Sunday, 30 June 2013


You had questions, and I will now pretend to have answers...

soonertroll asked... Did George Lucas open his mouth and prove he is the fool we all thought he was, with his statement that blockbuster movie tickets would rise to $150?
Short answer: Yes and no.

While the claim does have a ring of the ridiculous on its face, there is precedent to his prognosticating.

You see for decades Broadway was, if not the centre of popular culture, it was the epicentre. 

What happened on Broadway rippled out from New York City and into the zeitgeist. Broadway shows produced most of the best selling songs on the hit parade, Broadway stars made national news, and the touring companies made sure to hit as many nooks and crannies in America as they could physically reach by planes, trains, or automobiles.

And, most importantly, the average working man or woman was able to afford to attend Broadway shows without having to get a mortgage.

Now Broadway was displaced as the epicentre of popular culture, first by movies, then television, and aside from putting on a very well done awards show, has become the entertainment of choice for rich New York elites, and tourists who saved up all year to see the big money musical extravaganza based on the movie they saw a few years earlier. For the average Joe and Jane they're going to have to shell out a couple of hundred bucks just to get into the cheap seats.

Now movies are different. You don't have to truck around an army of actors and crew and truckloads of props and costumes just to show a movie. Thanks to digital projection you don't even have to ship around big cans of film anymore.

The means of making a movie have never been cheaper either. Digital technology means that you can create professional looking material at amateur prices.

However, that doesn't mean the business is not heading for a meltdown, and that meltdown is being brought on by bad business practices, of which I growl about on a regular basis.

Now three questions from Maurice...
maurice asked...
1) What do you suppose the reason is for the rise of the toxic celebrity gossip/paparazzi culture in the last decade or so? it was always around but it seems to have grown to terrifying and absurd proportions. More specifically, supply arises to meet demand- why is the public eating all this stuff up? Is it related to reality TV? Andy Warhol's casting of pop-cultural icons as religious ones- that celebrity worship fills a hole in people they didn't know they had? What?
The reasons all have to do with money and demographics. It doesn't cost that much to set up a celebrity gossip web-site, TV show, or even a channel. But there is a guaranteed audience for it, chiefly young to middle aged women, who eat it up, and they have loads of the buying power and influence that advertisers love. So the profit margins for this toxic gossip culture are huge, and I don't see it fading away anytime soon.
2) Why doesn't some enterprising soul set up an independent accounting firm for film and TV production and distribution? To place the money outside the crooked accounting of the studios. The contractual arrangemetns of each project/film could be posted in, say, a password-protected spreadsheet that any party to the project could view. Radical transparency. Everyone would benefit (unions/guilds, actors, agents, financing entities, distributors and exhibitors, lawyers, etc.) except the studios. If all the affected parties who get paid insisted upon this, wouldn't the studios have to go along? From a systemic view, wouldn't transparent costing and pricing show the true drivers and drags on film economics and profitability, and allow producers to make better decisions accordingly? You could probably start such a company with a few lawyers and accountants- automating the rest with software. starting with the indie market and moving up the value chain from there. For the record, I think there's an obvious reason why this will never happen, which is likely to coincide with yours.
You could try, but the studios would never consent to it, even if the smaller indies who sign onto it succeed. Studio power lies almost entirely in the opacity of their financial practices. 

Sadly, many indies follow similar practices, and too few are even remotely interested in change.

The great irony is that something similar was done before. From the 1950s to the early 1970s the top studio in Hollywood was United Artists. 
Their business model was simplicity itself, and their accounting was just as simple. That meant that all the top producers, financiers, and stars who were looking for a piece of the profits went to UA first before anyone else.

Naturally, their success made them a target for a takeover, and they were bought out by Transamerica. Transamerica then decided that it should be run more like a traditional studio, because that was just how it has always been done. This drove away most of their partners to other studios, and it was eventually destroyed by Heaven's Gate by 1980.

You see, it's not just the accounting that's the problem, there's an entire culture of fiscal incompetence and greed that needs to be overcome first.

