Innovation and the evolution of the early American film industry

Date of Completion

January 1999


Economics, Commerce-Business|Economics, History




This dissertation uses “capabilities” theory to construct an historical account of the industrial evolution of the early American film industry from its beginnings in the 1890s to the dawn of the Audio era in the 1920s. The capabilities framework highlights innovation as the most important catalyst of the competitive process. It offers a novel way of modeling the organizational effects of “creative destruction.” Competition through process and product innovation drives evolution by forcing firms to adapt to new business realities. Specifically, the introduction of a new technology often requires drastic changes in the ways resources are coordinated, altering industry structure, levels of vertical integration, and the division of labor. The effects of an innovation largely depend upon the compatibility between the new demands of innovation and the existing array of capabilities. Product and process innovations dramatically affected the methods of film production, distribution, and exhibition during this time period. ^