Earthquakes in the Entertainment Landscape


By David Outten, Production Editor

Predicted long ago by Movieguide®, the landscape of the entertainment industry is shaking violently. The latest loser is Blockbuster’s video stores. Blockbuster recently announced the closure of their remaining DVD rental stores. The rising star, Netflix, recently announced deals with Marvel and Disney and plans to expand their made-for-Netflix catalogue.

Another loser in the landscape is anyone who makes movie prints of movies or ships those prints around the country. In just the last few years, the percentage of theaters using digital projection has gone from a small minority to almost all.

Hollywood itself is shaking. Though this trend has been with us for awhile, the percentage of movies and television programs actually shot in the Los Angeles area has dropped even more precipitously. Countries, states and cities around the world are offering incentives to make movies and programs elsewhere. Many producers are taking advantage of those incentives.

In addition, the cost of equipment necessary to make movies and programs has plummeted. Consequently, your church can use equipment that rivals Hollywood’s.

The biggest rumbling sound you hear is the earth shaking beneath the Cable TV companies. Their distribution system is almost as outdated as Blockbuster’s. If anyone has a public image as bad as Congress, it’s probably the cable companies. Notorious for rapidly rising prices, undesirable content in bundles and customer service worse than the IRS, their distribution model is a dinosaur from the age of landline telephones. When new technology and political pressure permit more competition from emerging technology, people will vote out Cable TV. Cable exists as it does today because competition is restrained. The technology exists, however, for multiple providers to offer broadband neighborhood wi-fi.

Even if the cable companies and their lobbyists manage to maintain near monopoly status, people are already abandoning the whole bundle-purchase delivery model in favor of broadband connections and services like Netflix. These services will expand and duke it out for king of the next entertainment landscape.

As bundled network cable subscriptions decline, the model collapses. Someone will be able to offer Grandma DANCING WITH THE STARS and HGTV for a lot less than her current monthly cable fee. ESPN thrives on the income from a lot of grandmas who could care less about sports. Set the grandmas free, and the average sports fan won’t want to pay $10 a game to watch football. Lose those fans and the real sports nuts could be required to pay a fortune.

When all the dust settles, the future is in libraries accessed by broadband. The major studios have huge libraries. They’ve been making movies and shows for many years. But, entertainment libraries of the future will be the ultimate in customer friendly. If you like shows with less violence, sex and vulgarity, there will be a library for you. If you can’t get enough vulgarity, there’ll be a library for you. If you like pornography, you already live in the brave new world. Pornography moved to the Internet library distribution system years ago. What they’ve learned is that free porn reduces the income of those trying to sell porn.

Hollywood is already being hurt by free entertainment like YouTube. Every minute you spend looking at YouTube, Facebook, Pintrest, or just searching Google, is a minute you’re not buying a major studio’s entertainment product. Audiences will want and will pay for Hollywood product, but how much of it they buy may be less and how much they’re willing to pay may be less. Great movies can be made for less than Hollywood spends, and they will be available in libraries.

What the major studios lack is high quality wholesome content for the family. They’ve been much busier making R-rated movies than family movies. They’ve got some great things, like Pixar’s catalogue (that sold so many DVDs), but family fare is dwarfed by a glut of horror, violence, vulgar comedy, and bizarre indie faire (family movies still make much more money on average, however).

The key to success is uplifting entertainment value. Whether a movie ticket, a cable bill, or some form of library access, audiences want entertainment they feel is worth the price they paid. The good news is that, regardless of how delivery methods change, movies like IT’S A WONDEFUL LIFE, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, TOY STORY, and their new imitators will continue to draw audiences. Great wholesome movies hold their value over many decades.

Hollywood is now obsessed with making movies that appeal to international audiences. They’d be wise to make movies that appeal to international audiences over the next 50 years. Movies with great entertainment value and strong moral values are the ones that will do just that.