3) Why has digital production (made to be streamed over the Internet) not really taken off? I remember during the last writers strike, a bunch of A-list writers started their own digital production companies- to no obvious result- and there are a few fairly minor successes like College Humor and Funny or Die. But the high-profile ones started by Hollywood names (quarterlife, etc.) never went anywhere. You'd think in the Twitter/Vice/Vine/Smarphone/ADD era we live in, the creative forces-that-be would have stepped up and created memorable and popular content uniquey suited to the new technology. The established entertainment industry has always done this when new formats and technologies emerged in the past. Yet now all we get are cat videos and "the history of dance". Is that it? Can the creative types in greater Hollywood really not move into this space and beat user-generated content? Or are they choosing not to, because of the reluctance to swap analog dollars for digital pennies? You'd think there are enough smart, talented, or funny writers or performers who are penniless who could go this route, so not sure that applies. Guild rules maybe?
Because watching something on television, even streamed via Netflix or Amazon, takes up most of the audience's attention. There's not much else you can do on a television other than watch what you're watching.

However, a web-video is usually watched on a device like a computer, an iPad, or a smart-phone that has a dozen different apps and functions vying for your attention. So most people aren't going to invest more than a few minutes of time, and only a smidgen of brain-power to most web-video content. So the brilliant comedy video will usually get beaten by a cat chasing a laser pointer.

That's not saying that web-shows can't find an audience, it's just really hard to be found among all the other "viral" offerings.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1037: Will The Terminator Terminate Another Company?

It's official, Paramount Pictures will distribute and co-produce a fifth Terminator film for a 2015 release, and it will somehow involve original star Arnold Schwarzenegger, be a "reboot" of the franchise and mark the beginning of a stand-alone trilogy.

It'll be co-produced by the billionaire Ellison kids, each putting up 1/3 of the costs which will probably run in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now I've made my thoughts on rebooting the Terminator franchise before, but no one has listened. That has forced my hand to look at the PROS AND CONS!!



The Terminator franchise made $1,402,938,658 at the box-office which is officially a shit-load of money.


Maybe it's just me, or actually keeps track of continuity in stories, but the movies and the TV series turned what was a nice, tidy little time-travel-paradox in the first two movies, into an incoherent mush. A reboot, unless it's being done by DC comics, could wipe that slate clean.



The budget of the first Terminator movie was $6.5 million and earned over $78 million worldwide, which was good money in 1984. The budget on the last one, Terminator: Salvation, was about $200 million, twice the budget of the epic sized Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but made about $150 million less, despite higher ticket prices.

This fifth film will probably cost somewhere between $200-$250 million just to make.


The first movie scores about 100% at Rotten Tomatoes, T2 got 98%, T3 got 70%, and Terminator: Salvation got 33%. Audiences were about the same with the first two movies, but were much harsher than the critics with the rest. 

The excited hoots you might expect has become an exasperated sigh of resignation.


When the first movie came out its "star" Arnold Schwarzenegger was barely known, and what he was known for was for being a bodybuilder and for starring in the modestly successful Conan The Barbarian two years earlier. He just exploded in the role of the unstoppable killing machine and it made him a major box office star overnight.

However, that was almost 30 years ago.

Now Schwarzenegger is very well known, and it's to the film's detriment. He's now known as a politically impotent and personally oversexed failed Governor of California. Plus, he qualifies as a pensioner who needed extensive special effects work to be appear capable in the third movie ten years ago, and even more digital magic just to appear functional in the last one.

He's not an unstoppable action machine anymore, he's a punchline.

Plus, he knows a thing or two about contracts, and his contract for Terminator 3 is considered a classic example of how a movie star can drain pretty much all the profits before the studio has a chance to hide them.


Let's take a moment to look at the companies that have made Terminator movies.
Hemdale produced the first one, and it was the company that got off easy because it went out of business by choice of its owners. The owners and management decided to shutter the company and sold off the company and its assets.
Carolco picked up the Terminator franchise from Hemdale. They made T2, which was a huge success but were bankrupt within a decade. The producers of T2 then formed...
C2 Pictures to make Terminator 3, and started the Sara Conner TV series, but even they started having money troubles, so they sold out to...
Halcyon Pictures which made Terminator: Salvation that sold a lot of tickets, but not enough to save them from their own bankruptcy.

Which brings us to the situation we're in now.

Will their be more bankruptcies?

I don't know, but if you don't feel a twee bit superstitious after seeing all that, you just aren't paying attention.


You will CLICK HERE and leave me your pop culture and business questions.



Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1036: Is Spexism Sexism Or Something We're Not Seeing?

