If ever there were an industry in need of an intervention, it is Hollywood. And today, Disney boss Robert Iger sat show biz down and said, I just can't watch you do this to yourself any more.
History tells us of how, through the ages, a line of noble studio bosses have stepped forward to look Hollywood in the eye and give it the cold hard facts. One goes back to legends of the Katzenberg memo — the 1991 Dear Industry missive of then Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg pleading for lower costs; or to the great bean counters of yesteryear; proud men, men of character and common sense not afraid to stare down the mobs of show business and tell them, you are spending too much money. Like, way too much money. Like, drunken sailor, how-the-hell-do-you-think-this-adds-up-on-any-budget money.
And we all know what happened as a result of their heroism; Hollywood came to its senses, committed itself to modest, within reason budgeting and became the most stable, nuts and bolts business on Earth, consistently impressing investors with its ability to create eight to eleven percent margins year in, year out.
Well, today Robert Iger has stepped forward to be the latest great truth-teller. An interview with the Financial Times, quotes him thus:
"The business model that underpins the movie business is changing," Mr Iger told the Financial Times "If we don't adapt to the change there won't be a business - that's my exhortation to my team."
Mr Iger advocates a thorough re-examination of costs associated with marketing and producing movies. The solution, he said, required "research and development, risk-taking . . . real focus on changing the
Next month Disney plans to unveil Keychest, a new technology that will allow digital copies of films to be stored remotely and then viewed and moved across platforms, such as smartphones, or games consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox.
Like Hollywood, we're all for unveiling your Keychest, going cross platform or whatever you want, but when you get into that "thorough re-examination of costs associated with marketing and producing movies" stuff, we know code for lower budgets and less hype when we see it, having seen and heard it so many times before. And our answer to it remains unchanged — Good luck, buddy.
Or more precisely — if you wanted to work in a business that didn't spend ridiculous fortunes on totally absurd extravagance, don't you have an uncle in the Tool and Dye game who could have taken you on? Because the bottom line of Hollywood remains that extravagance and excess are what the popcorn eaters pay for, and keeping a lid on that culture, fighting for "excess within reason," is always going to be a chump's game.
Because in the end, an understated campaign for a "costs-within-line" production may look great in slide 18 of the power point you show off at the quarterly board meeting, but when all is said and done, having The Jay Leno Show on your books is not going to be the thing that gets anyone's head carved alongside Mayer, DeMille and Evans on Mt. Showbizmore.