Revealingly, none of the studio honchos talked about reconnecting with the public by adjusting the values conveyed by feature films, and replacing the industry's shrill liberal posturing with a more balanced ideological perspective.
Something clearly changed between 2004 and 2005 to cause an abrupt drop-off at the box office, and the most obvious alteration involved Hollywood's role in the bitterly fought presidential election. The entertainment establishment embraced John Kerry with near unanimity - and bashed George W. Bush with unprecedented ferocity.
Sounds good - only problem is, there is no box office slump, as revealed in another of Edward Jay Epstein's great insider pieces. Or rather, there is no slump among the big studios (it's the smaller pictures that are getting clobbered):
Instead of a box-office decline, the studios actually took in more from the U.S. box office in the first quarter of 2005 ($870.2 million) than they did in the similar period of 2004 ($797.1 million). So even though the total audience at movie theaters declined during this period, this came mainly at the expense of independent, foreign, and documentary movies. For the Hollywood studios (and their subsidaries [sic]), in fact, there was no slump at all.Nevertheless, Hollywood is in a death spiral, according to Epstein, who goes on:
The real issue that emerges in these secret industry numbers is not the rise of a new format. Just as the DVD replaced VHS, a more efficient digital format will eventually replace the DVD. (A high-definition digital recorder with massive storage is already available in the United States and Japan.) What has inexorably changed is the location of the studios' crucial audience. In 1948, with studios earning all their revenues from the box office, that audience was moviegoers. Even as late as 1980, when the audience had television sets and video players, studios still earned 55 percent of their money from people who actually went to movie theaters. In 2005, however, those moviegoers provided the studios with less than 15 percent of their worldwide revenues, while couch potatoes provided it with 85.8 percent. (Click here to see the numbers behind the rise of the home entertainment economy.)That's startling: 85.8% from the home, 14.2% from the theater. My conclusion: I'm more persuaded by Epstein. The problem isn't Hollywood's values so much as it is our love of staying home. It wouldn't hurt for Hollywood to be more in touch with the mainstream, but it won't stop the decline...