culturelecture - December 2007 THE CULTURE OF HOLLYWOOD I....

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1 December 2007 THE CULTURE OF HOLLYWOOD I. What is culture? A. We are not talking here about "culture" in the sense in which it is often used in common speech--that is, art, learning, etc.--the sort of amusement that appeals to educated and rich people B. I use "culture" in the anthropological sense--the customs, values, and folkways of a people II. Uncertainty and high risk A. Uncertainty is the fundamental fact of life in the entertainment industry (this is directly related to the fact that a hit show or TV series is NOT REPRODUC- ABLE: you can make a million basketball shoes endorsed identically by Lebron James, but you can't put out "3:10 to Yuma" every year and expect people to buy tickets to see it) 1. Business a. No one can predict which movies (or TV shows) will even be produced; no one can predict which of those that are produced will find favor with the public [Audience research doesn't help] From an article entitled "Human Nature Stumps Tracking Science," WV , 8/19-25/96, p. 8: "In the world of the movie business, the Holly Grail is objective data. . .Films are subjected to a drill of research screenings and tracking studies in an effort to measure audience awareness, interest, and preference. . . "But a straw poll of marketing execs and researchers indicates widespread frustration that, despite a formidable database, the ability to accurately predict a film's appeal isn't improving." From a column by Peter Bart, "H'w'd: Where Math Collides With Myth," WV , 8/27-9/2/07): "That's why movies are so terrifying to the money men: Numbers don't tell you anything about the future; they just remind you about things you already know, but conveniently managed to forget." b. This means that investments in movies/TV are extremely risky (all investment is risky, of course, but investment in Hollywood is notor- iously unpredictable) 1
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Definition of "high risk:" a situation in which the probability of success is low or un-knowable, and the potential losses are very high c. Only about half of Hollywood films break-even, (according to official figures); only about one out of four new TV series is renewed for a second season (Josef Adalian, A. . .The Harder They Fall,@ WV , 5/16-22/05, 18) d. Many films that people were sure enough would be hits to invest millions of dollars in turned out to be flops--figures from 2004 Big Losers, 2004 (from various sources) Title Cost World B. O. Loss "The Alamo" $125 m $22 m $103m (biggest flop ever) "Alexander" $150 m $79 m $71 m "Home On The Range" $110 m $50 m $60 m "Around the World In 80 Days" $110 m $67 m $43 m "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" $70 m $53 m $17 m BIG FLOPS FROM 2007 (I don't have the figures): "The Heartbreak Kid," "Things We Lost in the Fire," "Rendition," "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" b. The upside of the riskiness, of course, is that there are huge rewards for the winners Big Winners, 2004 Title Cost World B. O. Profit "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" $130 m
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This note was uploaded on 04/28/2008 for the course GOV 370L taught by Professor O'brien during the Spring '08 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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culturelecture - December 2007 THE CULTURE OF HOLLYWOOD I....

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