The New Decade's Major Changes:
Cinema in the 1960s reflected the decade of fun, fashion, rock 'n' roll, tremendous social changes (i.e., the civil rights era and marches) and transitional cultural values. This was a turbulent decade of monumental changes, tragedies, cultural events, assassinations and deaths, and advancements, such as:
However, 1963 was the worst year for US film production in fifty years (there were only 121 feature releases). And the largest number of foreign films released in the US in any one year was in 1964 (there were 361 foreign releases in the US vs. 141 US releases).
With movie audiences declining due to the dominance of television, major American film companies began to diversify with other forms of entertainment: records, publishing, TV movies and the production of TV series. For example:
Financial Difficulties Within the Film Industry:
Increasingly in the 60s, the major studios financed and distributed independently-produced domestic pictures. And made-for-TV movies became a regular feature of network programming by mid-decade. Many "runaway" film productions were being made abroad to save money. By mid-decade, the average ticket price was less than a dollar, and the average film budget was slightly over one and a half million dollars. And by the end of the decade, the film industry was very troubled and depressed and experiencing an all-time low that had been developing for almost 25 years.
Studio-bound "contract" stars and directors were no longer. And most of the directors from the early days of cinema were either retired or dead. Some of the studios, such as UA and Hal Roach Studios, had to sell off their backlots as valuable California real estate (for condominiums and shopping centers). Some sold props (MGM was selling various film artifacts in 1970, including Dorothy's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939)), offered tours of back lots (Universal began its famed studio tours in 1964), or created theme parks (DisneyWorld in Orlando, Florida).
To aid the tourist industry and create another attraction, in 1960, the Hollywood Chamber of Congress inaugurated the Hollywood Walk of Fame (bronzed stars in pink terrazzo and surrounded by charcoal terrazzo squares that were embedded in the sidewalks along sections of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street). The first star, placed on February 9, 1960, was for Joanne Woodward. However, by the mid-70s, Hollywood was better known for its adult bookstores, prostitutes, and run-down look.
The Birth of the Multiplex and the Demise of Theatre Palaces:
Stanley H. Durwood became the father of the 'multiplex' movie theater in 1963 when he opened the first-ever mall multiplex, composed of two side-by-side theaters with 700 seats at Ward Parkway Center in Kansas City. Three years later, Durwood introduced the world's first four-plex and then in 1969, he built a six-plex with automated projection booths. Durwood went on to head up AMC Entertainment, making it the third-largest movie theater company in the nation.
Meanwhile, the creation of and flight to the suburbs, the studios' divestiture of their theatre holdings after 1948, and the impact of television in the 1950s meant the demise and razing of the benchmark, downtown movie palaces of the 20s. Architectural wonders, such as the Paramount Theater in Times Square (New York), projected its last scheduled film in 1964. The RKO (Hill Street) Theatre in Los Angeles was destined to become a parking garage soon after. And the RKO Orpheum Theatre in downtown San Diego, built in 1924, was demolished to make room for a bank.
Due to various insecurities and financial difficulties, the studios were quickly taken over by multi-national companies, especially after the deaths of pre-war, entrepreneurish movie-studio moguls such as Louis B. Mayer of MGM and Harry Cohn of Columbia, the ousting of Darryl F. Zanuck from 20th Century Fox in 1971, and the sale of one-third of Warner Bros. stock by Jack Warner to Seven Arts in 1967. The traditional, Hollywood studio era would soon be history, as more and more studios were acquired by other unrelated business conglomerates. The age of "packaged" films and the independent company and producer were beginning.
In the mid- to late 60s, there was a buying/selling frenzy of the major conglomerates who invested and traded in studios and networks:
The Cleopatra Disaster:
The much-heralded Joseph L. Mankiewicz film Cleopatra (1963), filmed on location in Rome, brought together the explosive pairing of Elizabeth Taylor as the Queen of Egypt and future husband Richard Burton as Marc Antony, who brought more headlines with their blossoming romance than the budget problems. It proved to be a tremendous financial disaster for 20th Century Fox, headed by Darryl Zanuck. Taylor, already the highest-paid performer in the history of Hollywood at million, had a costume wardrobe budgeted at almost 0,000, and with numerous cost over-runs, extravagant sets and thousands of costumes for the cast, the film was the most expensive up to that time at a record million (in adjusted dollars, about 0 million), from an initial budget of million. It was also the longest, commercially-made American film released in the US - at 4 hours and 3 minutes. [Fox was saved from financial disaster only by the release of the fact-based war epic The Longest Day (1963), an all-star re-creation of the events surrounding D-Day, and the blow was also softened by the unexpected success of The Sound of Music (1965).]
With the high cost of producing and making films in Hollywood and the shrinking of studio size, many studios decreased their internal production and increased moviemaking outside the country, mostly in Britain (an economically advantageous production base), making big-budget, big-picture films there. In 1962, for example, the number of Hollywood films in production had hit an all-time low, dropping off 26% from the previous year. Two examples of films made elsewhere included these magnificent historical dramas of 12th century England:
The major studios increasingly became financiers and distributors of foreign-made films. Two of director David Lean's 60's films, the ones that defined his career's reputation, were made in Britain. The scenic beauty and backdrops of both films became a tangible character, and opened the door for similar epic-travelogues:
The Anglo-American epic A Man For All Seasons (1966) by director Fred Zinnemann, won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor Oscars. It portrayed the clash of ideals between the honorable and principled Sir Thomas More (well-spoken, Oscar-winning Paul Scofield reprising his stage performance) who sacrificed his own life as a rebel against the egocentric and tyrannical King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw).
The Phasing Out of Big Historical Epics:
However, costly historical epics were being phased out. Two big-money, opulent, epic productions, both directed by Anthony Mann, were carryovers from the 50s decade of inflated historical epics. These were made in Spain and Italy respectively, two less expensive movie-making locations in Europe:
Nicholas Ray's and Andrew Marton's 70 mm. 55 Days at Peking (1963), also produced by Samuel Bronston, starred Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner, and John Huston's religious epic The Bible: In the Beginning (1966) lost favor as extravagant film productions of this kind became too costly.
British "Kitchen Sink" Cinema: "Angry Young Men" Films
A new wave of grim, non-fictional, social realism in British cinema, dubbed or styled "Kitchen Sink" due to its angry, every-day working-class heroes, frank dialogue, and negative post-war themes, was exemplified in the grainy, powerful works of various directors in the late 50s and early 60s. Most of the directors had backgrounds in theatre, television and documentaries and brought their talents to the screen.
Their socially-conscious films were also categorized as "Angry Young Men" films, due to the fact that each one focused on the economic and social problems of a frustrated male protagonist who attempted to break free from society and its expectations, through the use of alcohol, sex, sports, and money, etc. They broke new material by portraying England's angry and alienated youth in fresh, energetic, and frank terms:
Film History of the 1960s
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