Folks are fuming over two recent developments about women in Hollywood. Sales of spec scripts by women are at an all time low, and there is only one movie coming out this summer with female leads, and that's The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. However even that has fallen victim to some really bizarre photoshopping by the advertising agency.
What's wrong with her neck & head?

If you go only by the breathless headlines of these stories you'd be inclined to form a mental picture of the men who run Hollywood meeting in a smoke-filled back room of an upscale eatery and the chairman of this penile cabal declaring:

Artist's conception of the group who decide the fate of women in Hollywood
"There are just too many chicks writing movies and buying tickets to movies, so let's stop buying scripts written by women, and make sure that only one summer movie this year has women in the lead roles. That'll teach the women folk to get out of the kitchen and wear shoes!"

However, reality says something much more complicated. 

The first point is that there is too much greed and stupidity in Hollywood for the men, and yes, it is disproportionately men, who run Hollywood to conspire about anything.

However, that same greed and stupidity does play a role in the position of women in Hollywood, though not in the way that you might think. Which I will get to in a bit.

These developments remind of another point that is constantly cited as evidence of sexist conspiracies and that's the whole "A woman only makes only 75¢ for every dollar made by a man." 

People love to point at that and say: "See, proof! There's a de-facto 25% penis bonus in every man's paycheque. That's why you must vote for me or be a sexist pig!" 

However, those who like to cite that stat, don't wonder why greedy businessmen don't just hire more women to get out of paying 25% more for penises, and they also don't go into the factors that went into coming up with that number. These are the things you don't see...

Women are more likely than men to leave the workforce for extended periods of time to have families. Women are more likely than men to take jobs that have lower pay in exchange for what they, as individuals, believe is a better quality of life for themselves. 

Women are also less likely than men to take jobs as sandhogs digging tunnels or as oil rig roughnecks. Those are jobs that pay a lot of money, but usually involve extremely harsh working conditions as well as serious risk of life and limb, and many say that most women have too much common sense to want those kinds of jobs. Those factors skew salary statistics so much that the dream of a dollar for dollar parity may be a mathematical impossibility without a single act of oppression involved.
Actually, it's very complex you liar.

So now that we know that, we must realize that this issue is a lot more complicated than the simple Good Woman oppressed by Evil Man paradigm that people want you to believe.

As for spec scripts and female leads we are running on certain assumptions.

Women are more than 50% of the population so by that logic over 50% of spec-scripts should be written by women, and over 50% of the finished films should have female leads.

That sounds fine and would be true if everything follows simple patterns, but there is nothing simple in the real world.

Yes spec screenplays by women are down. That's happened, to just say that sexism is the cause is an over simplification because it doesn't acknowledge these questions from economics and history.

Why leave out or offend over 50% of the audience especially when demographic research shows that women have disproportionately greater purchasing power and influence than men as evidenced by trends in advertising?

How come during exponentially more sexist times like the 1930s the movies and the box office were dominated by female stars and female-themed movies?

Hmmm.... makes you think doesn't it?

Then there are the other factors...

1. The studios are becoming more and more dependent on big budget, bombastic blockbuster franchises with toy and merchandise potential. That means the whole spec script market is down unless it's related to some pre-existing sequel generating franchise or has the potential to become one. That means science-fiction and comic book style action scripts and occasional smaller scale gross out comedies over everything.

2. The genres that are traditionally seen as "female" like dramas, suspense thrillers, and romantic comedies just aren't getting made as much as they used to be because they don't really bode well for sequels and, outside of certain kinds of product placement, they don't move merchandise. Which is greedy and stupid on the part of the studios because they traditionally cost less than big franchise blockbusters, and can often have wider profit margins and improve bottom lines over-all if you find the balance of releasing enough volume without saturating the market.

3. While the studios are cutting down on movies that appeal to women, the market for books for women is exploding. Women writers who would have written a spec script 10 years ago, are now writing novels instead. In novel writing they're not bound by budget, MPAA ratings, subject matter, or the notes of people who only got their job because they joined the right fraternity at Harvard.

4. Then there's television which is undergoing a golden age in both quantity and quality. There are not only shows that appeal to women, are written by women, produced by women, and star women, there are whole television channels geared towards women. Many women who would have been trying to shill spec scripts for features are now working the less glamorous but potentially more fertile fields of television.

