When B movies first rose in the wake of the Great Depression, moviegoers had no choice but to take in the crap. Theaters started screening double features to lure people in with “the perception of more value for the money,” says Blair Davis, an assistant professor in the Media and Cinema Studies program at DePaul University.
But not all features were created equal. Under a regime called block booking, Hollywood studios cut costs by forcing theaters to buy a shoestring-budget B movie attached to a star-studded A-level movie.
When the U.S. Supreme Court busted up the monopolistic practice in 1948’s United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., independent production houses—like the 1950s-era American International Pictures, where director Roger Corman made his name—set up shop to exclusively churn out low-grade films.
Drive-in-movie-theater owners of the post-war era snapped up the cheap fare to pacify captive viewers stuck in their cars.
“As long as people were heading to the snack bar,” Davis says, “exhibitors didn’t care.”
Today, the dynamic between low-budget producer and content-hungry distributor has flipped…
Why they work. (Like I always say, what companies like Troma get wrong is that in the old B-movie days, no one ever set out to make a bad movie on purpose.)
The films themselves tend to play it straight, even when they’re patently absurd. (…)
At Syfy, Lando follows a strict formula for its movies of the week: an eight-act plot structure, laced with kills every seven minutes, plus a plot recap disguised as dialogue an hour into the feature to brief viewers who are just tuning in.
“But the main rule is: You don’t go for the funny,” Lando says. “You’re not supposed to make fun of the movie.”