The Dawn of Netta (1912)

Universal Logo - The Ohio Flood (1913)

In the first decade of the 20th Century, Thomas Edison controlled a near-monopoly on patents for every aspect of motion pictures and in December 1908 he formed the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) alongside many of his competitors who had grown tired of Edison's litigation against them.

The MPPC provided standardisation for much of equipment and techniques of filmmaking at the time, including a strict regulation over the production of motion pictures. This led to an initial restriction of films to a length of one reel (around 15 minutes), although this grew in the early 1910s to three and four reel productions.

Edison continued to rigorously enforce the MPPC's patents against smaller independent studios from his home state of New Jersey, which caused many studios to head West to Hollywood to try to avoid litigation by simply being more difficult and more costly to find and investigate.

Meanwhile, the MPPC also tightened up distribution of films and opted to rent films to nickelodeons instead of selling them, as had been the norm previously. This meant that exhibitors of films were expected to pay a licence fee to the MPPC for any MPPC films that they showed, which caused disgruntlement in the industry.

Nickelodeon owners, such as Carl Laemmle, realised that one way to avoid paying the licencing fee was to stop showing MPPC films. In June 1909, Laemmle formed Yankee Film Company, which later became the Independent Moving Pictures Company (IMP). As well as avoiding the licencing fees, IMP broke with other traditions of the MPPC, including allowing acting credits on screen, which enabled Laemmle to attract stars including Florence Lawrence, one of the earliest film stars who was known as "Biograph Girl" for her uncredited work for Biograph Studios - one of MPPC's members.

On June 8, 1912, IMP merged with five other studios to form The Universal Film Manufacturing Company with Laemmle emerging as President a month later.

The first movie launched under the Universal branding was The Dawn of Netta in 1912, which was a two reel romance drama. The current status of The Dawn of Netta is not known (it does not appear to be confirmed lost). It is possible the studio credit image at the top of this article may have been used on The Dawn of Netta, but this version is from a Library of Congress frame grab from The Ohio Floods (1913), which was made the following year.

Today, Universal is the oldest member of the "Big Five" major movie studios, alongside Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, and Columbia/TriStar, but The Dawn of Netta was where it all began.

If you're here because of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2021, please stop by the theme reveal page which has a full list of all films used in the challenge.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this, a fascinating bit of history into how motion pictures and Hollywood came about.
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  2. Never would have guessed that Hollywood owed its development to Thomas Edison's controlling tendencies. I do wonder what The Dawn of Netta was about. Thanks for the interesting look into the history of movies.
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