Detailed Pedia

Poverty Row

Poverty Row was a slang term used in Hollywood from the late 1920s through the mid-1950s to refer to a variety of small (and mostly short-lived) B movie studios. Although 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 lower-tier studios.

The films of Poverty Row, many of which being 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, were generally characterized by low budgets, casts made up of lower-ranked stars or unknowns, and overall production values that unintentionally betrayed the haste and economy with which they were made.[citation needed]


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

The most successful and longest-lived of such lower-tier companies maintained permanent lots (and many standing sets that dedicated moviegoers could frequently recognize from movie to movie), had both cast and crew on long-term contract, and had a more varied output than smaller firms.[citation needed]

Leading studios

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, or borderline exploitation films such as Hitler, Beast of Berlin to supplement their own limited production capacity.[citation needed] Sometimes the same producers 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.[citation 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.[citation needed]


The breakup of the studio system (and its restrictive chain-theater distribution network, which left independent movie houses eager for seat-filling product from the Poverty Row studios) following 1948's United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. decision and the advent of television are among the factors that led to the decline and ultimate disappearance of "Poverty Row" as a Hollywood phenomenon. While the kinds of films produced by Poverty Row studios only grew in popularity,[citation needed] they were increasingly available both from major production companies and from independent producers who no longer needed to rely on a studio's ability to package and release their work.[citation needed]

Comparison with other studios

The Big Five majors
The Little Three majors
Poverty Row (top four of many)
Non majors


  • 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, E.J.; Wanamaker, Marc (2014). Early Poverty Row Studios. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4396-4829-2.

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