Film elites, the audience and a wall of indifference

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In dark moments, and I admit I have a few, I sometimes find myself staring at a framed illustration on my desk. Titled ‘HOLLYWOOD 1988’ it is a whimsical map of the film industry as it existed at the time. The concept and many of the jokes were mine; but Nancy Ohanion was the artist who made it work for the calendar section of the Los Angeles Times. (You’ll find her signature hidden just above The Cave of Studio Accounting.)

Almost everything was in it. Holidays in Las Hadas. The Sea of ​​Red Ink. Puttnam Falls. The desert of development. The sunshine of eternal optimism. X-rated pirates. You name it.

But what held the gimmick together was the idea of ​​a geographic divide—marked by the River of Bankability—that separated the major studios and their allies on one side from the Independent Movie Companies, dozens of them, and a few renegade producers on the other. the other.

That was more or less the architecture of the industry. Individual players can come and go. But the Indies and Majors divided the world and became embroiled in an unbreakable tension that somehow produced hundreds and hundreds of watchable images.

It was a crazy system, but it worked.

And now, in those gloomy moments mentioned earlier, I occasionally wonder: what would an industry map look like today?

Certainly our quaint medieval images – castles, knights, those battered plumed helmets on Lorimar and De Laurentiis – would never work for today’s cinema. I usually imagine something post-apocalyptic, with zombies and lots of smoking ruins.

As for the film land architecture, it would still be split, I think, but in a very different way. The great divide would likely separate film elites from the mass audience. (As observers have noted, those included Sasha Stone at Awards Daily.) The elites lived on a mountaintop somewhere, enjoying each other and a non-stop round of festivals, panels and awards. And far below, the masses slogged through a bleak morass of intellectual property – a sticky quagmire of amorphous, repetitive intellectual property that produces an occasional hit.

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There would be a Wall of Indifference between them, with neither side of the cinematic universe caring much about what’s happening on the other side. Most years a photo or two…Barbie, Oppenheimer, Independent thinking person– could break through the wall and get the attention of high and low.

But in other years – perhaps this time – nothing connects the film elites with the masses. They just get further apart. Megalopolis, a Cannes event, is designed with a “fourth wall” moment that will send shivers down the spines of festival-goers but can never be duplicated at night at the AMC Dine-In. The film academy, which has so far been supported by a large domestic audience for its Oscar showing, is now chasing elite funding around the world. The weekend box office is another battle between the weak and the weak, isn’t it? Garfield? Furiosa? Where is it actually? Summer camp? – with a response from the audience that is so lukewarm that it hardly leads to indifference.

Something on the year’s schedule could still break the wall, sending elite viewers and large general audiences into the same theaters. But nothing has come closer than that Dune: part twoand it’s already June.

No, the movie business isn’t that fun right now. Even Ohanion couldn’t make HOLLYWOOD 2024 suitable for framing.

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