March 14, 2006

Hollywood Polarization?

America is dividing into Red States and Blue States. Will Hollywood follow suit? Jason Apuzzo of Libertas looks at the new formula for movie-making that's veering away from the standard blockbuster strategy.

Liberal Hollywood makes Liberal movies on the cheap. They hype them up, get lots of free publicity and have a narrow, yet loyal, market: Blue State America and the International community. Put it another way:

One company that’s adopted “Fahrenheit [911]”’s model is Participant Productions, founded by eBay’s Jeff Skoll. Participant co-produced “Syriana,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “North Country,” and soon will release the Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and Richard Linklater’s adaptation of “Fast Food Nation.” None of these films cost very much (”Good Night” cost only $6 million), and are easy films to sell to the sort of people who read The Huffington Post or The Daily Kos. Crazy as this may sound, this business model is increasingly making sense in Hollywood’s competitive marketplace.

So here’s the bad news: Hollywood doesn’t need the Heartland anymore. There’s basically no pressure for Hollywood to change what it’s doing, because there are plenty of Blue State audiences and DVD sales out there to make even something like the gender-bending “Transamerica” a hit, so long as the film doesn’t cost too much.

I’ve heard conservatives tell me for years that ‘market forces’ will eventually force Hollywood to change, become more mainstream. The argument goes something like this: Hollywood’s product will eventually become so toxic, so nakedly political, that there will eventually be a ‘backlash’ from the public - at which point things in Tinseltown will magically change for the better.

Guess what? It ain’t happening. Hollywood simply doesn’t need the Red States any more. Hollywood’s more interested in how a film plays in Mexico or France these days than in Kansas. After all, Charles Krauthammer may hate “Syriana” - but the Germans and the Brits love it! So do the Spanish and the Italians. That’s the global economy for you - Hollywood’s now out-sourcing its audience.

But there's an upside to this trend, writes Apuzzo - one in which Conservative filmmakers can capitalize.
Phillip Anschutz’s Walden Media turned a lot of heads in conservative circles last year by pumping about $180 million into “The Chronicles of Narnia.” It was a great, successful experiment - but you won’t see another “Narnia” until 2007 - and in the meantime Hollywood will go about its usual business, merrily bashing Bush.

Anschutz’s $180 million could just as easily support twenty films - maybe about the War on Terror? Maybe about loopy Marxist academics? Maybe about snotty West Hollywood liberals who drive gas-guzzling SUVs? Anything’s possible.

Wouldn’t it be fun if a conservative company followed the model of Participant Productions, and pumped out a few low-budget conservative films each year? Such a company could kick-start a conservative film revolution. It would be a refreshing change from what we’ve become accustomed to - and wouldn’t it be great for our side to make George Clooney angry for once, rather than the other way around?

Interesting concept. We shall see.

Jason's article is also posted at Townhall.com.

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