Events prove conventional wisdom wrong
Hollywood is addicted to visions of the apocalypse, whether in movies like “2012” or in the pervading sense that the business is going to hell in a handbasket.While the real world in the ’00s delivered unimaginable tragedy and tumult, the truth is that entertainment doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to soothsaying, and nowhere does that hold more true than when it comes to the business itself. After all, had the past decade turned out to be the way many execs thought, we’d all be watching movies (and ordering Entertainment Weekly subscriptions) on AOL, the networks would be just another channel on the cable tier and Yahoo would have the keys to a studio backlot. That isn’t to say things haven’t changed; they are just much different than conventional wisdom had predicted. So here are the most flagrant predictions and prouncements of the decade that just didn’t come true: Pellicano’s trial of the century.
It was declared Hollywood’s ultimate scandal: An overzealous and overbearing P.I., a trove of showbusiness clients and a wiretap, ready for federal investigators to air in court. Anthony Pellicano wouldn’t be put on trial, but the industry itself, and its backroom intimidation and dirty dealmaking would get a full public hearing. There was drama in what happened, and real damage to the lives of those involved, but the Pellicano case ultimately didn’t live up to its billing. Silicon valley buys a studio.
Hollywood and Silicon Valley play in the same sandbox; they can even be friends. But understand each other? Maybe next decade. AOL turned into Time Warner hell. Rumors of a Google or a Microsoft or a Yahoo buying a studio just never came true. Other matchups that never were: CBS and Lionsgate, UTA and Endeavor, Paradigm and ICM, Jim Wiatt and Ari Emanuel. Irony is dead.
Things that were considered fringe and frivolous are going to disappear,” Graydon Carter said in one interview after 9/11. You can’t blame him, for no one could quite have predicted how much the culture would actually swing the other way. Celebrity coverage went 24/7, reality TV thrived and even Larry David, most associated with “the show about nothing” in the 1990s, endured in HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” There’s no doubt that this is a more sober era, but that hasn’t diminished Americans’ love of distraction. So long broadcasters.
Audiences are down, budgets are tight and entire nights of the week are written off. But the broadcast networks are still the broadcast networks. They may be a shadow of what they were, but they made it through the ’00s in many ways intact, as even traditions like the upfronts, primetime and the fall season remain. Comcast may not have bought NBC Universal for its broadcast network, but it’s pledged to keep it that way. Heck, even “Law and Order” is still on the air. Wall Street masters Hollywood.
It got to the point where you couldn’t name a major studio film that wasn’t somehow connected to Wall Street, as investment banks rushed to insert themselves into high-flying and lucrative slate deals driven by a preponderance of hedge-fund money. Guiding this exuberance was the notion that mathematical formulas could be used to predict a movie’s return on investment well before production had even begun, making these players much savvier than all of the dentists and sheiks who had come before them. While there have been success stories in the world of slate deals, the banks pulled back, some of them stung by the returns, others for the mere reason that they ceased to exist. Arnold is the next Reagan.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ascendancy to the California’s governor’s mansion, after a raucus and surreal recall campaign in 2003, was viewed as the first step on his way to the White House, delivering another Hollywood-bred figure to the most important office of the land. All that stood in the way for the new star of the GOP was the Constitution. But as the decade comes to a close, there’s no talk of amendments. Schwarzenegger’s moderation has earned him a chilly relationship with the state Republicans. And the Governator has signaled that he’s had it with elective politics.