The Big Picture


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The Big Picture

  1. 2. The Big Picture The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood AUTHOR: Edward Jay Epstein PUBLISHER: Random House Publishing Group DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2005 NUMBER OF PAGES: 416 pages
  2. 3. <ul><li>Regardless of how profit-oriented it may be, Hollywood, however, is of course not just about making money. While profit is undoubtedly the driving force behind the movie industry, its social and political milieus - the behind-the-scene dynamics that make Hollywood tick, and which are defined by their major players’ search for power and prestige - can neither be ignored nor neglected if one wants to arrive at a true understanding of Hollywood. </li></ul><ul><li>This book, then, is an attempt to make sense of Hollywood - to provide a ‘big picture’ understanding of it, so to speak - making use of the perspective explained above. </li></ul>THE BIG IDEA
  3. 4. The New System <ul><li>The system of 'old Hollywood' was devised by a handful of entrepreneurs who were in the business of showing movies. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Carl Laemmle began in America as an errand boy and founded Universal Pictures in 1912. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>William Fox started as a street peddler and founded Fox in 1915. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jack and Harry Warner began as butchers and founded Warner Bros. in 1923. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Louis Mayer started as a rag picker and organized Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In that same year, Harry Cohn, who had started as a sheet-music salesman, founded Columbia Pictures. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The system under these men, or moguls as they preferred to be called, made enormous profits out of nothing more than ticket sales, since they controlled almost all the theaters in America - and even the stars themselves. </li></ul>
  4. 5. <ul><li>However, several factors contributed to the decline of this system. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hollywood had come under the scrutiny of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which attempted to uncover Communist subversion. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The American Justice Department had been pressing an antitrust suit against the movie studios for years, alleging that their domination of the entire system was an illegal restraint of trade, and asserting that they had to relinquish control of the theaters or else there would be consequences. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lastly, television was on the horizon, a device which this offered an alternative to movies at no cost to the consumer. </li></ul></ul>The New System
  5. 6. <ul><li>Walter Elias Disney </li></ul><ul><li>Steve Ross </li></ul><ul><li>Akio Morita </li></ul><ul><li>Rupert Murdoch </li></ul><ul><li>Sumner Redstone </li></ul><ul><li>David Sarnoff </li></ul>The Creators
  6. 7. <ul><li>A movie begins with an idea, and can come from just about any source possible. </li></ul><ul><li>Acceptable ideas are converted into scripts, which are developed through continuous writing, revising, polishing, and even re-conception if necessary. </li></ul><ul><li>Scripts that are acceptable are green-lighted. </li></ul><ul><li>After green-lighting, the whole creation process is set in motion. </li></ul><ul><li>When all of this is done, shooting commences with principal photography. </li></ul><ul><li>After principal photography is complete, the movie is still worked on. Missing scenes are created using computer graphics. Sound is also worked on, or added to if need be. </li></ul><ul><li>Lastly, after principal photography is over and all the other material is sent in, everything is painstakingly assembled by the film editors and their staff. The studio usually retains the right to make the final cut. </li></ul><ul><li>After the movie's done, it moves into the studio inventory to await release (this stage can sometimes take years). </li></ul>The Movie Creation Process
  7. 8. Creating Audiences <ul><li>The studio starts by identifying a likely audience for the film based on an analysis of the story, stars and location of the movie. </li></ul><ul><li>Next, the studio has to make the target audience aware of the future film. </li></ul><ul><li>When a large enough percentage of the target audience is aware of the film, the next phase of the marketing campaign, the audience drive , is initiated. </li></ul><ul><li>Then the studio’s distribution arm has to select an opening day, ‘D-Day’ - quite often a make-or-break decision for many movies. </li></ul><ul><li>Whether this massive drive has failed or succeeded is decided only by how many people decide to watch the movie on its opening weekend. </li></ul>
  8. 9. The Economic Logic of Hollywood <ul><li>Once the studios show their films in theaters, they will have little control over their films. </li></ul><ul><li>Studios also have to concentrate on foreign markets, most especially Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Mexico, Italy and Australia. </li></ul><ul><li>The advent of DVD technology is changing the way the world views and enjoys movies as well. </li></ul><ul><li>Television was once seen as a threat to the studios, and indeed it was. The new studios, however, have embraced TV in a very big way. </li></ul><ul><li>Studios are very finely tuned learning networks. They take a look at current and past projects and use their experiences to adjust their subsequent decisions accordingly. </li></ul><ul><li>After all is said and done, only a handful of movies account for the lion’s share of a studio’s earnings. The $10 billion films since 1999 are remarkably similar, so much so that their similarities can be said to constitute a formula for success - the ‘Midas formula’. </li></ul>
  9. 10. The Social Logic of Hollywood <ul><li>Stars have long given Hollywood much of its allure, especially after the studio system’s demise. Their compensation, due to bidding wars between studios, rose astronomically. </li></ul><ul><li>The importance of directors cannot be overstressed - no movie would be green-lighted without them. </li></ul><ul><li>Talent agents act as the stars’ dealmakers and as such manage the careers of their star clients. </li></ul><ul><li>Writers now also enjoy the joint benefits of substantial salaries and social inclusion (in the past, they received neither). </li></ul><ul><li>The producers, through manipulation of investors, connections, funds and other resources, are the ones who bring about projects. </li></ul><ul><li>Senior executives are important because they are the studios’ green-lighters - enough said. </li></ul><ul><li>Gurus’ acceptance in the Hollywood community is due to their (credible) claims to specialized knowledge. </li></ul>
  10. 11. The Political Logic of Hollywood <ul><li>Politicians, interest groups and other parties concerned with influencing public opinion have long been trying to influence the pictures in people’s heads - through movies. </li></ul><ul><li>Social special-interest groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), for instance, keep a close watch on how African Americans are portrayed in movies. </li></ul><ul><li>The studios themselves keep mindful of the power the government wields over their corporate parents, and yet they themselves need the support of governments to protect and expand their entertainment domains through the creation and implementation of laws, censorship regimes and so on and so forth. </li></ul>
  11. 12. Hollywood and the Future <ul><li>Throughout its history Hollywood has had an uneasy relationship with technology. </li></ul><ul><li>Having embraced technology through the increasing use of digitization in more and more movies, Hollywood is looking forward to the future. </li></ul><ul><li>In the near future, as film becomes obsolete and much of the movie culture based on it fades away, digital delivery systems will allow authorized viewers to receive content entirely of their choice in their homes - or perhaps even wherever they are - at any time of the day or night. </li></ul><ul><li>In the future, movies will still be around and will still most probably be played in theaters, but they are to play an increasingly diminishing part of the entertainment universe. The prospects for the future simply boggle the imagination. </li></ul>
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