Now these are just the factors I'm rhyming off the top of my head. There are probably dozens more that I didn't think of, and while sexism may be a factor somewhere, it's probably not the driving force behind it.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


It's been a while, so I would like you, my readers, to give me your questions for me to answer right here on this blog.

What do you think about that actress Zooey Deschanel?

Well, while it's true, it's a little off topic.

Anyway, the rest of you can click on the comments and get asking!

Richard Matheson R.I.P.

Richard Matheson, writer of novels, short stories, screenplays, and teleplays in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, war, and even western passed away at the age of 87.

I can't tell you how much of an idol Matheson was to me. When I was a kid I started to pay attention to the names of writers on TV shows and movies, and when I saw Matheson's name pop up on an episode of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, or in a movie, I knew I was probably going to like it.

He was part of that small group of writers, nicknamed the Southern California Sorcerers, that included Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, William F. Nolan, Charles Beaumont, Jerry Sohl, George Clayton Johnson, and Rod Serling who proved to the world that writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror for television could be art.

Later on I got into his books and short stories, and my admiration for him grew exponentially. He could do it all, and do it extremely well if you look at the sheer volume of classics he created for print and screen.

Goodbye Richard, you will be missed.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1035: Violence, Cynicism, & Money.

Today I took notice of two stories involving guys who became big movie stars in the 1990s and how their careers, and Hollywood, have changed over the years.


The first one was about Jim Carrey who made an announcement, perfectly timed for maximum publicity, that he won't be doing any publicity for the upcoming movie Kick-Ass 2, because, in the aftermath of the Newtown Massacre, he can no longer condone "that level of violence."

Now that sounds all noble, but is he really concerned about the effect of cinematic violence, or is just trying to shield himself from the charges of hypocrisy the conservative media's been lobbing at him since his attempt to reinvent himself as the voice of gun control.

There are two possible motives for his actions. One is sort-of-noble, the other is very cynical.

The sort-of-noble theory is that he really believes that, despite the nearly 40% drop in violent crime since 1990, that gun violence is a civilizational apocalypse that's due to happen the day after tomorrow, a little after two in the afternoon. He's as passionate against guns as he is against vaccines, and will not only denounce a violent movie he made before his epiphany, but will make some other gesture like return his paycheque and profit participation. It runs the risk of making him seem unemployable in the light of many recent under-performers and outright flops, but if he's truly willing to make that sacrifice he'll think it's worth it.

Now this is where I put on my cynical hat and offer an extremely cynical theory.

My theory is that Carrey's antics maybe just that, antics. Not to promote the movie, but to save his flagging career.

He hasn't carried a straightforward live action hit in a very long time, and the audience already looks at him as a bit of a flake after his anti-vaccine crusade, so why not go all in and become what I call a "Media Appealer."

You see a Media Appealer is a star who helps get big roles and paycheques not by appealing to the general audience, which is hard work, but to the media circles in which they live, which is much easier. How easy? Simply subscribe to all the right beliefs, shibboleths, and prejudices of that circle, while demonizing those who don't as unintelligent, possibly insane, and most definitely evil.

Being a media appealer gets you the kind of glowing coverage that convinces the people running studios that you must be relevant and the audience will flock to your movies. If those movies fail, then it's the fault of the audience, then you get a pat on the back for your courage, and another deal to make another movie for another big paycheque. George Clooney's and Sean Penn's career are built on being more appealing to the media than to the audience.

By being a media appealer Carrey may have adroitly given his career some insurance against the possibility of yet another box-office under-achiever. Thus his tirade against his own movie goes from being the action of a washed up entertainer on the road to unemployability, to the rather cynical move of a sharp Hollywood player trying to save his private jet and armed bodyguards.


Roland Emmerich, the bombastic master of disaster, has announced that he's making not one, but two sequels to his 90s hit Independence Day. They will be called Independence Forever Parts I & II, but they will not involve Will Smith who broke into mega-stardom with the first one.

Personally, I wasn't a fan of the first one, but I find it interesting that they're dropping Will Smith's once important character, and the reason why they're dropping it: Money.

Will Smith is just too damn expensive to have around. Outside of his home movie gone epic After Earth, most of his films are still capable of making a couple of hundred million bucks at the box office. 

