While some Poverty Row studios came and quickly went after a few releases, others operated on more or less the same terms as— if vastly different scales from — larger studios such as MGM, Warner Brothers, and Paramount Pictures.
The most successful and longest-lived of such lower-tier companies operated much like the major film studios; they maintained permanent lots (and many standing sets that dedicated moviegoers could frequently recognize from movie to movie), had both cast and crew on long-term contract, and had a more varied output than smaller firms. Leading studios on Poverty Row included Republic, that began when Herbert J. Yates combined six established poverty-row companies, Monogram, Mascot, Liberty, Majestic, Chesterfield, and Invincible with his Consolidated Film Laboratories. Republic began by releasing serial shorts and Westerns with Gene Autry before eventually embarking on more ambitious projects as The Quiet Man with John Wayne. Monogram Pictures soon left Republic then over several decades produced everything from college/teen musicals starring popular swing bands to versions of classics like Oliver Twist and the final films of Kay Francis.
The smallest studios, including Tiffany Pictures, Sam Katzman's Victory, Mascot and Chesterfield often packaged and released films from independent producers, British "quota quickie" films, or borderline exploitation films such as Hitler, Beast of Berlin to supplement their own limited production capacity. Sometimes the same producers would start a new studio when the old one failed, such as Harry S. Webb and Bernard B. Ray's Reliable Pictures and Metropolitan Pictures.
The breakup of the studio system (and its restrictive chain-theater distribution network, which left independent movie houses eager for seat-filling product from the Poverty Row studios) and the advent of television are among the factors that led to the disappearance of "Poverty Row" as a concrete phenomenon. The kinds of films produced by Poverty Row studios only grew in popularity , but were increasingly available both from major production companies and from independent producers who no longer needed to rely on a studio's ability to package and release their work.
However, the United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. decision of 1948 that forced the major studios to divest their own cinema and theatre chains made a more level playing field so Columbia and Universal eventually became major studios in their own right.
|The Big Five majors||The Little Three majors||Poverty Row (top three of many)|
|MGM||United Artists||Grand National|
|Paramount||Columbia Pictures||Republic Pictures|
|20th Century-Fox||Universal Studios||Monogram Pictures|
Poverty Row studios, 1929-1940; an illustrated history of 55 independent film companies, with a filmography for each. (reprint, 1997).(book)(Brief Article)(Book Review)
Nov 01, 2005; 0786423196 Poverty Row studios, 1929-1940; an illustrated history of 55 independent film companies, with a filmography for each....