Hollywood’s Digital Dilemma

As the digital cinema era enters a new phase (a phase driven now as much by fear as excitement) Hollywood faces a number of challenges and none of the obvious solutions is particularly ideal. That challenge is even greater outside North America and although there are many complications (in many cases the challenge is country-by-country) this dilemma can be summed up rather simply: digital technology invariably creates a demand for more content, not less, and yet Hollywood continues to make fewer movies each year. These two realities cannot co-exist for too long or Hollywood motion pictures will no longer be a viable, growing business. Put another way, there has to be a finite number of lowest-common-denominator comic book movies that will translate well enough to generate solid revenues in every country…

…Hollywood would do well to remember its own humble beginnings at the turn of the last century. Vaudeville was king and the first nickelodeons were rude concepts often set up in bars or storefront shops selling low-cost entertainment to the masses. The movies were inexpensive and there seemed to be new ones almost every day. Vaudeville’s establishment ignored these developments at first, then fought them, then tried to embrace them, then saw their businesses fade away.

The most successful nickelodeons grew into the major exhibition chains of the day and the most talented filmmakers who supplied them with movies became the Hollywood studios.

Once Hollywood became the entertainment establishment, things, as they always do, solidified. History has shown that since then the major studios have fought every single business and technological development there has ever been from talkies to color, from television to VCRs. History has also shown that in the long run this has never been a serious problem for Hollywood and digital may ultimately prove to not be an exception. But this feels different to me and this time when the studios finally decide to understand and accept the realities of digital technology it might be too late…


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