Motion Picture Patents Company

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The Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) , also known as Edison Trust , was a trust founded in 1908 , which consisted of all major companies in the film industry in the USA at that time . In the US, the trust was also known as the first oligopoly . The trust declined in importance from 1912 due to court decisions and existed until 1915 when it was made illegal under the provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act .

The purpose of the trust was to unite all patents of the companies involved in a joint company and to rigorously pursue infringements. This should prevent any competition from accessing the US film market. Ultimately, however, the Trust promoted the relocation of the US film industry from New York (especially the suburb of Fort Lee ) on the east coast to Los Angeles (with Hollywood as its center) on the west coast.


At the end of 1908, the Motion Picture Patents Company , MPPC for short , came into being on the initiative of the Edison and Biograph film companies . This trust combined the patents of all major film producers ( Edison , Biograph , Vitagraph , Essanay , Selig , Lubin , Kalem Company , American Star , American Pathé ), the largest film distributor ( George Kleine ) and the largest film producer , Eastman Kodak . In this way an oligopoly control of the film industry should be realized.

With its aggressive policies, the MPPC played a key role in moving the center of the film industry from New York City and Chicago to Hollywood , as independent filmmakers felt safer there.

In the early days of American cinema , most of the important patents relating to film production were held by Thomas Edison , who tried to rigorously enforce them with the help of the MPPC. Lawsuits and warnings against independent film studios were the order of the day. The Trust also sent out thugs who smashed unlicensed cameras and did not spare the film crews. The independent filmmakers responded by moving to California. The west coast was a long way from the MPPC headquarters in New Jersey , and Mexico was also close by. When it became known that a representative of the MPPC was on the way to Southern California, the film studios fled to neighboring countries at short notice.

The MPPC ultimately failed on the one hand because the independent film studios were commercially successful enough to break the trust, and on the other hand, the legal basis of their ventures gradually weakened. The main reasons for the economic success of the independents were the introduction of feature-length films and the establishment of a star system. The Trust, on the other hand, stuck to its short film concept without naming the actors. The Supreme Court of the United States revoked the filmmaking patent in 1912 and all of the company's other patents in 1915. The conviction in 1917 under the Sherman Antitrust Act meant the final end for the trust, which by then had already lost all influence.

Business practices

To prevent competition between the companies involved in the Trust, the MPPC set a standard price per foot for each new film it released and how many films the film companies were allowed to release per week. With the length of a film of ten to twenty minutes at the time, this was between one and three films.

The MPPC only delivered its films to those film exchanges - films were still being sold at the time, the film distribution system did not establish itself until several years later, when the films became longer and therefore more expensive - and cinemas that were licensed by the MPPC . Licensed cinemas had to pay weekly license fees for the film projectors used. Legal action was taken against unlicensed cinemas.

In 1910 the MPPC founded the General Film Company as a sales arm. This introduced business practices that were later imitated by the major Hollywood studios - which from then on gradually emerged on the west coast in response to the MPPC oligopoly. These were, on the one hand, standing orders and zone restrictions. Long-term orders - also known as block or blind bookings in the film industry - obliged film distributors or cinema owners to purchase all films from a specific manufacturer - or otherwise not be allowed to play any films from the specific manufacturer. The zone restrictions, in turn, stipulated that films from different manufacturers that were released at the same time did not compete with one another.

It was also introduced that new films are more expensive in the footprint than those that have been in circulation for a longer time. This encouraged the emergence of premiere cinemas that were more elegantly designed and offered more service than ordinary cinemas and were accordingly more expensive.


  • Roberta Pearson: The Cinema of Transition. In: Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (Ed.): History of the international film. Special paperback edition, Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-476-02164-5 ; Pp. 27-28
  • John Kenneth Izod: Hollywood and the Box Office, 1895-1986 . Columbia University Press, New York 1988; Pp. 16-37, 53-71.

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