Hi everyone! My name is Jake Marek. I’m an avid watcher of films old and new, from the old cheesy B-movies of yesteryear to the multi-million dollar blockbusters of today. I myself am a filmmaker, co-founder of Solitary Dodo Productions with my great friend, Dave Lester. With a passion for film and storytelling, I’ve decided to start a movie review page for one of my favorite film genres: B-Movies.
B-Movies were developed around 1929, the year when “talkies” were first introduced to the mainstream market. The average cost of filming an “A” production for a major studio in the late 1920’s averaged around $150,000 to $275,000. They soon realized that they could produce mass quantities of lower-budget films to fill the gap between major film release dates. The big guns like MGM, FOX, and Columbia Pictures used about 12 percent of their yearly budget to produce these cheap quick-fix films. They soon found themselves in competition at the box office against smaller production companies like Mascot Pictures, Tiffany Pictures and Sono Art-World Wide Pictures, who could create the same quality “B” films for as little as $3,000. These smaller companies were known as “Poverty Row” production studios. The major studios, reluctantly, started selling films to theater houses as a package deal, thus the Double-Feature was born.
Double features allowed production companies to sell their “A” movies to theaters, but only if they agreed to buy the cheaper films as well. By selling them in a block, the studios didn’t have to worry about the quality of the small films and theater houses had to buy most of them without so much as a preview of what they were receiving. The second feature, or “B” Movie, was used to give balance to the larger film, giving patrons the variety they were seeking. Contrary to what you may think, the second feature actually played BEFORE the main picture. Maybe watching the cheap film first made the main film even BETTER! With the popularity of B-Movies increasing, by the mid-thirties most major studios raised the budget for the small films from 12 percent to 50 percent. By shifting their money and production line to focus on the “B” projects, the eight major studios created an unbelievable amount of films. This is one of my favorite statistics: Including the three hundred or more annual releases from the “Poverty Row” studios, in the 1930’s around 75 percent of the four thousand or so Hollywood films were “B” movies. Crazy.
Because of the large amount of B-movies produced in this decade and decades to come, filmmakers and actors with no experience were given a chance to hone their skill with low-budget films because it really didn’t matter how the finished product looked. Actors like John Wayne and Jack Nicholson got their start in B-movies and some like Peter Lorre, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Pam Grier, Karen Black and Boris Karloff focused mainly on these low budget films.
Today most movies that fit in the “B” category are not usually taken too seriously. Not quite good enough for major release, but funny enough to generate some DVD/Blu-ray revenue. So even as we sit back and watch the old B’s from the past and laugh until we’re sick, just remember that they weren’t really made to be taken seriously in the first place.