How is a Hollywood film genre created, and who creates it? The answer is really quite uncomplicated. There are two creators of film genre; the audience and the studio. While popular forms of genre entertainment had already existed in fiction and theater, it was the film industry that brought this type of entertainment to its peak. In the early days of motion picture production movie studios would produce films that were universal in appeal. It was their hope that any film they made would be loved by everyone regardless of who they were or how old they may be.
As the film industry grew, studios realized that they could target individual segments of the viewing public. These segments could be based on interest, age, current events; well, just about anything. Providing the public with something they previously enjoyed and recognized as having similar characters, storylines, and settings was a recipe for success. The actors themselves play a major role in this way of doing business. An audience knew W.C. Fields would be funny, that Joan Crawford was dramatically excellent, and that Fred Astaire would musically entertain them.
If a studio produced a movie that was loved by the audience that had seen it, you could now be sure there would be additional follow-up films with a similar, or even the same, theme. As these pictures were produced, they automatically created their own little corners of the film world. These corners would become the individual film genres. Comedy, Drama, Action and Adventure, Musicals, Film Noir, Mystery and Suspense, Horror, Science Fiction, Westerns, and more, all grew into the film genres as we know them today.
These genres also produced sub-genres. For example, Comedy could be broken down into screwball comedies, action comedies, buddy comedies, etc. Hollywood was refining the art of storytelling and continually working to improve their formulas for getting your interest and keeping it.
Audiences loved the development of the film genre with everyone having their own favorites. They also began to learn some unwritten rules regarding genres. If watching a horror film and in the film a character is alone in a house while it is dark and raining...don't go into the basement or the attic, it won't end up well. In a war picture, never climb to the top of a tree for a better view...you will be shot. Do you hear strange noises coming from the next room while a murderer is at large in your area...don't walk blindly into the dark room, put the lights on. And never, ever check into the Bates Motel.
Each Hollywood film genre has its own definitive characteristics that have contributed to its popularity since the Silent Era and will continue to do so. What's your favorite?