Analysts Fear Academy Awards May Become Academic
Another major studio announced today that it was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, following the dismal opening weekend performance of its latest blockbuster Cronyn the Librarian.
“The fact of the matter is, the cost of making blockbuster movies keeps going up and up,” said GMG Studios CEO Reed Moore. “We’re doing some really awesome things with special effects, but there’s a price attached to those effects that the public doesn’t seem to realize. If they like those special effects, they need to buy more tickets, or else get used to higher prices.”
Mr. Moore cited the example of Walrusquake, a CGI-heavy film released earlier this year, in which a freak earthquake sends thousands of angry marine mammals rampaging through the San Francisco water mains. “It’s incredibly expensive to get a walrus to burst out of a fire hydrant and attack someone and make it look realistic,” said Moore. “Happily, we were able to make up some of the overruns by skimping on writing and research costs. Otherwise the movie would have been an even bigger financial flop.”
The announcement occurred on the same afternoon that Congress held hearings on the increasingly fragile state of Hollywood’s economy.
“Hollywood is a national treasure,” said Boris O’Malley of California’s 67th congressional district, arguing in favor of loan guarantees to support Hollywood’s work. “The extent to which we depend on our ability to export our culture abroad–especially through films and television–is greater than you might think. Hollywood products make up an embarrassing amount of our national export figures. We have to do something to protect this asset.” The Congressman went on to suggest creating a revenue stream by establishing a television tax, such as exists in the United Kingdom.
“That’s typical, isn’t it?” retorted Congressman Eric Kartoffle (PG) of Idaho. “First you try to sell things that the public doesn’t necessarily want at a price that the public can’t really afford, then you blame them for your discomfort and try to get them to bail you out. Where have we heard that before?”
Congressman Kartoffle went on to ask Oscar Gramm, the head of Stony Pictures, about the increasing disconnect between the increasing expense of making films and the shrinking revenue. “In light of the high quality and great achievements the industry is creating,” said Mr. Gramm, “I think it is extremely narrow-minded to try to measure the value of our art in strictly monetary terms. After all, it is art we’re talking about. Even Walrusquake, while hardly a success from a dramatic perspective, was technically brilliant.”
Asked how Hollywood measured its progress, Mr. Gramm replied, “Well, we must be doing something right–look at all the awards ceremonies we have.”
In the Senate, a parallel effort to assist the industry is being spearheaded by Senator Karl Rice (G) of Arkansas, who has filed a bill to establish a tax credit to offset the cost of movie-tickets. “This would be far more popular, and benefit far more people, than simply providing corporate welfare,” said Congressman Rice. “At the same time, since we’re encouraging people to watch more movies, the studios should benefit from a larger revenue stream. It’s a win-win situation.” The Congressman dismissed criticism claiming that the proposal amounted to the government paying people to watch movies.
Meanwhile, studios are working furiously to come up with strategies to combat their financial woes in the event that no subsidy is forthcoming. One such strategy involves augmenting movies with PBS-style fundraising breaks, in the hopes that the public would be willing to contribute directly to defraying the production costs.
Farther afield, the networks responsible for creating bootleg versions of American films were also said to be in disarray. “If the main studios go under, where are we going to get our product?” said one representative of the industry, who asked not to be named. The representative declined to comment on the role played by the bootleg industry in undermining studio revenues.
In other entertainment news, the VBC network announced that it had finally run out of ideas for new television programs, and that this fall’s prime-time lineup would consist largely of test patterns, raw webcam footage and community interest programming.