Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 19, 2015

The Economics of Hollywood

Filed under: economics,Film — louisproyect @ 2:17 pm
An Irreversible Road to Ruin

The Economics of Hollywood

by LOUIS PROYECT

The name Edward Jay Epstein might ring a bell as the author of Inquest, a 1966 tracing of Oswald’s footprints prior to the JFK assassination. After reading his The Hollywood Economist 2.0: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies published 49 years later, I am left with the feeling that he has uncovered a more serious if less violent crime: the degradation of American film by an industry much more committed to the bottom line than culture.

While I have written over the years about how commerce trumps art, including for CounterPunch and Class, Race and Corporate Power , I now understand the nuts and bolts behind commerce’s triumph. Epstein describes in meticulous detail that would make a CPA envious exactly how we have descended from “Citizen Kane” to films such as “Transformers” shown at multiplexes. Ironically, it was the latter day versions of William Randolph Hearst—the inspiration for Charles Foster Kane—who transformed the film industry into what it is today, a globalized behemoth that not only churns out films geared to children and teens but one that appeals to their basest instincts, the equivalent in some ways of selling crack cocaine to high schoolers.

Epstein, who is ten years my senior, probably mourns the loss of great filmmaking as much as me or anybody who was blessed with the opportunity to live through the Golden Age of Hollywood. It was not just that it was it home to Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Preston Sturges and Stanley Kubrick. It was linked to palatial movie theaters that evoked cathedrals, including the six thousand seat (!) Roxy Theater in New York that Epstein alludes to on page one. I remember traveling to New York to see a movie at the Roxy in 1955 with my mother who promised that it would be the experience of a lifetime. It was like a Catholic family visiting a shrine for a miracle that some saint had performed.

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2 Comments »

  1. “Even the target demographic—the 10 to 17 year old—is finding entertainment elsewhere, including the Internet.”

    Outside of Harry Potter and Doctor Who, my 8 year old son doesn’t watch anything other than videos on YouTube. Hollywood has a huge problem with the next generation.

    Comment by Richard Estes — June 20, 2015 @ 5:08 am

  2. Are you kidding? I’d be happy with a director on the level of Robert Wise!

    Comment by gothamette — June 21, 2015 @ 1:15 am


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