Hollywood had been “grabbed by a little group of bookkeepers and turned into a junk industry,” said producer David O. Selznick in 1951, as quoted in both Gene D. Phillips’s book Exiles in Hollywood and Christopher Silvester’s Hollywood, both published in 1998.
“Taken all together, what do you call [Hollywood]? A heart attack wrapped inside a nervous breakdown? In any event, it’s enough that the question — can Hollywood really make it through all this? — is not just academic anymore,” said the July 7, 2020 edition of The Ankler newsletter.
Some 70 years passed between these two quotes, but it looks like nothing has changed in the interim, at least according to a November 29, 2020 article in the Business section of The New York Times.
“In the 110-year history of the American film industry, never has so much upheaval arrived so fast and on so many fronts, leaving many writers, directors, studio executives, agents and other movie workers disoriented and demoralized — wandering in complete darkness. Their fear is real this time,” said the article in the Times.
First, the Times cited the fact that “more than half of the 5,477 theaters in the U.S. are still closed,” and the National Association of Theater Owners warned that without a federal bailout, “movie theaters across the country are at risk of going dark for good.”
There’s also the fact that there has been an abrupt changing of the guard in Hollywood’s highest ranks, contributing to the sense of a power vacuum, added the Times. This year, nine of the top 20 most powerful people in show business have left their jobs for one reason or another. And, continued the Times, Warner Bros., under new owner AT&T, saw “the departure of a startling number of executives who had been there for decades” — more than 1,000 according to the latest count.
This dark outlook, however, was balanced with two reassuring quotes from producer J.J. Abrams: “There’s a reason that the Roaring Twenties followed the 1918 pandemic,” and, “Going to a [cinema] is like going to church and watching a movie at home is like praying at home.”
The Times article ended with some statistics: “About 33 percent of moviegoers in the U.S. and Canada last year were under the age of 24… Most young people will have gone a full year without visiting a cinema by the time vaccines are expected to be widely deployed.”