With potential censorship issues resolved, Hollywood went back to work making motion pictures. The golden age of Hollywood and its studio system was on its last legs. This time the threat came from television. Today, nearly every major studio produces both films and television series. In television’s early years, however, major studios refused to produce programming for television. After all, why would they want to arm their mortal enemy? As studio titans worried about how they could protect their turf from this nefarious device that provided free programming in people’s houses, one titan decided to embrace television and use it to his advantage- Walt Disney.
Mr. Disney originally stood with his fellow studio heads in spurning television’s advances. However, he had big plans to diversify his company’s business and he saw that television could assist him with that. Walt Disney was certain DISNEYLAND was going to change the way families vacationed together, but he needed money and to get the word out about what he was building in Anaheim, California. ABC provided him with both. This initial “betrayal” angered Hollywood’s other moguls, but the sound business reasons for Mr. Disney’s decision would setup his company to become the behemoth it is today.
Other studios, reluctant to follow Disney’s lead, chose to start making films that television couldn’t compete with. Utilizing the full sized theater screens, Hollywood was soon awash in huge, budget busting spectacles. The most expensive and notorious of these films was Cleopatra, which almost took down Twentieth-Century-Fox. Obviously, this was not a sustainable way to deal with the upheaval Hollywood faced. So how could the studios provide a more cost effective way to get people out their houses and into theaters to see their latest films? To put it bluntly, tits and ass.
Adult themes couldn’t be shown on television, but maybe it would be possible to show them in a theater. The studios just needed to come up with a replacement for the aging Hayes Code. Thus the current rating system was created. This would allow filmmakers to depict themes that were unthinkable with the Hayes Code. The rating system would give a clear guideline to the public about what to expect from a film, opening the world of cinema up to new visions. Would audiences warm up to adult themes? They would.
One of the early successes of “New Cinema” was Easy Rider. The film was a massive success, making millions of dollars on a shoestring budget. Hollywood saw the future and it was edgy, auteur driven and in the eyes of old Hollywood- profane.