Why Hollywood Is Doomed: It Takes Sensible Advice Like 'Make Good Movies' And Turns It Into A Screed About Piracy

from the wow dept

Last week, Rob 'Cmdrtaco' Malda (and, can I just say that I think it's awesome the Washington Post allows Rob to keep "Cmdrtaco" in his byline?) wrote a perfectly reasonable (perhaps even tame) column with the admittedly inflammatory title Why Hollywood is doomed. But if you read the actual article, it basically argues that the answer to Hollywood's problems is not to focus on passing bad laws in a quixotic and pointless attempt to "stop" piracy, but rather do what they should be best at: making good movies. He also suggests a much bigger threat to Hollywood than any amount of piracy is (*gasp!*) bad word of mouth:
While Hollywood blames piracy, at least for now, I put the blame squarely on texts and tweets. These days, a month-long $100 million marketing campaign culminates in a 24-hour social network frenzy. The first $10 million-worth of ticket purchasers influence the potential $90 million-worth with knee-jerk reviews broadcast via their smartphones. These viewers determine if the movie will make a profit.

Ultimately, Hollywood, here’s the secret: Make good movies. “The Avengers” is simply fantastic. It’s no surprise, since the film’s director, Joss Whedon (of Buffy and Firefly-fame), is known for making cult, ensemble TV action. His most recent film, prior to “The Avengers”, is “The Cabin in the Woods” -- still the most fun movie of 2012.
This is perfectly reasonable advice. If Hollywood actually focuses on making top notch movies, it seems pretty clear that people have no problem paying. The success of the Avengers is hardly the only data point to show this.

So how do the folks at the MPAA react to such reasonable advice? They start whining all over again. In fact, they sent out their "big guns," starting with Michael O'Leary (basically Chris Dodd's righthand man) to attack Malda by totally misreading his column:
The Washington Post’s Rob Malda’s recent blog post appears to argue that the success of a particular film at the box office somehow means that concerns about widespread piracy are misplaced. This is a bit like condoning shoplifting if it’s done at a successful store. Of course, we shouldn’t. And it overlooks the economic damage – and the damage to consumers -- of turning a blind eye to such forms of theft.
Except that's not what Malda said at all. He said the concerns were misplaced because good movies can still get tons of people to pay -- far more than ever did in the past. This isn't saying that shoplifting is okay from a successful store. It's saying that there's little to no evidence that such infringement actually has a negative impact, because it seems pretty damn clear that people are still quite willing to pay to go see a good movie.

From there, O'Leary goes on to misrepresent the already ridiculous White House report that tallies up jobs in "IP-intensive" industries, but ignores the fact that very few of those jobs exist because of IP laws. In fact, an awful lot of those jobs come from industries (tech) that have fought the hardest against the expansion of IP laws, and have worked hard to reform them. On top of that, the report clearly states that it's not intended to be used for policy purposes, but that hasn't stopped the MPAA and all its friends from mentioning it every chance they get:
According to a recent Department of Commerce report, IP-intensive industries such as film and television support 40 million jobs and add $5 trillion dollars to U.S. gross domestic product annually – nearly 35 percent of America’s economic output. 2.2 million American jobs depend on the film industry and television industry alone.

We think that the hard work of those people should be protected. But the reality is that rampant online theft undermines the ability of IP-intensive industries like ours to invest in new ideas and new products if it’s simply accepted fact that they will be stolen – often before they even have a chance to hit the marketplace. Copyright protections are critical to keeping the creative industries vibrant so they can continue to employ millions of Americans and produce the films and other creative content that have become such a vital part of our cultural fabric.
O'Leary conveniently leaves out that this same report noted that these "IP-intensive industries" are currently growing faster than other industries and pay people more than other industries. I guess that doesn't fit with "the story" that the sky is falling and they need special protections.

As for those protections, last I checked, we were supposed to live in a capitalist free market economy, where even the most basic economics student learns that you don't "protect" industries, you let them compete. And if they fail, they fail. The fact that O'Leary wants the government to be protectionist for his industry, rather than letting it compete in a free market pretty much makes clear what he thinks his own industry's chances of survival are.

And he's mostly right... because it goes right back to what Rob said. For the most part, they don't seem to make that many good movies these days. They've focused on crappy, formulaic, derivative flicks. Every so often a good film gets out, but Hollywood has become afraid to make good movies most of the time. Perhaps if it spent more time focusing on that, and less on whining about how it needs to be protected, it wouldn't have so many problems.

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  1. icon
    DannyB (profile), 22 May 2012 @ 12:53pm

    Re: Hollywood: STFU and...

    And your little dog* too.

    * lobbyists

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