Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1143: Growth, Death, Or Farce?

Jeffrey Katzenberg raised some hackles when he declared during a speech that the movie industry is not a "growth industry" and that television is.

Well, he's wrong and he's right.

He's right in that at the moment the Hollywood movie industry is not a growth industry because it's management is sluggish, top-heavy, narrow minded, with business practices that range from silly to downright shady, and the studios are too busy making overpriced movies that need to break records just to break even while wilfully ignoring opportunities right in front of them.

Television is growing right now, but the traditional model will be hitting a wall and soon. There are so many outlets, almost all of them producing original content, and only so many people on the planet with only so much time on their hands for casual viewing. Then there's the cable-cutting, and a generation coming up who are used to watching things on computer screens and very unwilling to pay for what they're watching. Katzenberg suggests charging people "by the inch" or by the size of the device they're watching the movie on, and changing the "windows" that dictate when a film is released in theatres, and the many kinds of home video.


Pop your head into the way-back machine and travel back to the 1950s and 1960s. The studios were in rough shape. The government had forced them out of the theatre business, they had become incredibly top heavy, management wise, and one by one the the original founding moguls fell and were replaced by people who were more middle-level number crunching managerial than the sort of big picture entrepreneurial types who started the whole thing.

To top it all off television had reared it's flickering head as the first serious competition the movies had faced since vaudeville. The studios responded by making bigger, louder, and more colourful movies in the hope that they would win audiences back. 

While some broke records, and became classics, far too many cost too much to make a profit, and some of them bombed so badly they endangered the future of the studios that made them.

Sound familiar.

Karl Marx once said that history does repeat itself, the first time as a tragedy, and the next time as  farce.

Feature films were saved by the so-called "Movie Brat" generation. They were upstart baby-boomers raised on classic movies and early television who all wanted to make feature films because they wanted to do things they couldn't do on television.

The problem with feature films now is that there isn't anything you can do on a big screen that you can't do on television. 

In fact, there's one thing you can't do in most big budget feature films that is being done all the time on television, and that's tell a richly complex story.

What's the point of this rant?

Not really sure anymore.

All I do know is that we can't really put much credence in anyone's predictions of the future, even an expert who green-lit Peabody & Sherman, because the future hasn't happened yet. That means any attempt at a prediction is nothing more than guess work.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Katzenberg's "charge by the inch" concept is essentially a corporate version of income tax. If you can own a bigger TV, then you should have to pay more money to watch stuff on it. A brilliant notion - it brings into play the trappings of income redistribution while making the media companies a supertanker full of cash for essentially zero increased cost by the supplier.

    No wonder Katzenberg gave 3 million to the Obama campaign. Brothers under the skin.