By Dom Serafini
Let’s make a case for a Hollywood Standard Time. The world needs a more modern way to reference time. In 1884, 41 delegates from 25 nations gathered in Washington D.C. for the International Meridian Conference to determine from where time and space should be measured.
England won the vote with its Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT), aka Greenwich Mean Time (or Zulu Time in the military phonetics). As a point of reference, the Conference chose the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, which was assigned the imaginary longitudinal line of 0º 0’ 0”.
Today, 126 years later, GMT has, for all practical purposes, been replaced by the HMT, aka Hollywood Mean Time. Since the word “mean” has a derogatory meaning in Hollywood, we’ll refer to it as HST or, Hollywood Standard Time, not to be confused with the “standard” definition: something that Hollywood insists on preserving.
Therefore, today, the new longitude for the world to use as reference is 80º 09’ W. This self-importance is the reason U.S. studios are often referred to as the 809 pound gorillas. In addition, the Hollywood longitude may also be considered an “imaginary line,” since for many people, Hollywood is not “real.”
Now, if one is not part of the international entertainment industry, it is reasonable to ask, “Why should Hollywood be the new GMT?” Well, it’s difficult to say, but the reality is that the whole world revolves around Hollywood. In the U.S. outside California, one cannot call Europe in the morning (which is afternoon over there), because executives go to their offices starting around when Hollywood opens for business. To their credit, Hollywood executives tend to feel sorry for the Europeans and thus open rather early or take calls from their homes (while exercising) or in their cars (when not listening to National Public Radio).
From New York, for example, it’s impossible to get someone on the phone in Miami, Florida or Latin America before 12:30 PM, since Latin companies operate on HST.
To accommodate Hollywood, film and TV executives in Australia go to work very early, because after their morning, Hollywood closes and then there is nothing for them to do in the office.
Because of HST, newspapers in Hollywood are able to report international news a day in advance of their East Coast counterparts; therefore, they tend to look more informed then anyone else. Even the Oscars telecast is based on HST. While California can enjoy the Academy Awards TV show during dinnertime, the rest of the world either has to stay awake past midnight or set the alarm clock for 4 AM if in Europe, to see it through to the end.
Hollywood did not invent the expression “time is money.” Actually, it was Benjamin Franklin who coined it in 1748, and he was on the East Coast. But it took a Hollywood actor, Frank Dane, to refine it: “Time is money, especially when you are talking to your lawyer or buying commercial time.”
Time in Hollywood is never free. To have “free time,” one has to swing by nearby San Diego.
In Hollywood, time is appreciated more than any place else, and expressions like “big-time producer” are thrown around with abandon. Hollywood can even make “time” sentimental, as in “once upon a time.”
Indeed, nothing is more valued in Hollywood than time. When movies aren’t completed on time, companies go bust, like what Heaven’s Gate did for United Artists in 1980 and Ishtar almost did for Columbia in 1987.
Time is also an expression of fun –– something that Hollywood is great at generating –– as in “Having the time of my life” or “Having a good time.”
Nowadays, when one talks about “time,” any kind of time, Hollywood always comes to mind. So at this NATPE, let’s get Hollywood’s attention back by laying down the foundation for a new International Meridian Conference where HST becomes the new GMT.
Besides, if Hollywood was to become the new Standard Time, the merchandising rights alone will create a whole new set of billionaires.