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William Wadsworth Hodkinson (August 16, 1881June 2, 1971), known more commonly as W. W. Hodkinson, was born in Independence, Kansasmarker. Known as The Man Who Invented Hollywoodmarker, he opened one of the first movie theaters in Ogden, Utahmarker in 1907 and within just a few years changed the way movies were produced, distributed, and exhibited. He became a leading West Coast film distributor in the early days of motion pictures and in 1914 he founded and became president of the first nation-wide film distributor, Paramount Pictures Corporation. Hodkinson was also responsible for doodling the mountain that became the Paramount logo in 1914. He left motion picture business in 1929 to form Hodkinson Aviation Corporation, and later formed the Central American Aviation Corporation and Companía Nacional de Aviación in Guatemalamarker.

Career

As a young man, Hodkinson was a messenger with the Western Union Telegraph Company, and he worked for other companies as a messenger, callboy, telegrapher, and signal operator. In 1902, he was a trick bicycle rider and later became a salesman with I.C.S.

Film business

Hodkinson opened one of the first movie theaters in Ogden, Utahmarker in 1907 and charged five-cents a show. Two-years later, he was charging ten-cents admission and changing films twice weekly. With this successful strategy he was able to buy out his only two competitors as he expanded into Salt Lake City, Utahmarker. Hodkinson then joined General Film Company and became one of the leading West Coast film distributors, expanding into Los Angelesmarker and San Franciscomarker.

On May 8, 1914, Hodkinson merged 11 film rental bureaus to create the first U.S.-wide distributor of feature films, Paramount Pictures. In addition to gaining a huge efficiency advantage over the previous regional States' Rights and Road Show systems of film distribution, Paramount introduced the concept of block-booking. This meant that exhibitors who wanted a particular movie had to buy a bundled package containing movies from all of the companies that signed exclusive rights agreements with Paramount, including Adolph Zukor's Famous Players, the Jesse L. Lasky's Feature Play Company, and others. Hodkinson's plan guaranteed exhibitors a steady supply of features because Paramount would help producers finance and advertise their pictures with advance rentals collected by the exchanges. In return, Paramount charged producers a distribution fee of 35 percent of gross to cover operating costs and profit. The 'Hodkinson System' of film distribution existed with few changes for almost a century.

It was Hodkinson who first designed the Paramount logo in 1914. Legend has it that he doodled an image of a star-crested mountain on a napkin during a meeting with Adolph Zukor. It was an image he remembered of a mountain peak from his childhood in Ogden, Utah, almost certainly the 9,712-foot-high Ben Lomond Mountain marker.

In 1916, Famous Players-Lasky Corporation formed from the merger of Famous Players Film Company and the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. The newly merged film studios acquired Paramount and became the parent company. Adolph Zukor soon fired Hodkinson, took over as president of Paramount, and added motion-picture production to the company's film distribution business. Hodkinson soon joined Raymond Pawley to start Superpictures Incorporated in November 1916. He also served as president of the Triangle Distributing Company before leaving to form the W. W. Hodkinson Company, later reorganized as Producers Distributing Company, a company which lasted until 1929 and played an important role during Cecil B. DeMille's short-lived but ambitious plans as a full-fledged independent filmmaker in the late 1920s.

Commercial aviation

He left motion picture business in 1929 to form an airplane manufacturer, Hodkinson Aviation Corporation. Soon thereafter he joined with Roderick Burnham, the son of Frederick Russell Burnham, to form the Central American Aviation Corporation and Companía Nacional de Aviación in Guatemala, until a series of accidents forced them out of Guatemala in 1936. Grupo TACA later acquired Compañia Nacional de Aviación, S.A. of Guatemala.

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