Vijay Bal’s blog on the ‘State of Hollywood’ provoked me to look into the very near future where, when SPIDERMAN takes his mask off, he will either be Chinese or Indian. Where Spiderman will swing not in New York, but in Shanghai or in Mumbai. And the film will be funded and produced in Asia. And I do believe that Hollywood is on the decline, bieng crushed under it’s own weight. And near-sightedness.
And this is not about ‘us and them’. It is pure economics and consumerism. The prime culture of the world since the 2nd world war has been the American Pop culture. And for good reason. It was rebellious and new, it appealed to the youth and did not sit in arrogance of orthodoxy. And it was cutting edge and encouraged individuality.
It does not do that any longer. Big is not neccesarily beautiful.
The American Pop cuture sprung it’s world wide appeal on the financial strength of it’s home market. A few years ago North America accounted for 80% of the revenues for Hollywood product. Now for films like Harry Potter, it accounts for a third or less.
As the ‘foreign’ component continues to rise, Hollywood will be forced to cater more and more to consumers overseas. Studies show that we are heading to a revenue model where 75% of the revenues for entertainment will come from Asia.
When that happens, the Asian consumer will flex it’s financial muscle just as the North American consumer did once. The consumer will not just accept the notion that Asia is an expanding market for Western product. It will want home grown product that is much closer to it’s own cultural preferences. So if you want to make an international ‘hit’, then you will only be able to do so if the film appeals inherrently to Asian consumers.
So what will Hollywood be then ? The films will neither be written in Hollywood, nor will they be produced in Hollywood, nor will North America be the significant market.
But there are internal factors too. Film making in Hollywood is becoming too Corporate. As the Corporations turn into Mega Corporations through mergers (Time Warner), the owners and the film makers are largely distanced from each other. The CEO’s of these corporation respond far more to the share price of the Corporation in the stock market than to the encouraging of risk taking in the creation of exciting new films. This is also proving so obviously true in the music bussiness.
The essentials of managing a large Corporation require the standardization of product. The essentials of the entertainment bussiness is individuality. You cannot expect McDonalds to have the diverse Menu of a good French or Italian restaraunt. This is ‘McDonaldization’ of films. Film in Hollywood is now defined as Product, and what you make is largely controlled by the ‘marketing Boys’. Is it any wonder then that most big films now are sequels of succesful films, and every Hollywood studio is scouring to pick up film rights for Comic Books or succesful TV serials ?
So I see the new wave of film making coming from the East. The new mega stars will not be ‘western’ but probably Chinese or Indian. There will be reverse cultural colonization. After all if western Media could sell Tom Cruise as a sex symbol to a Chinese teenager in Shanghai, surely in the future, and based on the same economic and cutural principles, India can sell a future Amitabh Bacchan as the worlds next super star.
Is this a good thing ? Absolutely. Change and Chaos is always great for the creative process. Individuality is great for the creative process.
Perhaps over the years maybe the new Asian Media corporations will be as overburdened with their own overhead and arrogance as Hollywood is now, but then we quite a few years to go for that,
Till then, lets celebrate individuality of story telling and film making. Just enjoy the new , Mexican, Chinese, Japanese and Indian films.