Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History

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Wayne State University Press, 2010 - Performing Arts - 363 pages
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The pantheon of big-budget, commercially successful films encompasses a range of genres, including biblical films, war films, romances, comic-book adaptations, animated features, and historical epics. In Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History authors Sheldon Hall and Steve Neale discuss the characteristics, history, and modes of distribution and exhibition that unite big-budget pictures, from their beginnings in the late nineteenth century to the present. Moving chronologically, the authors examine the roots of today’s blockbuster in the "feature," "special," "superspecial," "roadshow," "epic," and "spectacle" of earlier eras, with special attention to the characteristics of each type of picture.

In the first section, Hall and Neale consider the beginnings of features, specials, and superspecials in American cinema, as the terms came to define not the length of a film but its marketable stars or larger budget. The second section investigates roadshowing as a means of distributing specials and the changes to the roadshow that resulted from the introduction of synchronized sound in the 1920s. In the third section, the authors examine the phenomenon of epics and spectacles that arose from films like Gone with the Wind, Samson and Deliliah, and Spartacus and continues to evolve today in films like Spider-Man and Pearl Harbor. In this section, Hall and Neale consider advances in visual and sound technology and the effects and costs they introduced to the industry.

Scholars of film and television studies as well as readers interested in the history of American moviemaking will enjoy Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters.

 

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Contents

INTRODUCTION
1
EARLY FILMS AND EARLY FEATURES 18941911
9
MULTIREEL FEATURES EPICS AND ROADSHOWS 19111916
21
SUPERSPECIALS SPECIALS AND PROGRAMS 19161927
41
COLOR LARGE SCREEN WIDE SCREEN AND SOUND 18941931
62
TUNERS SPECTACLES AND PRESTIGE PICTURES 19291939
88
FEWER BUT BIGGER 19391949
112
COLOSSALS AND BLOCKBUSTERS 19491959
135
ROADSHOWS SHOWCASES AND RUNAWAYS 19561970
159
MULTIPLE JEOPARDY 19651975
187
SUPER BLOCKBUSTERS 19761985
213
ANCILLARY MARKETS GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY 19862009
235
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About the author (2010)

Sheldon Hall is a senior lecturer in stage and screen studies at Sheffield Hallam University and author of Zulu: With Some Guts Behind It – The Making of the Epic Film and co-editor (with John Belton and Steve Neale) of Widescreen Worldwide.

Steve Neale is professor of English at the University of Exeter and author and editor of several books, most recently, Genre and Contemporary Hollywood.

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