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Taking Back Tinseltown: How the Money Works — Final Chapter


The brilliance of Edward Jay Epstein’s “The Hollywood Economist” is that it takes existing “common knowledge” and turns it on its head, revealing ways we’ve all been duped by Hollywood into believing that studios are always nearly broke and thus can’t afford to make films that will target “small audiences” like conservatives. After President Obama was elected, many conservatives considered themselves a minority. Now they don’t have to.

And because of books like Epstein’s we get to see what’s really happening in Hollywood.


Let’s look at a few other misunderstandings. Take a typical year of film. There really aren’t that many films in any given year that have the complete package: good acting, excellent writing and dialogue, quality special effects and filming, a great score, good direction and a storyline that interests most people. The hardest to achieve – or the ones that so often fail – are a strong script and solid acting.

Unfortunately few films deliver these necessary elements. One reason is that Hollywood is about making three-minute trailers that will draw audiences into a theater. Therefore, most movies either contain dazzling special effects, hot actresses, excessive explosions and fighting and whatever else “visually appealed mainly to children and teenagers” which could then be “recycled … into home products, including DVDs, TV shows, games, and toys, which, in 2008, produced some 80 percent of [studios’] revenues.”

It’s less about art and more about the bottom dollar. The “Oscar-nominee” or “Oscar-winner” label just adds a slight air of credibility. And even the Oscar night is about ratings and money. See the New York Times’ write-up about the increased number of nominees, and the reasoning behind it.

This change is just one example of a Hollywood transforming due to Netflix and Redbox movie rental, digital ownership through iTunes, smaller theater attendance, the rise of original TV programming that can match films for production quality, even illegal downloading. Epstein mentions that the TV-as-computer hybrids that bring the Internet to the TV give people who download movies illegally an even easier means of putting those movies on a bigger screen.

As Hollywood transforms and adjusts to these changes (ex. Redbox struck a deal to release Paramount movies as soon as they come out on DVD), Epstein predicts that the old gap between when a film is released in theaters and then again on DVD will shrink substantially. As films are given to theaters in a digital format, distribution costs decrease significantly, so film companies may be able to make money off of theater sales once again.

In this ever-changing environment, there is continual room for innovation, and room for new influences. If you’ve got a love for film, a heart for trying new things and a conservative mindset, don’t worry. Be yourself and remember that the ever-changing technology allows you to make your own way.

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