The Many Killers Of The Film Industry: Volume 2 – A Disaster Called Television

from the setting-box-office-records-from-beyond-the-grave...-apparently dept

[Those of you following along will remember the cliffhanger ending of Volume 1, in which it was revealed that “something” would come along and destroy the movie industry with its tiny screen and tinny sound. In this followup, we reveal the true killer of the film industry, which is also one of the many pretenders to the throne.]

A Disaster Called Television
Little did Roger Philco and Francois Magnavox know when they assembled the first “magic picture box” that it would change American society as we knew it, mostly for the worse.

There was no indication during its early broadcasts of test patterns, puppet shows and white men in blackface that the daily life of Americans would soon revolve around it. Instead of gathering around the wireless to watch Dad get drunk and curse the Yankees, the whole family would gather around the tiny screen to watch Elvis from the waist up or catch breaking footage from the moon landing set.

The movie industry understood how serious this new threat could be and stepped hastily over the still-cooling corpse of live theater to denounce the new “tele-vision,” which would surely destroy their precious industry. They lamented this turn of events, cursing every new box office record and crying into their stacks of $1000 bills.

Representatives of the “dying” industry called on Congress to do “something” about the “talking picturemajig.” How can we get people to sit in front of our 42-foot screens, enjoy our Technicolor and Sensurround when they have 3 inches of black and white power at home, all coming to them in deafening mono?

Congress was too busy watching the National League Championship to be bothered by an outdated industry and their rhetorical questions, no matter how many bribes and high-dollar hookers they waved around. Another blow was struck when forward-thinking Dwight Eisenhower announced his bold plan for America: a television in every house, a car in every garage and an epidemic of childhood obesity.

Disaster? Or Powerful, Distracting New Ally?
The movie industry was premature in its panic. Americans soon proved they had the leisure time for both activities, which could easily be squeezed in between backyard barbecues and conceiving the eventual bankrupters of Social Security.

During the early ’50s, the average male enjoyed a 25-hour work week, divided between harassing the typing pool, pounding martinis and hitting the golf course. The remaining time they spent watering the lawn, washing the car, pounding martinis and pounding the wife (mostly in a sexual fashion, but often in a physical fashion).

TV grew and grew, becoming the focal point of American family life. Television producers turned the mirror on the public, reflecting life as they knew it in the form of sitcoms, playing up spousal abuse (“I Love Lucy,” “The Honeymooners”) and sexless marriages (every other sitcom). They also went after more respected institutions with uncanny accuracy. (See also: “The Andy Griffith Show” and its devastating take on inept law enforcement and artistic whistling, or “Bewitched” and its brilliant satire of the advertising world, long before “Mad Men” made it cool to be casually sexist again.)

As its influence grew, television turned its unblinking eye on other “hot button” topics such as the Korean War (“MASH“), teen hoodlums (“Happy Days”) and greed (every game show). TV devoured everything in its path over the next 50 years, before going all ouroboros and devouring itself, shitting out show after show containing no actors, no script and starring everyday people like Balloon Boy’s dad.

As the airwaves were conquered by Joe Gloryhound and his occasionally-swapped wife, the film industry breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that TV’s “tapped-outness” would allow them to continue to collect billions of dollars a year cranking out sequel after sequel. Directors such as Michael Bay were allowed to continue trafficking in explosions and recycled punchlines. All was well in the word, until…

Coming up next:

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Comments on “The Many Killers Of The Film Industry: Volume 2 – A Disaster Called Television”

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mermaldad (profile) says:

Filled with omissions, half truths, and outright lies...

…Oh, I’m sorry, I thought we were talking about the latest attempts to justify PROTECT IP. Nevertheless, I did notice a glaring omission in this article, on the first line, no less.

The guy’s name was actually Fran?ois Magnavoix. The spelling was mangled when he filed for a trademark, and the misspelled name stuck.

Just wanted to do my part to maintain the high standards of veracity expected on Techdirt.

darryl says:

Mike, you start with a wrong conclusion and run with it.

You are trying to convince us that the introduction of new technologies in the entertainment inductries has resulted in a constant flow of complaints and whinning from the industries that tech involves.

You are saying for example the “film industry” made lots of complaints about the introduction of TV.

That is simply not true Mike, you are trying to present an alternative and incorrect version of history.

It is the embracing of those new technologies that has resulted in the continued and massive success of the industries involved.

Do you honestly believe that the introduction of TV had a negative effect on the Movie industry ? or that at the time there was a big outcry about TV ‘destroying’ the movie industry.

Some (wrong) people might of thought that, but it is the companies that said “cool another way to distribute product”, made it BIG TIME.

Mike you have not seemed to work out yet that it is NOT HOW the material is presented, it is WHAT IS PRESENTED

in other words its CONTENT, no delivery or media that makes the difference.

And new technologies change how you get your entertainment, but not wht entertainment you get.

People did not buy TV’s because thay wanted to watch MASH, they did not generally ‘gather around’ to watch it, but they would gather around to watch the NEWS.

I dont know if you are trying to be sarcastic in these articles Mike, or you are just trying to rewrite history, but either way.

I really wish you would at least write something that was a slight reflection of reality.

Just out of interest Mike what percentage of households do you think had TV’s in the 1950’s ???

How can you Mike, display such ignorance about an industry that you claim at least ‘some’ knowledge of?

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Mike, you start with a wrong conclusion and run with it.

But if you actually read darryl’s post, he wrote it under the assumption that Mike wrote the article.

Had darryl criticized Mike for approving the article, then your defense would have merit. Sadly, your defense of darryl’s baseless and incorrect rant falls flat.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Mike, you start with a wrong conclusion and run with it.

Some (wrong) people might of thought that, but it is the companies that said “cool another way to distribute product”, made it BIG TIME.

So you are saying that what happened in the past (media companies evolved with technology and succeeded) will not happen in the present?

That is the only conclusion I can gather from you, ootb and the various other ACs who rant and rave at us for pointing out the flaws in ACTA, PROTECT IP and other internet killing bills and treaties.

If those media companies who embraced television can succeed, why is it that media companies cannot succeed in the age of the internet? We say they can, but the refuse to try.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Mike, you start with a wrong conclusion and run with it.

If those media companies who embraced television can succeed, why is it that media companies cannot succeed in the age of the internet?

The power of disruptive technology means they can’t see the revolution at their feet.

It’s sad to see these companies fight so hard for a decade long gone. I just hope that karma will bite them twice as hard when they realize customers aren’t ATMs but have valid concerns in how they consume their entertainment.

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