The Birth of Marketing in Cinematography

Janelle Molin



Marketing is believed to be confined to the manufacturing industries; marketing is what can set apart a product or service from their competitors. The emergence of marketing as a segment of business began in the 1920’s, following an incline in industrialization and manufacturing (White, 2010). Although this is noted as the emergence of marketing, its true birth began behind the lens of a camera.


Richard deCordova takes us through the progressive layering of the trifecta of the star system, fueled by the first instance of marketing. The trifecta includes the acting, the picture personality, and the star; furthermore, there are three steps (that I have developed) that lead to this trifecta. These things include:

  1. The obsession or amazement of new technology
  2. The recognition of sub features associated with the new technology
  3. The consumer readiness for ‘something more’


The first step is the obsession of motion picture. From what we discussed in class, people were so mesmerized by the fact that a picture could be moving in front of them, that they did not need anything else to satisfy their entertainment needs. Richard deCordova explains that common phrases in the first stages of the star system were centered on the camera and crew. Things like “Revelations of The Camera” and “Moving Pictures and the machines that create them” were what mattered the most before 1908/1909 (deCordova, 1982, pp. 19).


As time passed, the audience grew tired of just watching a reel of twenty minutes of movement happening in a public place (i.e.: the train passing video we watched in class). They began to recognize sub features in a motion picture aside from the camera; they recognized acting as an art by 1908, and distinguished ‘good’ versus ‘mediocre’ acting by 1909 (deCordova, 1982, pp. 22). As all the features of film began to be recognized, there was something missing; the final touch to the star system was the marketing of the actors, who, in an objective sense, were products ready to be marketed by the studios.


The studios had power over their products (actors). They curated these people into the image they wanted them to have; often times these actors were put in etiquette, style, fashion, and sports classes to keep them up to par with their image (as discussed in our class lecture). These steps in developing a star, fulfill step three- the consumer readiness for something more. This is what completes the three-layered star system that is still relevant today.








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