Stardom, Spectacle, Show, and Salability: United Artists and the Founding of the Hollywood Blockbuster Model
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
United Artists was an independent film distribution company that Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford jointly formed in 1919 to maintain creative autonomy over their work. Without the benefit of block booking practices through studio-owned theater houses, each founding artist established specific economic and aesthetic practices within their respective oeuvres in order to maintain company solvency. The resulting films produced during the company’s formative years (1919-1931) saw increased emphasis and innovation in regard to stardom, spectacle, show, and salability, features which ultimately innovated the model for the contemporary Hollywood blockbuster. Attributing the formation of the blockbuster to United Artists not only complicates the notion of the Hollywood blockbuster as a post-World War II phenomenon, but also broadens our comprehension of blockbuster filmmaking by formulating a model in which one can refine blockbuster criteria. This reframes the blockbuster as the cornerstone of the Hollywood film industry for over a century and presents it as a more persistent phenomenon.
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Johnson, Jessica. "Stardom, Spectacle, Show, and Salability: United Artists and the Founding of the Hollywood Blockbuster Model." Master's thesis, Chapman University, 2019. https://doi.org/10.36837/chapman.000051