The second period of the history of American independent cinema commences with the Paramount Decree of 1948, a consent decree the Big Five and Little Three studios signed when the US Supreme Court found them guilty of applying monopolistic practices that restrained trade and eliminated competition. The decision had a seismic impact on the structure of the American film industry as it forced the studios to divest themselves of their theatre chains and therefore lose control of exhibition, one of the three foundations upon which vertical integration depended. Although the studios found alternative ways to retain control of the film industry, the Paramount Decree became instrumental in gradually dismantling the studio system of production which had been at work since the late 1910s. Instead, the new system privileged a format of independent production which had its origins in the top-rank independent production model of the hyphenate filmmakers which had started gaining momentum during the 1940-8 period (see Chapter 1), though with some important differences. It could be argued that the Paramount Decree formalised the industry-wide shift to independent production that began in 1940 and therefore ushered in American cinema's post-studio era.
To a certain extent, this development, which became particularly evident from the 1950s onwards, continues to our times. For the purposes of this book, however, we will adopt the position that the second phase of American independent cinema starts in 1948 and finishes in the late-1960s, and in particular in 1967, a year that film historian Paul Monaco calls 'a watershed year' for the film industry.3 During that time a number of factors - including changes in the constitution of the audience and in movie-going habits in general, the conglomeration of the film industry (already underway from the mid-1960s), and the socio-cultural upheaval that the country experienced throughout the decade (represented mainly by an increased protest/anti-Vietnam sentiment and the growing visibility of the civil rights movement) - laid the foundations for a new brand of independent filmmaking that we will discuss in detail in Part 3.
With independent production replacing studio production and becoming the dominant approach in planning and executing filmmaking, the discourse of post-1948 independent cinema expanded greatly to include all films that were financed and distributed by the ex-studios but which were physically produced by a different production entity. The expansion of the discourse brought an unavoidable identity crisis for independent production. By 1956 over half of the films (53 per cent) distributed by the ex-studios were deemed 'independent' as the major Hollywood companies were not physically involved in any aspect of those films' production process. Three years later the figure was as high as 70 per cent, signalling the overwhelming success of this model of film production.4
With such a massive proportion of filmmaking in the US deemed as independent, it is clear that the distinctions between mainstream (as exemplified by studio-produced films) and independent production (as exemplified by films produced by top-rank production entities without corporate ties to the majors) that applied during the pre-1948 era were no longer valid. Instead, it was independent filmmaking - with the full endorsement of the studios - that came to represent mainstream Hollywood cinema for this specific period while physical production by the studios became marginalised as the studios gradually contributed fewer and fewer films. To complete this picture of the transformation of the American film industry, United Artists, the smallest of the eight main powers and key distributor of top-rank independents in the studio era, became by the mid-1960s the most successful distribution company in the country, surpassing the other ex-studios in revenues and profits. In the period between the late 1940s and the late 1960s, the terms top-rank independent and mainstream Hollywood filmmaking became virtually interchangeable.
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