The emergence of the double-bill in the 1930s created a divide between A-pictures and B-pictures as theatres typically screened packages featuring one of each. With the former considered more prestigious because of their larger budgets and more popular actors, the lower-budgeted Bs served largely as a support mechanism to A-films of the major studios-most of which also owned the theatre chains in which movies were shown. When a 1948 U.S. Supreme Court antitrust ruling severed ownership of theatres from the studios, the B-movie soon became a different entity.
In The Battle for the Bs, Blair Davis analyses how B-films were produced, distributed, and exhibited in the 1950s and demonstrates the possibilities that existed for low-budget filmmaking. Made by newly formed independent companies, 1950s B-movies took advantage of changing demographic patterns to fashion innovative marketing approaches. They established such genre cycles as science fiction and teen-oriented films (think Destination Moon and I Was a Teenage Werewolf) well before the major studios and also contributed to the emergence of the movement now known as underground cinema. Although frequently proving to be multimillion-dollar box-office draws by the end of the decade, the Bs existed in opposition to the cinematic mainstream in the 1950s and created a legacy that was passed on to independent filmmakers in the decades to come.
BLAIR DAVIS is an assistant professor in the College of Communication at DePaul University. His essays appear in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television and the Canadian Journal of Film Studies, and in such anthologies as American Horror Film, Caligari's Heirs, and Horror Film: Creating and Marketing Fear.
Acknowledgments The Bs Take Flight: An Introduction 1. Hollywood in Transition: The Business of 1950s Filmmaking 2. The Battle Begins: Hollywood Reacts, Poverty Row Collapses 3. The Rebirth of the B-Movie in the 1950s 4. Attack of the Independent: American International Pictures and the B-Movie 5. Small Screen, Smaller Pictures: New Perspectives on 1950s Television and B-Movies 6. Big B, Little b: A Case Study of Three Films 7. Notes from the Underground: The Legacy of the 1950s B-Movie Notes Index