The trouble is that they usually cost somewhere around the GDP of a South American country to get made, and a lot of those costs, including salary, mega-sized trailers, entourage, and other assorted expenses, can be laid right at Mr. Smith's feet. Then you add on his usual "Dollar One" gross participation deal and any profit margin is usually as thin as paper or completely destroyed unless they break box office records.

After Earth may be the straw that broke the camel's back when it comes to just signing Smith for the sake of signing Smith. Economics explain that everything, including the star-power of actors, has an inherent value that go up and down over time depending on the constantly shifting and changing forces of the market.

The key to a long career is to offer your star power at a rate commensurate with those market forces that still enables you and the movies you're in to make a profit.

The nature of the current movie business, which is as a relatively small cog in a massive media conglomeration, gives a movie star a certain cushioning against real market forces as long as they are at least seen as a force within their community.

But, and this is a big but, there is a line. A line where it's just no longer feasible to hire you, even if you can rake in the bucks, because the odds of profit over loss might be better without having to pay you than with you bringing in your fans.

Boy, I'm being Mister Cynical today.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1034: Being Indecent & Probably Fattening

Right now the FCC, AKA the Federal Communications Commission, is reconsidering its mandate of managing decency on broadcast television. Some are saying that the FCC is no help at all, as illustrated by the eons spent litigating and regulating Janet Jackson's nipple, and should be shuttered, while others are screaming that without a moral watchdog the broadcast nets will be awash with pornography.

As I've said before, hundreds of times, you could get rid of the FCC today, and the networks would jump straight into nudity and foul language galore, for about a season, then they'd probably go back to being even less sexual, violent, or raunchy as they are now.


The market.

Look at HBO, the most successful channel to offer  the R-Rated combo of nudity, profanity, and extreme violence, and look at its most successful, critically acclaimed, and/or influential original shows like The Sopranos, Game Of Thrones, Sex & The City, The WireBoardwalk Empire, and The Larry Sanders Show.

All, to different degrees, has or had nudity, violence, profanity, and mature subject matter in them. However, if you edited out, or toned down those elements, the shows would probably still sell. But look at the HBO shows that were built solely around the promise of graphic sex, and most either fail outright, or just sort of limp around for a while with little or no impact on the cultural landscape.

Now look at network shows that try to sell themselves as "sexy" a classic example being NBC's debacle The Playboy Club
The sexy show about sexy people doing sexy stuff in sexy outfits
The network spent tons of money marketing how sexy the show was. They even had the Parent's Television Council condemn it before it even aired for being so damn sexy. The day before its premiere NBC's executives were patting each other on the back because all that sexiness was going to ensure that everyone in the world was going to watch it making it the most successful show in the world.

The Playboy Club was pretty well cancelled about halfway through the pilot episode because the ratings were so poor.

Why did it fail?

Because beyond the promise of network television level sexiness, the show really didn't even pretend to offer much more.

Then there's what some call the water cooler effect. Imagine coming across a group of people at the office water-cooler talking about what they watched the night before. Do you want to be the one who bragged about watching the "sex show" on NBC? Or even if they were talking about a show on HBO, are you going to be the one who foregoes chatting about plot twists and "red weddings" to offer your opinion on an actress' boobs?

No, that would make you look like a scrofulent pervert.

Besides, when someone sees a show whose ad campaign hypes the sex angle, they unconsciously see it as code for "This show will be boring, so here are some boobies to distract you." They don't need TV to give them nudity when the internet offers nudity and sexuality more graphic than even HBO and "Skinemax" are willing to go, and cheaper too.

The people running networks and freaking out over the FCC loosening its mandate shouldn't need to have me explain this to them.

It's just plain common sense.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1033: The 3 Decisions of Warner Brothers

Today I have 3 stories that all involve decisions being made by Warner Brothers, 1 I can understand, 1 that I can sadly understand, and 1 I don't get at all.


Warner Brothers, as the parent company of New Line Cinema, passed on Dumb & Dumber To, the sequel to Dumb & Dumber reuniting the original stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels and the original's creators the Farrelly Brothers. 

But that's not the end of the story.

Now some folks are saying that Warner Brothers made a mistake passing on the picture. They say that the proposed $35 million budget would have made the film a sure thing considering the original made over $240 million at the box office on a $17 million budget.

Those people have their points. But if you look at it from the perspective of Warner Brothers you might think about it differently.

Yes, the first movie was an out-of-the-blue blockbuster that convinced Hollywood that the success of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective wasn't just a fluke.

