Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #519: Buy / Selling / Begging / Choosing

Welcome to the show folks...


Usually, in Hollywood, the movie company is the buyer / chooser, and the people trying to do business with them is the seller/beggar. Lately though the world has turned upside down, and now the movie companies are the sellers/beggars, and the folks who normally have to squirm to do Hollywood business are now the buyers/choosers. Only the buyers don't seem to be biting the way they movie companies think they should.

The auction for MGM fizzled, leaving the debt-addled former giant in a state of limbo, unable to do much of anything without some sort of outside partnership.

The sale of Miramax by Disney to billionaire Ron Burkle with the Weinstein Bros. at the helm crashed and burned. Even though the inevitable chaos caused by that sale could have been in Disney's best interests.

The hostile take-over of Lionsgate by corporate raider/shareholder activist Carl Icahn seems to have stalled with shareholders feeling the offer too low.

Right now the Gores Bros. are looking into buying Overture Films and its home video arm Anchor Bay, but they're playing it cool, offering $200 million in response to the reported opening price of $225 million.

So why are people no longer as eager to get into movies, well I've thought of two reasons:

1. Movie companies are money pits. This is especially true of MGM which has so much debt piled on it after being passed around like the corporate equivalent of a doobie at a party it can no longer practically function. Even with the more secure companies the risk/reward ratios are really badly skewed because despite the technology of movie-making becoming cheaper, the actual act of making a movie has become exponentially expensive. With the majors charging over the 3D cliff like meth-amped lemmings those costs are going to go even higher just to compete.

2. The movie business isn't as glamorous as it used to be. There was a time, even when the studios were going nipples to the sky that major corporations were interested in buying them. That was because the movie/TV business was glamorous. It had larger than life stars, it had style, it had mystique, and the bland multi-nationals wanted some of that for themselves, and could forgive its many failings.

All that is gone, washed away in waves of 25/7/365 entertainment coverage showing every sin, mortal, venal and fashion of every celebrity whether they did it or not. Then there's Reality TV bestowing fame on people for having low self-esteem and lower standards of behavior, and the very notion of fame loses its luster.

Now there is still one reason why someone might want to get into the movie business:

And lots of it.

If you know what you're doing, have the capital, and the sheer stainless steel testicular fortitude, you can make some pretty decent coin in the movie biz.

But to do that, you can't spend too much getting your foot in the door, because if you do, then you're going to lose that foot before you get the rest of you inside.


The alliance of independent British producers (called PACT) is asking, nay,
demanding that public broadcaster BBC stop buying American reruns and use that money to buy more independent British productions.

This could be a double edged sword.

Now I normally don't think that a privately owned network should have what they aired dictated by anyone but the audience. However, the BBC is a public broadcaster. It is commercial free and supported by a TV/radio license fee collected by the British government. So its mandate is to be British, so I can understand PACT's frustration at being blocked by the venerable Auntie-Beeb in favor of Yankee imports.

But it can be a trap.

Canada has the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and while it does carry commercials, the bulk of its financial backing comes from the tax-payers via the Canadian government. A few years ago they declared that they were going to go 100% Canadian with their prime-time programming and stop buying American shows.

The problem was that the CBC didn't spend the money they normally spent on importing shows on Canadian productions, they cut that money out of the budget completely, and outside of an elite few producers connected to the CBC management in Toronto, you were shit out of luck getting anything accomplished. They also saddled these shows with rules stating that their shows must promote Canadian identity. That means the very least entertainment value outside of a few select comedies, all quality dramas getting canned prematurely, cheap "Canadianized" imitations of American programs, and no science-fiction, fantasy, or horror, for fear that it may not be "Canadian" enough.

And the few shows to do get to air, usually get repeated over and over again until the tape literally wears out. There are times where the same show can be repeated 2-3 times in prime-time slots.

Let's not forget that BBC programs make their nut from foreign sales. In Canada, everything has to be so, well, provincial, they have little outside sales potential, and the shows that do, are either canceled, or condemned to poor time slots, and cruddy promotion until they die.

No one wants that to happen to the BBC.

Maybe I'm just still angry at CBC for canceling Intelligence.



  1. You've got to be joking~ My nephew -weird as they all are- watched nothing but the History channel for a month when he was here and every time I wandered by the screen, I could of sworn he was watching a DvD since it was the same show I saw a few days ago! No.. he was watching the t.v. raw... Prime time no less.

    That is a American channel right? This seems to be happening here too. I also canceled my cable half a year ago anyways since its truly is a wasteland.

  2. That's expected of cable, and let me tell you it's even worse in Canada. But a national broadcast network that gets millions in tax dollars every year shouldn't be rerunning shows they canceled years earlier.