Peggy Noonan On Hollywood’s Problems

Peggy Noonan has penned a very interesting piece for the Wall Street Journal today entitled “Boy in a Bubble – What George Clooney doesn’t know about life”. It is quite possibly one of the most sympathetic and generous readings of Hollywood’s current state of woe that I’ve yet seen. From her article:

But viewership of the Oscars continues to decline, even in the great movie-loving nation. Why? Here’s one practical reason.
What happened to the Oscars is what happened to the Olympics. They became common. They made themselves common. When the Olympics were held every four years, they were a real event. It was something to look forward to and be surprised by: The Olympics are on this year. Four years was enough time for a whole new cast of athletes, what felt like a whole new generation, to come up. Enough time for history to have passed, to have yielded up new geopolitical realities, new reasons to applaud and hope for this nation or that one.
Everyone watched. It was a success. So they decided to get even more success by making the Olympics every two years. It’s not an event now, it’s an expected thing, part of the usual tapestry. It’s more common, less special. Viewership is down.
In the same way, the Oscars used to be the big awards show. Then another came by, and another: Golden Globes, People’s Choice, Independent Spirit, Foreign Press.
Movie stars put on their gowns and tuxes all the time now. It must be embarrassing–I mean this seriously–to spend half your year accepting awards on TV, and for what is already highly compensated work.
It’s like what happened a few years ago, when network programmers found that “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was an overnight sensation. So they put it on four nights a week. And it stopped being a sensation.
Hollywood should stop diminishing its own mystique. It should discourage the proliferation of awards shows. They’re getting embarrassing for everybody.

The whole piece is worth reading in full – give it a look.


[…] Instead of looking for the next Napoleon Dynamite, studios are likely looking for the next obscure 60’s film or comic book to remake.  Sure, there are films that win in the short term with that strategy, but there are just as many losers.  The long term effects are painful to watch.  Moviegoers who are just bored with what they see.  Movies – like the award shows that surround them – are no longer remarkable. […]

If the problem is Oscar viewership, then Noonan probably isn’t too far off.
As for what’s going on in Hollywood, I really don’t follow things well enough to know if the companies are doing well, bad, or otherwise. They will always make stinkers and they will always make some good movies. To some extent I think they suffer from the same syndrome as awards shows and baseball cards in the early 90s. Once there are sooo many they become too common and less valuable. Let’s be honest, coming up with a really new idea is difficult.
I think I’ve read that the take from the box office is down, but I’m betting that they are making up a lot of the lost ground with DVD sales. Let’s face it, the theater just isn’t the experience it used to be. Most Americans have sufficiently big, high quality TVs and stereos to really take in a movie. Moreover, watching in your own home you can pause, rewind, not stick to the floor, and eat popcorn that didn’t cost more than a bottle of your favorite wine.
The only 2 reasons I can think of to go to the theater are to leave your house just to get out, or to see the movie because you really just can’t wait to see it. But when the cost of a DVD is the same as a trip for 2 to the movies, I can wait.
I also think that Hollywood has a major left tilt. I don’t think this hurts them as much as people on the right like to think. It may hurt specific individuals who like to speak out, thus hurting viewership when it comes to the Oscars. I have a nagging feeling that even “mainstream” America just wouldn’t buy movies that are to an acceptable level of “covservative.” This is a point where I really didn’t like the book South Park Conservatives. The author sort of blithely says that conservative TV isn’t being made because the producers don’t know how to make it, which may be partly true. Or maybe it just doesn’t sell. Fox seems to have conservative news down, but the regular network programming is far from conservative. That disconnect tells me that there just isn’t a market for it, or that the market is there and being exploited in other ways that we just don’t realize (ie reruns, or intelligent TV like the History and Discovery Channels).