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Ed Driscoll

Hollywood ‘Completely Broke.’ But That’s Good News, Right?

June 16th, 2013 - 2:11 pm

Last weekend, my wife and I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, a Paramount movie, at the theater in Santana Row — our local Northern California holodeck recreation of a fin de siècle European village. It’s fascinating to watch a movie made 30 years ago — after the cultural revolution of the late ’60s and ’70s, in which Hollywood had its first go-around at burning down traditional American values — and realize it probably couldn’t be made today; PC would transform those ’30s characters into oblivion. And then the following day, watch the latest Star Trek movie, another Paramount production, and realize (SPOILER ALERT) that it’s a 190 million dollar sci-fi bit of 9/11 trutherism.

As late as 1981, Hollywood could still muster up enough energy to care what the audience thinks and want to please it. Today, the American moviegoer is anathema, particularly now that he’s no longer buying sufficient quantities of DVDs to support the lavish lifestyle of Hollywood elites, despite following the advice of Hollywood elites who told him to stop buying DVDs.

In 2012, David Brooks (of all people) explored “Why Our Elites Stink” in the New York Times (of all places):

Through most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Protestant Establishment sat atop the American power structure. A relatively small network of white Protestant men dominated the universities, the world of finance, the local country clubs and even high government service.

Over the past half–century, a more diverse and meritocratic elite has replaced the Protestant Establishment. People are more likely to rise on the basis of grades, test scores, effort and performance.

Yet, as this meritocratic elite has taken over institutions, trust in them has plummeted. It’s not even clear that the brainy elite is doing a better job of running them than the old boys’ network. Would we say that Wall Street is working better now than it did 60 years ago? Or government? The system is more just, but the outcomes are mixed. The meritocracy has not fulfilled its promise.

Christopher Hayes of MSNBC and The Nation believes that the problem is inherent in the nature of meritocracies. In his book, “Twilight of the Elites,” he argues that meritocratic elites may rise on the basis of grades, effort and merit, but, to preserve their status, they become corrupt. They create wildly unequal societies, and then they rig things so that few can climb the ladders behind them. Meritocracy leads to oligarchy.

“Credentialed, not educated,” as Glenn Reynolds would say.

And certainly lacking in wisdom and street-smarts. Compared to the Ivy League-credentialed elites who run it now, the men who created the movie industry were largely uneducated immigrants who fled to Hollywood in the first decades of the 20th century to escape antisemitism, and to build what film historian Neal Gabler described in 1989 as “An Empire of their Own.”  Given their own personal experience, the original Hollywood moguls had every reason to be crass and cynical about their audiences, and yet, somehow, they produced a far better product than their peers today. Why should I care about Hollywood’s future, when so many of its elites loathe wide swatches of the Americans who support it?

Update: “Connecticut stops offering Hollywood a luxurious tax break.” Presumably, those in Hollywood who promoted Occupy Wall Street, and railed against George Bush’s tax cuts view this as a good thing, right?

Related: “Occupy the multiplex: Class warfare in this summer’s movies.”

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Top Rated Comments   
Personally I think BluRay (officially arrived in 2006) and the HD DVD (officially died in 2008) are a big factor in declining DVD sales. Hollywood got greedy and split the market hoping everyone would repurchase old titles to get features they'd watch only once while all they did was bash DVD quality and show that any media is transitionary.

At the same time Netflix and Redbox made renting very convenient so why buy media that will only be outdated in a few years.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Our modern elites are not any more meritocratic than the old ones. For one thing, the word meritocratic does not actually mean "gets better scores in college" as implied in this article. The definition of what is meritorious varies across time, place, and society, but the mark of the "elite", the mark of the "gentleman", has frequently been the possession of things like courage, honesty, integrity, loyalty and so on. The notion that these qualities are found in Congress or among Americam businessmen is farcical.

But even by the silly "merit = good college scores" standards our elite fall short. In our time elite = wealth, and wealth, by and large, is the product of having good connections, not of intellect.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hollywood isn’t broke or in financial trouble. That’s all lies. The financial figures for movies—both gross and net—are fabrications.

Since all the financial figures are lies, Hollywood cannot plead poverty, lack of income, or any other fiscal trouble.

Hollywood cannot be believed because it never tells the truth.

I’ll believe Hollywood is broke when actors, producers, directors and the like make less an one million per year, which is still more than they’re worth.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (26)
All Comments   (26)
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As for streaming, i can get a Blu Ray player for $75. what's a computer cost, you know, for the streaming? Or an IPad? Not $75. Plus, not everybody has broadband for 1020p. I live in the sticks and i'm posting this 1.8M a sec and that's as fast as i can go unless the telecom wants to rip out all the wire between my house and town. On top of that, if you buy a movie from Netflix or Amazon or ITunes, you don't really "own" it. This, though, [waves blue ray Capt America at the screen], this is MINE.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's a very simple explanation for declining sales, and it's the same for CDs: the media doesn't wear out, so there's no need to replace it! Barring the occasional scratch or being stepped on, once you have a movie or an album on digital media, it's effectively yours for a generation. VHS tapes, cassettes, LPs, 45s, these all wore out over time as you played them, and they needed to be replaced eventually. CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray don't wear out. What happened when these new media carriers were introduced, people began replacing their volatile media carriers with non-volatile versions, and discovered that they didn't need to buy the White Album again. Hollywood is discovering the same phenomenon that caused the music industry to nearly collapse. I can't believe this wasn't obvious to anyone in those industries at the time they introduced the new technologies.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
The best and the brightest are getting dumb and dumber.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
The studios are rich, but the creatives so far are the ones really taking the hit. Reality TV has all but destroyed the scripted filmic drama, and adult movies are rare.

You have to admire the skill of the studio heads. They go from state to state, playing one off the other, for tax breaks. The reap half a billion in federal breaks from Obama. They pay workers minimum wage and offload them onto Unemployment between gigs. Yet they are "liberal" and despise the hands that feed them! The old moguls came from war torn countries and loved the freedom here, but this generation has forgotten all that.

Really, it's a mad kind of genius. And a profitable one.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Personally I think BluRay (officially arrived in 2006) and the HD DVD (officially died in 2008) are a big factor in declining DVD sales. Hollywood got greedy and split the market hoping everyone would repurchase old titles to get features they'd watch only once while all they did was bash DVD quality and show that any media is transitionary.

At the same time Netflix and Redbox made renting very convenient so why buy media that will only be outdated in a few years.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Meritocratic. Bwahhahahahaha.

That it is to laugh. Today the "merits" of the self selected elite are those that can recite the secular humanist elitist catechism the most accurately.

Original thinkers need not apply.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
-- “Bad 2009. Bad 2010. Bad 2011.”--

Hope and change, baby. Hope and change.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Okay someone needs to slap the stupid out of Nora Ephron and David Brooks (probably not possible, but slap him anyhow!)
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Someone needs to slap the stupid out of James Cameron
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, Brooks is out of his mind and thirty years behind events when he talks of "meritocracy", that went out the window with affirmative action and political correctness of all sorts, every child gets a medal, don't keep score in sports, yada yada. It was over by 1980. Jeebus, how do you think we got the president we got, if there's meritocracy involved?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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