How Hollywood Became the Center of the Film Industry

November 24, 2011 at 2:00 am 2 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

The thirty mile zone (aka “TMZ” or “studio zone”) is the approximately thirty mile area in Southern California where America’s movie industry is based. However, New Jersey was the center of film in America before Hollywood.

Thomas Edison owned a majority of the patents on motion picture cameras and through these patents, he tightly controlled who could make films. In 1908, he formed the Motion Picture Patents Company, a licensing trust that included other important motion picture patent holders, including Eastman Kodak, who sold the only film stock that film makers could legally purchase.

The patents allowed the group to use law enforcement to prevent unauthorized use of their cameras, film, projectors or any variation of this equipment that included features that infringed on their patents. In some cases they hired thugs to do the enforcement.

Understandably, these tight restrictions stifled inovation and crippled the film industry.

Independent filmmakers fled to Hollywood. The physical distance from the Edison Trust made it easy to work on their films without the tight control and patent enforcement.

The reliable sunshine and temperature also made Hollywood a more suitable place to make films year-round.

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Sources: filmbug, wikipedia (motion picture patents company)

Photo: Heather Culligan (cc)

Entry filed under: Holidays and Traditions, Law. Tags: , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Edison Fan  |  November 30, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    I’m skeptical. With all of Edison’s smarts and savvy business tactics, don’t you think he could have set up an office in California that could oversee this growing alcove film makers that were infringing on his patents? They had thugs in California, too.

    Or perhaps Edison made a deal with these new studios and licensed his patented technology.

    I just can’t believe geography would be the key to getting the best of Edison. He was way too smart to let that happen.

  • 2. Shung  |  October 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Niles Canyon in northern California is where it started in the west. Issues with the city drove it to southern California where they were more accommodating to this burgeoning industry. This is why many of the silent film studios, including Charlie Chaplin’s studio, were originally based in Niles (near Union City in the Bay Area).


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