Studios Before the System

Architecture, Technology, and the Emergence of Cinematic Space

Brian R. Jacobson

Columbia University Press

Studios Before the System

Google Preview

Pub Date: September 2015

ISBN: 9780231172813

312 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.95

Pub Date: September 2015

ISBN: 9780231172806

312 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.95

Pub Date: September 2015

ISBN: 9780231539661

312 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.95

Studios Before the System

Architecture, Technology, and the Emergence of Cinematic Space

Brian R. Jacobson

Columbia University Press

By 1915, Hollywood had become the epicenter of American filmmaking, with studio "dream factories" structuring its vast production. Filmmakers designed Hollywood studios with a distinct artistic and industrial mission in mind, which in turn influenced the form, content, and business of the films that were made and the impressions of the people who viewed them. The first book to retell the history of film studio architecture, Studios Before the System expands the social and cultural footprint of cinema's virtual worlds and their contribution to wider developments in global technology and urban modernism.

Focusing on six significant early film corporations in the United States and France—the Edison Manufacturing Company, American Mutoscope and Biograph, American Vitagraph, Georges Méliès's Star Films, Gaumont, and Pathé Frères—as well as smaller producers and film companies, Studios Before the System describes how filmmakers first envisioned the space they needed and then sourced modern materials to create novel film worlds. Artificially reproducing the natural environment, film studios helped usher in the world's Second Industrial Revolution and what Lewis Mumford would later call the "specific art of the machine." From housing workshops for set, prop, and costume design to dressing rooms and writing departments, studio architecture was always present though rarely visible to the average spectator in the twentieth century, providing the scaffolding under which culture, film aesthetics, and our relation to lived space took shape.
This is an impressive, groundbreaking book that joins other recent revisionist works in offering an innovative notion of early cinema history that has invaluable ramifications for cinema history overall. Furthermore, it promises to make a considerable impact on the study of cinema's profound interrelations with architecture, modern technologies, and urban infrastructure at the beginnings of the 20th century. Richard Abel, University of Michigan
A breakthrough book—at once a history of technology, cinema, and architecture—showing how they merge in the invention of the cinematic studio in a few wildly innovative years around 1900. Jacobson tells the story of this invention with flair, fluency, and most of all with awareness of its historical significance: by uniting real and virtual space in cinematic space, the studio transformed the human-built world. Rosalind H. Williams, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Rare is the book that justly can be called an instant classic, but Studios Before the System is just that. Meticulously researched, elegantly written, and admirably capacious, it is a landmark study of the built environments of early cinematic production. It is a foundational work that is also a pleasure to read Edward Dimendberg, author of Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Architecture after Images
Studios Before the System offers a fresh, enormously productive and (as it turns out) badly needed perspective on filmmaking before the classical Hollywood studio system was fully established. Examining the buildings where films were made with unprecedented rigor, Jacobson illuminates the many ways in which these architectural spaces determined how subjects were filmed and represented––and the ways the studios themselves shaped the larger system of production and representation as personnel left the studios and moved on location. Charles Musser, Yale University
In this excellent book, Jacobson (Univ. of Toronto) blends history and theory to create a landmark study of the very first film studios.... Essential. Choice
A truly important book, which will easily find its way to the 'must-read' section in all literature on film studies as well as art and technology studies. Jan Baetens, Leonardo Reviews
Studios Before the System is certain to become an indispensable resource for scholars of early cinema. What is more, the new theoretical perspective Jacobson brings to filmmaking during the period has far-reaching ramifications for the history and theory of the art form as a whole.... A work of great originality and insight, which is also brilliantly written and accessible to scholars working in a broad range of academic fields. Alice Thorpe, Early Popular Visual Culture
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Studios and Systems
1. Black Boxes and Open-Air Stages: Film Studio Technology and Environmental Control from the Laboratory to the Rooftop
2. Georges Méliès's "Glass House": Cineplasticity for a Human-Built World
3. Dark Studios and Daylight Factories: Building Cinema in New York City
4. Studio Factories and Studio Cities: Paris's Cités du Cinéma and the Inconsistency of Modernity
5. The Studio Beyond the Studio: Nature, Technology, and Location in Southern California
Conclusion: More Than "Dream Factories"
Notes
Films Cited
Bibliography
Index

Read the introduction, "Studios and Systems":

Richard Wall Memorial Award, Theatre Library Association

Outstanding Academic Title

About the Author

Brian R. Jacobson is a historian of film and visual culture and assistant professor of cinema studies and history at the University of Toronto.