Links: Is Hollywood making a beeline for the past?

Like all the great legacy cultural products of the 1940s (newspapers, radio, recordings, network television, book publishing), the movie business has had troubles adapting to the Digital Age. In fact, the definition of “movie business” is entirely in question these days (just as it is with those other media businesses). For the most part, things have drifted toward decentralization, both in the movie-making business and the movie-distributing business, because nothing disperses things quite so quickly as the Internet. Not that we don’t believe that the process will reverse eventually. Five movie distributors now control 50 percent of the movie screens in the U.S.; in time, five “portals” will likely control most of the movie streaming, don’t you think?

Anyway, the LA Times (a legacy product) keeps close tabs on developments, and these days, a little speculation even leaks into its report. Some Hollywood stories that have landed recently:

“The Lion King 3-D” managed to maul Brad Pitt’s “Moneyball” at the box office this weekend, and that little fact (and a few facts more) has led to predictions about the Future of Hollywood. Steven Zeitchik has the most positive spin: “Theatergoing in the next decade may increasingly need to concentrate not the frisson of the new but the comfort of the familiar. The more individuated thrill of discovery — which can be experienced at home as easily as in a movie theater — could be de-emphasized in favor of the communal uplift that can really only happen in a large public space.” (LA Times)

Can the movie theater provide the communal feeling of live theater?  I have my doubts, but I’m not sure that watching “Shrek” onstage is that much different from watching it in the movie house. For Shrek fans it’s all part of the celebration of the Large and the Green. Movie distributors have experimented with projecting opera and symphonies in their theaters, and now they are doing the same with four Broadway plays, including  “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical” starring David Hasselhoff. (Back Stage)

Facing a 40 percent drop in its DVD business (and growing), Hollywood is embracing the Internet’s streaming capabilities (you’d have thought that maybe they would have figured that out before now, but legacy media has only grudgingly given up its old models). (LA Times)

The tension between the big distributors and smaller independents continues, and a lawsuit brought by a Palm Desert independent (which is owned by some Hollywood players) against one of the Big Boys gets into some of the nitty-gritty of monopolies at work (or not, depending on the side of the suit you’re on). (LA Times)

As Hollywood has rushed to digital (for financial reasons involving the cost of film), a consequence has been large capital costs to install digital projectors in the the nation’s theaters. And sometimes, those consequences give you pause, as in this story about what might be the last days of a drive-in theater in Illinois. (Chicago Tribune)

But isn’t the drift in the culture more toward the past, one way or another? That’s the subject of a debate between two British editors, and the stories above may change the way you think about the question and their debate. It did mine. (The Guardian)

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