Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My take on the WGA strike

There's a famous story about old Hollywood. It's probably not true, but it illustrates a point, it's too good not to quote, and it probably has a grain of truth. According to the story, Irving Thalberg, the uber-powerful producer, saw The Jazz Singer in 1933 (...so, not the Neil Diamond one...) and sniffed that sound in movies was going to be a passing fad. The point being, some things never change, and today's studio heads also don't seem to have a solid grasp on how things are going to work in the future, no matter how good they may be at operating under the status quo.

Besides, the wounded moguls are full of shit. They argue that DVD sales and Internet streaming are NOT going to be important sources of revenue, but if that's so then they shouldn't care if the residuals earned by creators (use the word "royalties" and think about book authors, if the legal-speak makes you glaze over) went up from 0.04% (where they are now) to 0.08% (where the WGA wants them). If there isn't any money in these avenues, the studios shouldn't care if they had to give up 8%. Or 18. Or 80.

85% of the households in the nation have cable now. Some TV seasons on DVD outsell some movies. There are more PCs than adult humans in the United States. Consumers spend money on TV in ways that didn't exist 20 years ago. Somehow, I'm sure there will be enough to go around, and I'm glad the WGA is taking steps to prevent getting completely screwed. As Aaron Sorkin said in "SportsNight," anybody who can't make money off these opportunities needs to get out of the money-making business.

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