The consensus is clear: Hollywood believes it needs to implement what Bob Iger tactfully (or ominously) calls “some tweaks.”
Let’s hope that post-strike “fixes” will go beyond cuts and delays – we’ve already taken into account their effects. Disney alone laid off 8,000 employees and incurred $7.5 billion in costs. Famous movies, starting with Disney movies princess Snow White to Paramount Mission: Impossible 8 to Sony Spider verse were postponed again by a year.
More complex “fixes” are already being suggested: Netflix promises a new approach to content – a mandate of “half as much, but twice as good.” Viewers around the world will be fascinated to see how this plays out.
Other major brands are also coming under scrutiny: The opening numbers for Miracles he destroyed that legacy. HBO’s tag used to dominate “for consideration” ads, but this year’s ads will have a pleading subtext: If you can’t “consider” something, at least find it.
For industry veterans, the pressure to “fix” and “reimagine” is a repeat of the moment 40 years ago when three of Hollywood’s most powerful players decided to take personal leadership of this mission.
Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg have announced the creation of a new dream machine that will do everything differently: even the studio scenes will be designed in a distinctive way. Salary formulas would be reinvented, as would the decision-making mechanism. The product itself would pave new paths.
At the opening press conference, Dream Team left out a few details: Where would it be built? Who would finance it? What content would it create?
And for that matter, what would it be called?
Although the media mocked this vagueness, I found it admirable. Showbiz seers had no intention of revealing their secrets or lecturing the community about its backwardness. They were just going to do it right.
I remember Spielberg carefully explaining to me why Hollywood scenes were poorly designed and how he would fix them. Problem: He never got around to building a new studio and didn’t even find the perfect location.
He ended up back at the Universal parking lot where he started as a kid.
Of course, DreamWorks ultimately produced a slate of films and animations that even won several Oscars (American beauty, Shrek), but the wave of innovation never came. Of the three founders, only Spielberg still makes films. Geffena focuses on art and Katzenberg on politics.
Given its appetite for “fixes,” could Hollywood somehow stumble upon a new golden age, or at least a period of renewed profitability? Inevitably, Peter Biskind, who described the prosperous era of the 1970s in his book, Easier riders, angry bullsa new book has been published on streaming malaise.
entitled Pandora’s Box: How courage, cunning and greed upended televisionThe book traces, among other things, the collapse of the HBO mythology (how could Tony Soprano become Ted Lasso?). Biskind quotes Michael Fuchs, the first president of HBO, who declared: “HBO died at fifty. There is no HBO anymore.”
He also quotes FX’s John Landgraf as saying, “You don’t make art by throwing money at it.”
Reviewing new treatises on pop culture, Michael Schulman z New Yorker notes: “We used to say that 21st century television was like a 19th century novel – instead of staring at a box of idiots, we were exposed to Dickens or Zola. At some point it stopped seeming true.
Maybe it never happened.