Modern Hollywood: The Impact of Deregulation on Technology and Ownership within the Industry

While reading McDonald and Wasko’s edited anthology, The Contemporary Hollywood Film Industry this week I really struggled to encapsulate all of the concepts touched on in the selected chapters into one idea. I finally after much contemplation came to the realization that any idea or outside example I chose to focus on would in some way or another connect to the chapters and to the film The Player. I realized that no matter what example I chose it would somehow encapsulate the important concepts brought up this week involving the Hollywood Studio system, finance and production, ancillary markets, labor, legislation, and intellectual property. I realized after thinking about The Player that everyone within the film industry or trying to work within it or outside of it are whether they like it or not players within the system.

Everyone is a player. A player basically means a participant within or outside of the Hollywood system who has influence or power within the system.

Last week I discussed the concept of business and creativity as it relates to the Starz television show Outlander. I touched on a few concepts like a lot of the changes from Old Hollywood System days to now. Most of these changes have been a result of the advent of new forms of technology. The film industry is then forced to change with technology in order to continue to appeal to the audience and compete with other forms of media that come along with new forms of technology.

“Technology then has been a major force in the film industry’s proliferation of ancillary markets. But technology has not been a determining factor in how studios have structured and restructured those markets” (117).

With these new forms of technology Hollywood was forced to change its practices in order to continue to appeal to audiences as well as continue to increase profit margins.

“Time Warner’s corporate structure effectively converged media technologies including print, radio, television, satellite, telephone, internet, film, and cable systems. This set up pathways for synergizing films across multiple media” (114).

Time Warner's Media Convergence Source

Time Warner’s Media Convergence Source

Conglomerate Hollywood is a significant result of diversifying to compete within a new technological market as well as a result of Reagan’s free-market economic policies and media economic policies and media deregulation.

Conglomerate means in this case a number of different things or parts that are put or grouped together to form a whole but remain distinct entities.

In this case regarding Hollywood these different things or parts would be other industries that work together like television, radio, and print. These entities all work together under the parent companies media division and produce content based on the parent companies production.

“The Old Hollywood model of vertical integration-ie, production, distribution-exhibition within the film sector—no longer made sense. Far more effective was the News Corporation-Fox strategy of multiple ‘pipelines’ to consumers (satellite, cable, broadcast as well as print) delivering content created and owned by the parent company’s media divisions” (22).

One of the initial thoughts I had while reading the early chapters was the film Noah directed by Darren Aronofsky. I was thinking about the overall scale of the film Noah. It was a biblical blockbuster and it’s the largest film that Aronofsky has ever directed. Noah is as the reading discusses a “cross-fertilization of the two Hollywoods” (33).  It’s a Hollywood film in size, finance, distribution and production, but it’s directed by an indie director so you get a concentration on the intricate relationships within the film between the characters and the personal struggles while also getting lots of action, adventure, and special effects on a large scale. The film had a budget of $125 million.

The change in the 1990s to conglomerate Hollywood studios really changed the way that Hollywood works all together. With the advent of technology the medium of film and the way that the blockbuster functioned in Hollywood had to change as well. “The Hollywood blockbuster, which was re-engineered to accommodate the changing—and steadily expanding—media landscape” (28).

The screenplay for Noah was an adaptation co-written by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel inspired by the story of Noah’s

Noah movie poster Source

Noah movie poster
Source

Ark from the book of Genesis. “The prevailing wisdom is that around 50 percent of Hollywood films are adaptations” (44).”

However if you’ve seen the film you know that Aronofsky took a lot of creative license within the film. As Aronofsky says, “While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide.” It’s a traditional biblical story in its message, while changing the conventions of the story as only an independent filmmaker really can to really focus all the more on the intimate relationships between the characters.

The film did well both domestically and globally. In North American the film grossed $43 million in its opening weekend and was Aronofsky’s highest opening weekend. The opening weekend was also the largest for Russell Crowe as a lead actor. Globally the film’s release in Russia and Brazil were the largest ever for a non-sequel. The film actually grossed more money globally than domestically.

Now here’s where I connect Noah back to the economic concepts I discussed earlier.

paramount

Paramount Pictures is a Viacom assett. Source

The film was produced by Paramount Pictures which is an entity of Viacom. “Media companies have restructured themselves to expand beyond their traditional operations, often restructuring as conglomerates that stretch across media industries with operations in as many kinds of media as possible” (108).

Here are a list of assets owned by Viacom:

In film production and distribution: MTV Films, Nickelodeon Movies, Paramount Animation, Paramount Pictures, Viacom International

Television Networks: BET, CMT, Comedy Central, Logo TV, MTV, MTV2, Nick at Nite, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, Palladia, Spike, TeenNick, Tr3s, TV Land, VH1

Recording Labels: Comedy Central Records, Nick Records

New Media: MTV New Media

This is the irony of deregulation. It is designed to foster competition within the market, but reducing and eliminating government power in within the film and television industry you actually provide more power to larger corporations. You get corporations like Viacom, News Corporation, The Walt Disney Company, Sony, Time Warner, NBC Universal, MGM, and Marvel Studios. That’s eight companies who own virtually the entire market.

Final Questions:

Where is the competition in deregulation if eight companies own almost the entire media market and every industry within it?

As an indie director, does the art lose something when it’s created within the Hollywood system?

Is it considered selling out if your work is produced within the conventions of the studio?

Is there a way to not sell out?

Here’s some extra reading if you’re interested:

Forbes article on Studios going with smaller directors for blockbusters.

Aronofsky Interview about choice to do Noah.

Noah: The Bible vs the Blockbuster

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Last week I discussed the impact of deregulation on media industries. This week while reading chapters 1-4 in Tanner Mirrlees Global Entertainment Media: Between Cultural Imperialism and Cultural Globalization the impact on deregulation on the industry was once again discussed but Tanner argues that the impact of deregulation limits the players within the industry, but that it also impacts the globalization of media. […]

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