How Did the Great Depression Affect the Film Industry?

How did the Great Depression affect the film industry? Film studios were hit hard by the Great Depression and sought to recover the lost profits through various means. The studios held sweepstakes and drawings to attract patrons and kept movie ticket prices low. Movie tickets averaged about $.27 during this time, and many people used the movies as a diversion. The Depression slowed down the economy and movie attendance, but movies were still a popular diversion during this period.

The recession hit the film industry hard and changed the landscape of the industry. Film attendance dropped significantly in the 1930s, but people flocked to movies to catch the Marx brothers comedies, screwball rom-coms with Katharine Hepburn, or melodramas like A Star Is Born (1937). In the summer of 1934, Hollywood implemented the Hays Code to keep films “clean.” But the three-color Technicolor process was already underway, and Disney’s production of The Three Little Pigs was a success. The film’s song was a hit with Depression audiences and became a defense against fear. By 1934, the major studios had started to hope for a profit.

The Depression lowered the prices for tickets and pushed movie theater operators to use more creative methods. Double feature promotions became popular, allowing theaters to offer two films at a time, reducing the cost of the movies. These “double features” entailed two full-length films and a short subject. The “main attraction” was usually shown on Saturday nights, and the “B” movie, with limited budget, was often presented on the same night.

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