Again! It’s the time of year when industry trades, blogs and your Silicon Valley friends proclaim that lower-than-expected box-office returns are because HOLLYWOOD IS DEAD. These prophetic claims come out almost every year and have for as long as I can remember. Keep in mind, Hollywood in this context is the industry, not the city.
A Vanity Fair article, “Why Hollywood as We Know It Is Already Over” was scrutinized by screenwriting podcast Scriptnotes, hosted by celebrated writers John August and Craig Mazin. They point out that people like writing articles like this because they are very provocative and that if they’re wrong, no one will remember. But if they are right, they’ll revel in the accolades that they saw it coming. Their biggest concern with this and similar articles is that it’s clear the writers don’t understand how movies are made.
The VF article points to the old agency buzzword: disruption. It says Hollywood is poised for it and it’s only a matter of time before studios fall to Netflix, Amazon and others. I agree the old model is evolving, but it’s not the same disruption as the music industry experienced. As they point out, Netflix and Amazon didn’t find a new, cheaper way to make television, but rather made money making really expensive television. They still make television and films in conventional ways with the same crews, writers and directors without slicing the cost in half. Netflix, for example, spent $6 billion on content in 2016. It is fair to say an evolution is happening, but in no way is the model being decimated.
Hollywood isn’t dying. It’s evolving, with an increase in efficiency for content delivery on streaming services. Theaters, by comparison, are doing what they can to compete with the comforts of home by upgrading to plush recliners and higher-quality projection and sound. But it’s difficult with shows like House of Cards that are greenlit because of user data, algorithms that suggest new shows and the ability to view content as quickly as we’d like. These are the greatest advantages streaming has over old Hollywood, especially for Amazon, which knows a heck of a lot more than just our viewing habits. I don’t see Hollywood dying anytime soon, if ever. There’s a reason VCs, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and others have invaded Hollywood—because Hollywood is still the best content creator and everyone knows content is king.