How a Handful of Immigrants Created the Movie Industry
An enthusiastic and diverse audience gathered at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on December 2 to hear McCombs’ new Entrepreneur-in-Residence Gary Hoover give his first in a series of “Story of Enterprise” lectures. Gary is an avid learner and book collector (with a personal library of over 50,000 books). Since childhood, he’s been fascinated by big business and entrepreneurship. He believes you cannot foresee the future or understand the present without knowing where you came from – without knowing history.
Hoover traced the history of the motion picture industry from its founding over a century ago, focusing on the rise of the great studios in the 1920s and 1930s, including Paramount, Loew’s/Metro-Golden-Mayer, 20th Century-Fox, and Warner Bros. He told a story of leaders, technologies, and changing times, and touched on the era of the great picture palaces where the movies were shown. He also connected this history to the leading movie companies of today.
- A few factoids for your next game of Trivial Pursuit –
Thomas Edison invented film sprockets, the holes on either side of film to keep it on the roll as it turned. Edison was also a key participant in the Motion Picture Patents Trust which controlled the production and projection of early film in the US.
- Eastman Kodak figured out how to put a photosensitive film on cellulose, thus enabling photography and motion pictures.
- Sarah Bernhardt, a famous actress from the English stage, was one of the first actors to be in a long version movie. Adolf Zukor, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant and founder of Paramount Pictures, purchased the rights to distribute this French film in the United States for $35,000.
- Mary Pickford was the first “movie star,” a concept developed by Adolf Zukor. The Motion Picture Patents Trust was against promoting individuals because they would want too much money. They were right. Pickford made over $100,000 a year in the 1920s.Al Jolson starred in the first successful movie with sound, The Jazz Singer, produced by Warner Bros. in 1927.
- Austin’s beloved Paramount Theatre was one of the first theatres built by Austrian-born architect John Eberson. Eberson went on to develop the idea of the atmospheric theatre, with twinkly stars in the ceiling. (I suggest the Majestic and Aztec theatres in San Antonio for this experience.)
Hoover’s next lecture will be “Flying High: The Story of the Airline Industry” on Wednesday January 27, followed by “Lessons from Detroit: What Every Tech Leader can Learn from the Founders of the US Auto Industry” on Wednesday February 24, and “Ringing Registers: The Story of American Retailing” on Wednesday March 31. The events are free and open to the public. Free appetizers start at 5:30 p.m., with lecture at 6 p.m.