restricted access Distribution’s Return Trip: Two Hollywood Studios, Money, and Japan, 1921–1941

The commercial distribution of films has always been premised on a round trip: movies go out, money comes back. Most scholarly attention to distribution—itself a neglected area of study compared to production and exhibition—has tended to ignore the return trip of revenue back to the studio. This article examines the distribution operations of two Hollywood studios, United Artists and Warner Bros., in Japan during the 1920s and 1930s. The author discusses numerous challenges the studios faced in collecting and transferring revenue from Japanese exhibitors back to the United States and considers the significance of the studios’ decisions in the context of imperial Japan and the lead-up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.