Skip to Main Content

Research Guides

CIN201: Film Cultures 1: Art & Industry

A comprehensive guide to for finding the best primary source materials (1895-1968) for your Cinema Studies assignment.

Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America

MPPDA Digital Archive (1922-1939)

  • Flinders University established this collection and it contains the extant records of the General Correspondence files of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc.
    • The MPPDA was the "trade association for the motion picture industry, and included all the major companies producing and distributing motion pictures in the United States in its membership"
    • This collection contains documents that "describe the organization and operation of the industry's trade association, and include extensive correspondence and other documentation relating to industry policy and public relations, distributor-exhibitor relations, censorship and self-regulation. The great majority of this material is unavailable from other sources."
  • Organization of information:  
    • Learn more about the collection and how it is organized. Understanding what types of materials in this collection and how these working files were stored and used can help identify the best ways to search.
    • "The General Correspondence files were originally stored in filing cabinets, with each year's papers sub-divided into folders, filed alphabetically according to subject."

Accessing the Collection

1) On the MPPDA homepage select “Access the MPPDA digital archive” 

screenshot of MPPDA homepage, select button “Access the MPPDA digital archive”


2) Browse by Collection or Keywords Search

There is no advanced search option.

You can browse the collection by sub-collections (Transcriptions or MPPDA Person records), or you can search all items by submitting a keyword search with Boolean Operators.

It may require some exploring and experimenting with keywords to identify topics and strategies for successful searches. Keep in mind the date ranges and what kind of industry language or slang terminology would be used:  

  • "motion picture", "moving image", talkies, film, cinema
  •  names of people and studios mentioned in the documentation, but also abbreviations  (e.g., Warner, Warner Brothers, Warner Bros). 

screen shot of MPPDA search interface with sub-collections highlighted (Transcripts and People Records)

Browse by Person Record

It may be easier to start by exploring the MPPA Person Records You can look up the people online to gain some context of their significance, but try flipping through the content and look for interesting details or patterns in the documentation (e.g., Will H. Hays) 

Use the 'Sort items by' dropdown menu to view in order of relevance, date, title, or author 

MPPDA database browse by people records, sorted by Author, and William Hays highlighted.



Keyword Search 

Return to the MPPDA  Search Interface, and try submitting a keyword search for the person's name Will AND Hays

Once you submit your search term, it's possible to sort the search results for your keywords by relevance, date, title, or author

Screen shot of MPPDA search results for Warner with Sort by dropdown menu displayed


4) Select the item and either click on 'QUICK ACCESS' or 'VIEW ONLINE' on the left side of the record or scroll down to that section. 

screenshot MPPDA person record with VIEW ONLINE highlighted


Use the arrows on either side of the item to navigate the QUICK ACCESS view if there is a group of files

Or Click on 'Digital Version' to access the digitized file folder.  

screen shot scroll to view online and open file

Item Record - DETAILS

If you need more context for the materials, watch for keywords that you could use in another databases such as ProQuest to look for in magazines and  newspapers. 

screen shot of MPPDA record's details section with Description, Subject and Format headings info highlighted

Download or Larger View

The Quick Access interface has links in the upper right corner to Download  or Expand View of scanned documents.

MPPDA screenshot - Click on links to the upper left of Quick View to download files or open to larger view

Key Things to Note

  • It is not possible to pin and save items on the site, so please download the file and save the permalink to the item.  
    • Any options requiring sign in (i.e. pin, save search etc.) are not available to University of Toronto students.  
  • The files can be downloaded, but the citation information is not automatically saved so ensure you record that information separately.  
  • There is no advanced search option within the collection, so it is crucial for you to identify keywords to search