How science fiction films in the 1950s were marketed and helped create the broader genre itself.
For Hollywood, the golden age of science fiction was also an age of anxiety. Amid rising competition, fluid audience habits, and increasing government regulation, studios of the 1950s struggled to make and sell the kinds of films that once were surefire winners. These conditions, the leading media scholar J. P. Telotte argues, catalyzed the incredible rise of science fiction.
Though science fiction films had existed since the earliest days of cinema, the SF genre as a whole continued to resist easy definition through the 1950s. In grappling with this developing genre, the industry began to consider new marketing approaches that viewed films as fluid texts and audiences as ever-changing. Drawing on trade reports, film reviews, pressbooks, trailers, and other archival materials, Selling Science Fiction Cinema reconstructs studio efforts to market a promising new genre and, in the process, shows how salesmanship influenced what that genre would become. Telotte uses such films as The Thing from Another World, Forbidden Planet, and The Blob, as well as the influx of Japanese monster movies, to explore the shifting ways in which the industry reframed the SF genre to market to no-longer static audience expectations. Science fiction transformed the way Hollywood does business, just as Hollywood transformed the meaning of science fiction.
J. P. Telotte is a professor emeritus of film and media studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is the author of Animating the Science Fiction Imagination and Movies, Modernism, and the Science Fiction Pulps and a former coeditor for the film journal Post Script.