels, hybrid genres, or formulas, as well as favouring the 'package deal', where either a star or a team around a producer could corner the market in a particular subgenre or 'concept movie', which often combined a tested literary property, a particular visual style, and a marketing gimmick (known also as 'the book, the look, and the hook'). Die Hard fits this 'high concept' package deal approach to movie-making very well, seeing that it does form part of a sub-genre, the bi-racial buddy film, a niche market successfully colonized by a creative team assembled around the Gordon/Silver producer partnership, working as a semi-independent unit, but distributing via a major studio, in this case Twentieth Century Fox: 'It's good, dumb fun brought to you by producers Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and scriptwriters Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza, who among them have already churned out 48 Hours, Predator, Commando and Lethal Weapon'. (Desson Howe, Washington Post, 15 July 1988). Die Hard also established a certain look of 'gritty glamour' as fashionable, and it had a punchline ('Yippi-ky-aye, motherfucker') that, like other famous movie one-liners ('Make my day, punk', 'Are you looking at me?!'), took on a life of its own in the culture at large.

Third, blockbusters, but also other Hollywood productions, fitted themselves around the entertainment expectations and trends of the 'youth culture' which in the 1980s had mutated from identifying with the 'counterculture' to aggressively participating in the event and experience culture of shopping malls, theme parks, video arcades, hip-hop, raves, and music television. To this extent, mainstream movies had to learn to address this more diverse but also more volatile audience, differently segmented from the family audience of both cinema and television in the 1950s and 1960s. Hollywood's new audiences, male and female, domestic and international, expected the much-hyped sound and image technologies to deliver intense bodily, sensory, and emotional involvement.

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