However, as a franchise it's not exactly the golden child people think it is.

First, the original came out almost twenty years ago. That's 20 years of constant replay on cable television to wear it's become the equivalent of a test pattern on certain channels. Then there was the animated series, which lasted a season and was cancelled because no one watched it, then came the high school set prequel, which did okay compared to the production budget, but when you toss in P&A probably lost money, and then there's the people in the Dumb & Dumber franchise.

The Farrelly Brothers had two monster hits with  Dumb & Dumber and There's Something About Mary raking in a combined box office of nearly $600 million. But lately their record has been a bit more checkered. Some films did okay, some did poorly, but it was obvious that the near explosive success of the 90s is in the past.

Same with Jim Carrey. He had a run as Hollywood's golden fool, but the last 10 years have been a lot leaner. The costs of his films skyrocketed, often because of his salary, while the box office performance of his live action roles declined. While still capable of occasionally cracking $100 million, those that did, still probably lost money. Also, he's been actively alienating large swathes of the domestic ticket buying audience due to his public pronouncements on the evils of vaccinating children and gun ownership.

The audience doesn't see him as the loveable, rubber-faced clown like they used to. Now when they look at Jim Carrey they see a smug millionaire who seems to live in luxurious isolation completely out of touch with the real world.

That might make the audience a bit iffy on spending their hard earned money to see him as the goof from Dumb & Dumber again.


See this trailer...

Normally, I'd ask "Why?" but I know why.

The people running the studios are a pack of nutless wonders, and here is a movie that's just one big product placement toy-commercial that they think brain-dead children will flock to, dragging their money-bearing parents with them.

It's sad, but true.


Thomas Tull, the head honcho of film financier Legendary Pictures says he will have a decision on whether or not the company will renew their co-financing deal with Warner Brothers within the next 60 days.

The fact that he's considering moving on, and Warner Brothers isn't bathing him with offers of cash, hookers, and blow to stay illustrates a dissonance in how the studios operate.

The studio, though cash rich, love to "poor mouth," and make partnerships with outside financiers to make movies. However, since they don't really need those financiers they tend to treat them like red-headed step-children riding rented mules. This treatment, and the studio's bordering on felonious accounting practices, mean that the bulk of studio-financier relations end sourly and often in litigation.

By all accounts the Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures partnership has done pretty damn well. Especially when it comes to breathing new life into DC's comic franchises that Warner Brothers had allowed to be outshone by Marvel.

From what I've been able to gather the biggest complaint Warner Brothers had about this partnership was that Legendary's super efficient script-to-movie development process made them look bad.

The fact that they'd prefer to let Legendary go rather than learn from their success says a lot about the state of the studio system.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Trailer Trashing: Elysium

Let's take a look at the extended trailer to Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to his surprise hit District 9 called Elysium.

First impressions...

I had no idea Blomkamp would build a film around an apartheid metaphor. Really, I'm utterly gobsmacked.

Okay, I'm being sarcastic. The whole thing is like a rehash of District 9 but with poor people and robots instead of aliens, and the whole world turned into one big Soweto because the rich people seem to want it like that for some reason.

I'm also a little iffy on the social and economic mechanics of the year 2154. All the rich people live off the planet in Elysium because the planet's resources are all spent. There they live in luxury with technology that's near magical by the standards of the people below. 

Now Elysium can only survive in two ways for the movie's plot to be possible. 

1. They leech the few remaining resources from the planet below, and use advanced military technology to keep the oppressed masses from rising up and turning off the tap. However, if they push that too far, they could end up destroying what they need to stay alive. It doesn't matter how much cash you have when there's no food at all to buy.


2. Elysium is a completely self-contained uses their super-advanced technology to create a completely self-sustaining eco-system. However, since it's so much nicer up their it's constantly facing attempts to infiltrate it by the poor and the desperate, though exactly what they'll do when they get there seems to be a mystery, since any contact with the residents will result in either their return to Earth or their death.

Then there's the other question.

How do the rich support their lifestyles on Elysium?

Everyone on the planet is portrayed as living in Third  World conditions where even if you have a skilled trade, you have to live in shitty slums swimming in garbage.

Who is making the Elysians rich?

