Poverty Row  

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American cinema, 1950s films

Poverty Row is a slang term used in Hollywood from the late silent period through the mid-fifties to refer to a variety of small and mostly short-lived B movie studios. It did not refer to any specific physical location, but was instead a kind of catch-all, figurative term for these low-budget companies.

The films of Poverty Row, many of them Westerns or series such as those featuring the Bowery Boys and detectives such as Mr. Wong and Charlie Chan, are generally characterized by low budgets, casts made up of unknowns or former stars, and overall production values that emphasize the haste and economy with which they were made.

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, which had begun by releasing serial shorts before eventually embarking on more ambitious projects as The Quiet Man with John Wayne; and Monogram Pictures, which 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, 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.

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 Template:Fact, 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.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Poverty Row" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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