American Film in the Digital Age

by Robert C. Sickels


Prior to being broken up by the Supreme Court in 1946, the movie industry was a vertical monopoly controlled primarily by eight studios. Ironically, today just six vertically and horizontally integrated companies have a world-wide monopoly on all forms of media. How did this vast power become so concentrated—and where do we go from here?

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Cover image for American Film in the Digital Age

December 2010


Pages 184
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Popular Culture/Film

This eclectic, yet comprehensive analytical overview of the cataclysmic changes in the American film industry since 1990 shows how they have collectively resulted in a new era—The Digital Age.

The American film industry has entered a new era. American Film in the Digital Age traces the industrial changes since 1990 that have brought us to this point, namely: the rise of media conglomerates, the proliferation of pornography through peripheral avenues of mainstream media, the role of star actors and directors in distributing and publicizing their own pet projects, the development of digital technology, and the death of truly independent films.

Author Robert Sickels draws straight lines from the movies to music, DVDs, video games, fast food, digital-on-demand, and more, to demonstrate how all forms of media are merging into one. He explores the irony that the success of independent films essentially killed independent cinema, showing how it has become almost impossible to get a film released without the imprimatur of one of the big six media companies—Fox, Viacom, TimeWarner, Disney, General Electric, or CBS. In the end, using recent, popular films as examples, he explains not only how we got where we are, but where we're likely headed as well.


  • Includes contributed chapters by two esteemed film scholars, Yannis Tzioumakis and Anne H. Petersen
  • Presents photographs


  • Looks at recent films and recent film history, focusing on popular successes as more revealing of the direction of the industry than are the critical darlings usually featured in such books
  • Addresses contemporary media's cross-pollination, showing how connections between movies, music, DVDs, video games, fast food, digital on demand, and others, have remade the industry
  • Argues that independent film is essentially dead, despite the studio publicity departments' celebrations of so-called independent films
Author Info

Robert C. Sickels, PhD, is professor of American film and popular culture in the Department of Rhetoric & Film Studies at Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA. In addition to publishing numerous journal articles, he is also the author of Greenwood's American Culture through History: The 1940s and is an independent filmmaker whose work has appeared in festivals around the world.



"In this insightful, well-written volume Sickels (Whitman College) goes behind the scenes of American film to
provide context for the many changes that have taken place in the digital age. . . . The book serves as an excellent example of film criticism that takes into account the relationship between the worlds of business and cinema."Choice

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