Hollywood Fearful for Its Industry

July 21st, 2006 11:52 AM
It's getting harder to make a blockbuster these days, and as productions costs continue to rise, making movies is no longer financially rewarding. Superstar actors are now more talked about for their private lives than for their movies, and they face cuts in salaries as studios have to worry more about digital technology and foreign marketing.

One benefit of this, hopefully, will be that Hollywood will no longer be the purveyor of the conventional wisdom and the stars, who will not burn as brightly, will no longer have their every political opinion treated as gospel by Hollywood and national reporters.

Reports the LA Times:

As studios slash jobs and restructure to boost profits, Hollywood's creative and executive ranks are having a collective anxiety attack.

Walt Disney Co.'s move this week to lay off about 650 employees and revamp its Burbank studio to make fewer films only confirms what many in the entertainment industry have been stressing over for months: The movie business is shrinking.

Disney's firings, which started at the top with the studio's production chief, are the latest in an industrywide contraction that has cost more than 2,000 jobs worldwide. In Los Angeles, particularly, the economic effect is being widely felt.

Here, in an industry built on bravado, people are suddenly talking openly about being afraid.

"I think we're moving into uncharted territory, and there's great unease about where we're headed," said Oscar-winning producer Doug Wick, whose credits include "Gladiator" and this year's "RV." "Occasionally, this fear turns into panic."

The effects will be felt in every facet of the industry, from caterers to the stars themselves.

The rollback in production will have consequences well beyond the major Hollywood studios, squeezing a range of service industries that cater to entertainment companies, experts say.

"The layoffs will ripple through the economy because the motion picture and TV production industry has a multiplier impact," said Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. Every new job in the entertainment sector produces two more jobs in the local economy, he said.

"You have location scouts, caterers, the people who sell caps and jackets and rent equipment," he said. "They'll all be affected."

Film schools have adapted to the new needs of its students
Even film schools are being affected.

"The professional landscape which our graduates are entering is one in which feature films are going to play a smaller part," says Charles Merzbacher, who heads Boston University's Department of Film and Television. In the fall, he noted, the school will offer a course in producing content for iPods and cellphones — a way of ensuring "that our students have a future."