During the Great Depression, the theatrical presentations of old films took one of two forms: reissues or revivals. Reissues were national releases initiated by the studio, which struck new prints and created new marketing materials. The studios used reissues to fill gaps in their release schedules (most often in the summer) and generate a small but reliable profit stream.
Revivals, on the other hand, were local in nature and initiated by the exhibitor. An exhibitor contacted a studio’s nearest exchange and inquired whether the exchange still possessed a print of a particular old film. If the exchange had it, they generally rented it to the exhibitor at a low, flat rate. Exhibitors were able to rent national reissues from studios for similarly low rates. Like the silent feature era, the demand for old movies in the 1930s was driven by the needs of independent exhibitors, who identified reissues and revivals as opportunities within a system that perpetually put them at a disadvantage.
This short video segment features the author of Hollywood Vault, Eric Hoyt. The video is part of an openly accessible digital exhibit on theatrical reissues at http://vault.commarts.wisc.edu.
Hollywood Vault can be ordered from the University of California Press at http://www.ucpress.edu/.
Cinematography by Nora Stone & Derek Long
Produced & edited by Eric Hoyt