Commerce and Culture

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8. The Rise of the Motion Picture

Commerce and Culture

Tags Media and Culture

07/28/2006Paul A. Cantor

The motion picture is purely commercial art. Lack of taste can earn a producer a fortune. This is the perfect intersection of commerce and culture. Most movies are bad, but many are very good. The movie form is so recent, that its history is right there to see. It was just a novelty item at first.

Hollywood is unpredictable, just as economics is unpredictable. The same things that produce a flop produce a blockbuster like The Godfather – Cantor’s favorite. There is an anti-commercial bias behind movie production, but many directors do their best work under hard commercial pressure. Many artists produce poorly when given great leeway. The structure of the movie industry is a mess. It’s everybody working against everybody else.

Lecture 8 of 10 from Paul Cantor's Commerce and Culture.


Paul A. Cantor

Paul A. Cantor (1945–2022) was Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English at the University of Virginia and the author of Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American Dream: Con Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, and Zombies.