People are wearing rags and living in ruins, it is stated that the entire planet is one big ghetto with no resources. Illnesses that can be cured on Elysium in minutes are death sentences on the surface. So how are the people on Elysium able to afford their luxuries and high technology?

No matter what they're going to have overhead. Either paying for the resources they get from Earth to stay alive, or, if they're self-sustaining, paying for the weapons and mercenaries needed to keep the great unwashed from the gates.

The people of Elysium also just can't sit on a pile of money. They need a steady income to support themselves and Elysium.

It's in Elysium's best interests to use their advanced technology to make life on the planet better. The better off things are on the surface, the cheaper it will be to get resources off planet, and also cut down on the number of illegal immigrants trying to get into their station, and the mercenaries and weapons needed to keep them out.

And the cherry on top is that if they get the planet's economy working again, they can use that to make themselves even richer and not have to worry about Jodie Foster tossing them out an airlock when they can't pay the rent or having cyborg-modified Matt Damons causing explosions and property damage.

So if there was some actual knowledge of how economics work both Matt Damon's character, and the cute kid he has to save would only be meeting in the waiting room at the clinic for their 5 minute medical treatment.

But it the premise had some real economics in it, there wouldn't be a movie.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1032: Meltdown Imminent?

Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas both recently predicted that a "meltdown" was imminent in Hollywood, specifically in the movie business.

Gee, I wonder who has been saying that for years?

Oh, yeah: 


Welcome Steve and Georgie to the Club of People Capable of Seeing the Obvious. The facilities are lousy, but membership is free.

What are the signs that the movie biz is troubled?

1. Bigger Money, Fewer Bets. The big studios are putting more and more into less and less. Basically they're making bigger and bigger bets on fewer and fewer movies with increasingly narrow release windows. This creates periodic gluts of mega-budget productions, each one needing to break records just to break even. Every summer movie season is a potential Heaven's Gate situation just waiting to happen.

2. Not A Franchise, Not Interested. The big studios are bit by bit reducing their output of films that are not sequels, remakes, reboots, or otherwise connected to some previously existing franchise.

3. Dysfunction. The environment of the movie business is growing increasingly toxic. Nowadays it would be news to discover that someone, be they talent or a investor, didn't get screwed over by a major studio.

4. Alienation. The people making movies for the big studios haven't been as far out of touch from simple normalcy as they are now, and view those who disagree with them as being mentally deficient, morally defective, or a combo of both. They need hired consultants to tell them how to dress, how to eat, how to exercise, and even how how to vote. Just how can they connect emotionally and intellectually with the overwhelmingly working and middle class audience?

5. Audiences are dwindling. Aside from the occasional upward blip, overall people aren't going to the movies as much as they used to. And if that's not bad enough you should look at the "solutions" the people running the studios are coming up with.

6. Faith in China. The folks running Hollywood think the Chinese market is the magic pill that will solve all of their problems. It's over a billion people, rates of regular moviegoing North America hasn't seen since the 1940s, and a burgeoning economy. However, while it's a growing market, it is not a free market. To do business in China they need to proverbially fellate not only the high mucky-mucks in the ruling Communist Party, but all their relatives, friends, and assorted cronies. That not only doesn't bode well for the movie business, it doesn't bode well for any business in China. 

Not only are the movies you release, and the revenue they generate, subject to the whims of the political ruling class, the market the lucky few are getting released to is exponentially more fragile than anyone cares to admit. The slightest downturn or upset in the fragile balance at the heart of China's current economic miracle can make the whole thing come down like a house of cards. 

That doesn't make it a safe bet in the long term.

7. Excuse Pricing. Why did the studios go big into 3D a few years ago? Artistic expression? No, it was an excuse to jack up ticket prices at 3D screenings, and are coming up with other excuses for audiences to pay extra. It will probably soon devolve to where if you want a seat at a screening you're going to have to pay a fee.

8. Dwindling Share. The big studios used to be the cornerstone of the big media conglomerates that formed in the 1970s to the 2000s. Nowadays they're a shrinking part of growing companies, gradually being outshone by their red-headed step-siblings television and the many other ways of delivering home video.

They're also being outshone creatively by cable television, many shows getting ratings that the studios' blood siblings, the broadcast networks, would kill to get. Nowadays if you want to shine creatively, and make a decent living, you avoid making big budget movies with the major studios, you get a good television gig.

Who does Hollywood have to blame for this?

They just have to look in the mirror.