The rise and fall of Hollywood will be televised.
Hollywood is in trouble.
Just how much trouble depends on any number of complicated, geopolitical issues over which the even heavyweights of Hollywood have almost no control. It also depends on the undercurrents of the culture wars, an unpredictable parade of black swans, kerfuffles, dust ups and Twitter battles over which no one on earth has control.
The war unfolding in Ukraine, though hopefully not spreading to other former Soviet states and NATO countries, is one key piece of Hollywood’s puzzle. Considering a five-year plan, or a ten-year plan, requires more than a little reading of international tea leaves. Unfortunately, the outlook is getting darker by the day.
The number one threat to Hollywood’s power and prestige is another powerful, wealthy, global conglomerate: The Chinese Communist Party.
CCP V. Hollywood
By partnering with the CCP, major film studios were able to access the massive Chinese marketplace to sell their movies. Under the auspices of that plan, Hollywood magistrates and movie producers were able to eke $600 million dollars out of a domestic box office bomb like “World of Warcraft.”
Chinese audiences, or rather the CCP, loved it.
The agreement had a few downsides. One was playing nice with CCP censors, whose censorious crimes over the years have included removing prominent African-American actors and actresses from Chinese movie promo material, banning video game characters who don’t conform to traditional gender stereotypes, demanding the removal of Taiwan’s flag from movies, forcing the director of “Seven Years in Tibet,”- a movie which would never even get made today- to do an apology tour for making the movie…decades ago.
And there is a big downside to censorship: Once you get started, it’s never enough.
The risk inherent in jumping through all those CCP hoops, in addition to alienating American audiences with hundreds of flashy, big-budget snooze-fests about as dynamic as a packing peanut, was that it was never going to be enough anyway.
Hollywood could allow Chinese censors a director’s chair at every movie production site in Hollywood and it still wouldn’t be enough. Eventually, China’s all-powerful CCP was going to weigh the risk of continuing to deal with Hollywood- exposing Chinese audiences to western ideals, however watered down- with the benefits of a relationship with Hollywood- access to Hollywood movies- and make a sensible decision.
The CCP has been watching carefully this last decade of working closely with Hollywood to produce valuable content for the 1.3 billion strong Chinese marketplace.
Sooner or later, anyone would come to the same conclusion: Why not make the movies ourselves for Chinese audiences and keep all the money?
Which is exactly what the Chinese Communist Party has started doing, producing a movie last year which made $900 domestically for Chinese movie production companies.
All the control, plus all the money? Hollywood, without meaning to, has made the CCP an offer they can’t refuse.
Part of the problem is that Hollywood fell into niche marketing. Granted, the niche market was 1.3 billion people, but still. A niche can close at any time, which is exactly what it is likely to do, especially if the CCP invades Taiwan.
Niche marketing is good, but mass appeal is always better, though not always preferable, as Hollywood has discovered to its cost by alienating conservative audiences.
The Michael Jordan Rule of Business
“Republicans buy shoes, too.”
Hollywood is no stranger to charges of leftism. In fact, charges of leftism have proliferated the industry for decades. Over the last 10 years, however, every last vestige of conservatism has been publicly and painfully scourged from Hollywood’s ranks. If there are any Republicans left in Hollywood, they are keeping a low profile these days.
With no conservatives left in Hollywood to eat, California’s elite entertainers routinely turn on and eat their own, castigating and casting out for cultural indiscretions minor and serious alike, intentional and accidental, public and private, recent and historic.
With all the entertainment choices available, it should be of no surprise whatsoever that Republicans, by and large, don’t want much to do with Hollywood these days.
Republicans may still check out the occasional movie, if it isn’t too preachy, but they aren’t going to subject themselves to “Joe Bell,” whereupon Mark Wahlberg, a man who has literally been convicted of a hate crime, presumes to lecture them for 94 minutes on intolerance.
And they haven’t watched the Oscars in years. Nor are they likely to start- see “preachy.”
Perhaps the Hollywood of 2022 is an industry finally ready to understand what Michael Jordan was trying to tell them all those many years ago. If half the people in the country won’t buy your products, that isn’t a long-term winning business strategy.
There are other reasons Hollywood is toast. One of which is the rise of AI.
Mark Hamil 2.0
Say hello to computer generated onscreen humans indistinguishable from the real thing.
Fans of the Disney franchise, The Mandalorian, might have noticed something odd in the newest installment.
The character Luke Skywalker, one of the original Star Wars characters played by actor Mark Hamil back in 1977, made an appearance and was played by…Mark Hamil…looking exactly as he did in 1977.
It was a computer generation.
It was a bit odd, and the computer generation didn’t quite pass the so-called “Uncanny Valley”, but it was close. The Uncanny Valley refers to the fact that we humans can tell when something is trying to look human but isn’t quite there. The closer it tries to get, the more creeped out we are.
Mark Hamil 2022 was merely Gen 1. Soon, computer programmers will make all the movies this way, doing whatever they want- pairing a young Brad Pitt with an older Marilyn Monroe for a remake of The Graduate, perhaps- and no one will be able to tell it isn’t “real.”
Live-action actors may be relegated to the status of stage actors. There are still people who prefer to see their entertainment acted out in person at the theater, but they are a tiny minority.
For these reasons and a dozen more, the Hollywood we’ve always known isn’t the Hollywood of the future.
Nothing lasts forever.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)