Friday, December 30, 2005
You see it all over the internet and industry publications. An increasing number of commentators (columnists) are stating boldly that Hollywood is in trouble and without significant changes, the industry will spiral into the depths of bankruptcy and eventually burn itself out. Others spout statistics to prove that there is no box office slump at all.
Naturally, each commentator knows the root of the perceived problem. These roots span every possibility from bad movies, lousy scripts, and cheesy remakes to noisy theatre patrons, DVD sales, poorly run multiplexes, political conspiracies and alien invasions. So, what are those of us outside the golden gates supposed to think?
Well, I don't want to trivialize what may or may not be critical issues, but was any one of these commentators looking over the accountant's shoulder when Disney recorded $313 million in losses? Hiding behind the curtains when Harvey and Bob Weinstein said their goodbyes at Miramax? Doing the laundry when Dreamworks threw in the towel?
Hollywood is made up of people. The film "industry" is made up of people. People run the studios. People write the scripts. People direct the films. People keep the books. People scrape the gum out from under the theatre seats.
The economics that affect filmmaking are volatile, variable and complex and the direction of an organization is as individual and subjective as the politics, personalities, policies, and prerogatives of the people holding the reins.
If it rains in Seattle, do people in Kalamazoo, Michigan get wet? Only if it's raining there too and only if the people aren't indoors or wearing raincoats or riding in their cars or holding umbrellas or standing under an awning or camping in a tent or riding on a subway (does Kalamazoo have subways?) or crossing through a skywalk ...the variables go on and on and on. So what's the answer? Depends on where you're standing.
The same thing works in the film industry or any industry. Variables affect organizations differently. A badly timed release date and an economic nightmare in New Orleans might not leave a bruise on some organizations while breaking the bones of others. Sure, some factors are universal, but the impact is not.
The direction of Hollywood can't accurately be summed up in a single magazine column any more than the solvency of a company can be summed up in a single financial statement. And yet, we continue to talk about Hollywood. Why? Because we must! It's Hollywood! But in the words of William Goldman's Psychology of the Deal, "Repeat after me. 'Nobody knows anything'."