I have been chronicling the negative in our film industry for sometime now—six years. Much of what I have stated in years past remains still in need of getting done. Dig into my past lists and you will have well over 100 things that we could be doing better. You’d think with so much wrong, more people would stand up and say “this has got to change!” Where is the film industry’s national leadership? For the first time I believe we are capable of conceptualizing what an entire systems reboot could be—and one that looks out for ALL the stakeholders. Isn’t it time for a national summit on this?
I have been also chronicling the good too, but that’s for another day.
By detailing what we have failed to do, done wrong or continue to ignore, we build a road map of how we can improve things for the future. Here’s my contribution to that map for 2014. Let’s build this better together.
1. The ‘Winners Take All’ blockbuster model has stomped ‘The Long Tail’ flat.
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And as much as I hoped people would try to resist and not just dream of a world where diversity, quality and ambition cause the worthy to surface, it doesn’t seem to be so. The louder you yell, the more you win. Culture becomes what has the most marketing money behind it, and the underground gets buried in the grave, never able to get enough of a footing to rise in opposition. The outsiders grow so discouraged, the next gen that might have been inspired to build upon their work never sees or hears it. Corporate culture becomes the monolith. Much has been written about this, in books, newspapers and elsewhere—and still few do little to offer an alternative. Sigh…
2. It was the worst summer theatrical attendance in over 17 years—and that still probably won’t change anything.
Box office dropped by fifteen percent. Although there are many reasons for the poor performance, there is no ignoring that very little feels fresh or original any more. As the New York Times reported: Studios released twelve sequels this summer and only three performed better than the prior installment. The revenue leaders came from familiar brands or genres. Even if the box office champ was the most original movie of the summer, will that change anything?
3. “Movies are not a growth business.”
So proclaimed Dreamworks Animation Chief Jeffrey Katzenberg at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference this past April. Perhaps that is why he’s been shopping his company to Softbank and Hasbro. . . . As much as we appreciate it when the chieftains speak the truth, one can’t but suspect such blunt realities stem the tide of capital into the sector, too.
4. Indie film’s foreign sales pre-sales model is on the verge of collapse—for most Titles.
Schuyler Moore says Netflix is to blame: “a worldwide VOD reach will rip the heart out of these sales, because it will destroy the value of DVD and pay TV rights to the local distributors. The net result will be that independent films will be financed by pre-sales to Netflix, not the local distributors.” Will we focus on finding a solution?
5. The traditional broadcast television model is beginning to die.
The audience is disappearing—and it won’t be coming back. A big ratings drop happened this summer. Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger pointed out that TV viewing dropped thirteen minutes a day over the last year, and viewers are making up for it by spending twelve minutes more a day on Netflix. Obviously people want commercial free viewing on demand, and they are paying for it. Advertisers won’t pay the same rate to reach less people. How will traditional broadcast survive? Juenger recommends they stop selling their shows to Netflix. Hmmm…
6. Further media consolidation feels inevitable.
“In 1983, 50 companies owned 90 percent of the media consumed by Americans. By 2012, just six companies—including Fox (then part of News Corporation) and Time Warner—controlled that 90 percent, according to testimony before the House Judiciary Committee examining Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal.” (NY Times 07.25.14) To me, it would seem obvious that when it comes to media companies, a different standard of anti-trust must be applied, as we deal with the traffic of ideas, opinion and truth. The fact that a merger between Comcast and Time Warner could even be considered, let alone Fox and Time Warner, indicates how far astray we have gone.
What are our values? Does business trump democracy as a matter of course now? Can a line even be drawn? The cable industry is one of virtual monopolies and the movement towards further mergers gives them incredible leverage over the creative community. To bring the studios down from six to five, and the networks from five to four seems absurd. At least the NY Times opposes the consolidation. But the general lack of resistance makes it feel like we’ve entered the world of (he hit me and) “It felt like a kiss;” where we’ve come to want the ritualized abuse that such mega-mergers bring us.
7. Hollywood is committed to producing ‘more of the same’ more than ever, despite terrible box office performance of such crap this year.
In his great article on “Hollywood’s Horrid Summer,” Mark Harris points out that the suits have doubled-down on a formula of sequels, reboots and retreads for years to come. Warner Bros. has dated over nine new DC comic adaptions. Avatar 4 is already dated. Doesn’t that make you soooo excited? Essentially, as Kenneth Turan pointed out, Hollywood is a “hedgehog,” good now at only one thing (making tentpoles), and no longer a “fox,” fluid and adept at many things. We have reached a point where we should accept the death of the Hollywood film for adults. Hollywood is a one-horse town.
Read the full list over at Keyframe.