Jerry Bruckheimer: Hollywood Golden Film Era Over, TV is the Future

Jerry Bruckheimer (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty)
Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty
Newport Beach, CA

Jerry Bruckheimer told a Loyola Marymount University film school audience last week that “Tinsel Town” is about to cede its moviemaking dominance to China, and TV is the future.

Bruckheimer took time from post-production efforts preparing for what is expected to be the 2017 summer blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, to sit for an interview for The Hollywood Reporter Masters Series on October 27 at LMU.

With 41 Academy Award nominations (six wins), eight Grammy Award nominations (five wins) and 77 Emmy Award nominations (seventeen wins), Bruckheimer is still at the pinnacle of Hollywood’s moguls.

Fifteen Hollywood movie studios were founded in 1911 and the name “Hollywood” quickly became synonymous with the entire movie industry. For the next hundred years, the town dominated the film, television and music industries.

But Bruckheimer responded to a THR question about the risk the Hollywood would no longer dominate “The Business” at some time:

China’s building–what?–10, 12 theaters a week. So, I mean, it’s going to be enormous in China. Russia, too–they’re expanding. China has how many billions of people? And the way they, the government, is structured, they want to keep their people in the villages that they’re in because they can’t all migrate to the big cities. The big cities are overcrowded. So by building these complexes of theaters, they’re entertaining their masses.

Worldwide filmed entertainment revenue was $88.3 billion and Global box office accounted for $39.1 billion last year, according to Statista. Although Hollywood’s Twentieth Century Fox, Disney’s Buena Vista and Warner Brothers are still the largest studios, China is the now the largest single box market with $4.8 billion in ticket sales. (India produced the largest number of films, with 1,966.)

Bruckheimer commented that the shift from the domestic U.S. market has resulted in more than 70 percent of many studio films’ revenue being international. He warned the fired-up student audience about the trend: “You’d be a fool not to. And you have to think about what will play in China and Russia and some of the big markets.”

Bruckheimer recounted that he started in the mail room at a Detroit advertising agency and worked his way up to a $100,000 a year advertising job in New York.

He decided to go to Hollywood in 1970, “Advertising, doing 30 and 60-second commercials, gave me a great education about film and communicating to people on how to sell a product.  But I wanted to tell stories and stories that were longer than 60 seconds.”

He credits his understanding of how to make movies by learning from the ground up how to deal with the truncated schedule of television. Bruckheimer advised that in television you try to sell your ideas to the networks in August, get agreements in October and shoot pilots in January.

It took him eight years to have Beverly Hills Cop made, and after his success it still takes years to complete a feature film.

Although the feature length movie business in the future may be dominated by China and India, Bruckheimer believes “The Business” holds great opportunities in domestic television, which has expanded from three networks and one independent station to 400 drama series on hundreds of channels. He emphasized that there will always be a market for premiere actors, great writers and directors.

When asked, “What would you say to these students as advice, in terms of how to make their mark?” Bruckheimer summed up the high points in his storied Hollywood career: “…when you stand in back of the theater and you watch an audience enjoy what you’ve done. That’s my favorite moment.”