Poverty Row

Poverty Row was a slang term used in Hollywood from the late 1920s through the mid-1950s to a variety of small (and mostly short-lived) B movie studios . While many of them were on (or near) today’s Gower Street in Hollywood, the term did not necessarily refer to any specific physical location, but was rather a figurative catch-all for low-budget films produced by these lesser-tier studios.

Characteristic movies

The films of Poverty Row, many of them Westerns (including series like Billy The Kid , starring Buster Crabbe from PRC ) or comedy / adventure series such as those featuring the Bowery Boys (Monogram Pictures) and detectives such as The Shadow , are the by low budgets, unintentionally betrayed the haste and economy with which they have been made. quote needed ]


While some Poverty Row studios came and went after a few releases, others operated on more or less vastly different scales from- major film studios such as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer , Warner Bros. , and Paramount Pictures . quote needed ]

The most successful and longest-lived of these companies maintained permanent lots, and had a more varied output than smaller firms. quote needed ]

Leading studios

  • CBC Productions (later to become Columbia Pictures ), founded by Harry Cohn , was considered a Poverty Row studio from 1919 until its reorganization in 1924.
  • Tiffany Pictures was in operation from 1921 to 1932 and both productions (about 90 films) and a distributor.
  • Mascot Pictures was formed in 1927 by Nat Levine , and merged into Republic Pictures in 1935.
  • Larry Darmour Productions flourished from 1927 through the 1930s, mainly on the popularity of its Mickey McGuire short film series starring Mickey Rooney . Damour was also the main producer within Majestic Pictures until 1935.
  • Monogram Pictures was created in 1931 by the merger of Sono Art-World Wide Pictures with W. Ray Johnston’s Rayart. After the attempted 1935 merger of Monogram into Republic, Johnston took the title of the new film, and the music was released. Oliver Twist and the final films of Kay Francis . It evolved, in relatively good financial condition, by Allied Artists in 1953.
  • The United States was organized in 1935 when Herbert J. Yates combined six other established poverty-row companies, Monogram, Mascot, Liberty, Majestic Pictures , Chesterfield Pictures , and Invincible Films with his Consolidated Film Laboratories . Republic began by releasing serial shorts and Westerns with Gene Autry in the 1930s before eventually riding the success of John Wayne superstar and embarking on more ambitious projects, such as 1952’s hit Wayne, The Quiet Man .
  • Grand National Films Inc. was organized in 1936 with some significant talent ( James Cagney and director Charles Lamont ), but could not survive without its own distribution channel. It folded quickly in 1939, having released about 100 altogether movies.
  • Producers Releasing Corporation emerged in 1939 and lasted until 1946, when it was absorbed into Eagle-Lion Films . PRC presented a steady output of westerns, gangster movies, with occasional high spots, such as Edgar G. Ulmer ‘s Detour , and their 1944 Minstrel Man , nominated for two Academy Awards .

Lower-tier studios

The smallest studios, including Tiffany Pictures , Sam Katzman’s Victory, Mascot and Chesterfield often packaged and released films from independent producers, British ” quota quickie ” films, gold borderline exploitation filmssuch as Hitler, Beast of Berlin to supplement their own limited production capacity. Citation needed ] Sometimes la même producteurs Would start a new studio When the old one failed, Such As Harry S. Webb and Bernard B. Ray’s Reliable Pictures and Metropolitan Pictures. quote needed ]

Some organizations such as Astor Pictures and Realart Pictures began by obtaining the rights to re-release older films from other studios before producing their own films. quote needed ]


The breakup of the studio system (and its restrictive chain-theater distribution network, which left independent movie houses for Poverty Row studios) following 1948’s United States Paramount Pictures, Inc. Decision and the advent of television are among the factors that have led to the decline and ultimate disappearance of “Poverty Row” as a Hollywood phenomenon. While the kinds of movies produced by Poverty Row studios only Grew in popularity, citation needed ] They Were increasingly available Both from major producing companies and from independent producteurs Who No. skirt needed to Rely on a studio’s Ability to package and release Their work. [quote needed ]

Comparison with other studios

The Big Five majors
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Paramount Pictures
  • 20th Century Fox
  • Warner Bros.
  • RKO Pictures
The Little Three majors
  • United Artists
  • Columbia Pictures
  • Universal Studios
Poverty Row (top four of many)
  • Grand National
  • Republic Pictures
  • Monogram Pictures
  • Producers Releasing Corporation (aka PRC)
No majors
  • Walt Disney Studios
  • The Rank Organization
  • Gaumont Film Company
  • Embassy Pictures
  • Nordisk Movie
  • Pathe
  • British Lion Films
  • titanus


  • Davis, Blair (2012). The Battle for the Bs: 1950s Hollywood and the Rebirth of Low-Budget Cinema . Rutgers University Press. ISBN  978-0-8135-5324-5 .
  • Fernett, Gene (1973). Hollywood’s Poverty Row, 1930-1950 . Satellite Beach, FL: Coral Reef Publications.
  • Lewis, Jack C. (2002). White Horse, Black Hat: A Quarter Century on Hollywood’s Poverty Row . Scarecrow Press. ISBN  978-1-4617-3108-5 .
  • Pitts, Michael R. (2005). Poverty Row Studios, 1929-1940: An Illustrated History of 55 Independent Film Companies, with a Filmography for Each . Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN  978-0-7864-2319-4 . OCLC  891667311 .
  • Stephens, EJ; Wanamaker, Marc (2014). Early Poverty Row Studios . Arcadia Publishing. ISBN  978-1-4396-4829-2 .