The End of Hollywood: Why the movie industry is dying

When I say that Hollywood is done my point of reference is from a business perspective and as a person who spent twenty years writing and pitching screenplays, attending film festivals, and sometimes working as a stunt coach.  Films were something I was very interested in—and still am, but the business of Hollywood motion pictures was something I used to spend a lot of time thinking about so I know it quite well.  Well enough to say that the time has finally come—Hollywood’s studio system movies are coming to an end and its right on time to what I said would happen over five years ago.  Hollywood’s current filmmakers do not represent most of America and like the national media companies, are much more interested in being a liberal propaganda machine.  Now that the costs of making a movie have intersected the declining box office receipts—such as in the case of Ghost in the Shell—the latest embarrassment with Scarlett Johansson—it’s just a matter of time now before the entire industry folds.

I suspect that Disney will always do something with film, as will Warner Bros. and a few other companies, but they will have to drastically change their habits.  After I watched the Blue Rey interviews for Rogue One—which I couldn’t wait to watch, it became very obvious—the filmmakers who are in the story group now replacing George Lucas have no idea why Star Wars movies work.  They only know to follow the basic formula that he created and that means they can get some semblance of a Star Wars movie—which is better than nothing, but not the whole experience.  I thought Rogue One was a fabulous movie, but it was missing the pop of a George Lucas production.  The San Francisco hippies who now work at Lucasfilm cited during the Rogue One interviews the fact that George Lucas had originally written that the “Force” was called “The Force of Others,” meaning mass collectivism and that kind of 60s communist philosophy.  Under tremendous pressure from Twentieth Century Fox Lucas had to whittle down his script and movie down to the bare necessities so he ended up following more of a Walt Disney approach to the themes of the movie which led to a great story rooted in Joseph Campbell myth interpretation.

But the “hero’s journey” is not a collective one.  Red State Americans do not think in collective terms and they cannot be made to.  We aren’t all better “together” and teams are not the supreme law of the land.  When North Carolina recently won the NCAA championship game over Gonzaga it wasn’t a “team effort” but actually the five to six guys who spent most of the time shooting the ball and the few individuals who shot clutch shots at just the right moment.  All the bench warmers sitting on the sidelines didn’t contribute equally—yet as members of the collective team they all celebrated as a single unit.  The cinematic story in telling such a movie would have been in the individuals—not the collective whole otherwise the mythic theme gets lost in the circumstances.  Luckily for the Rogue One people they killed everyone at the end so that washed out the ineffectiveness of the lack of individual performances.  By that I mean the mass collective sacrifice that all the members of Rogue One committed to save the Rebellion.  If the Star Wars story group continue to make those Lucasfilm projects with the progressive values of their San Francisco culture—they’ll see their Star Wars product losing its mythic effectiveness. It’s still a good product, but it’s certainly less effective as a storytelling device than it was under George Lucas’ care.  Just as the current collective decision makers at the Disney Company don’t understand what made Walt Disney work—they copy the formula and sometimes they get lucky.

Recently while I was in England for an extended period of time I noticed that there were a lot of westerns on television.  England was playing a lot of our old 50s era westerns because their society was fascinated by the individualism on display in American cinema.  They had committed themselves already to socialism for most of the 20th century and were looking for ways out of that mess—and American westerns were doing the trick.  They weren’t making much that was originally good as far as cinema in England, so they played old American westerns—and that seems to be a theme around the world.  And the best westerns are not about mass sacrifice for the greater good, but in individuals standing up against the masses in the name of suppressing collective evil—such as a band of cattle rustlers taking over a town and one gunman standing alone to face them down—or some bounty hunter like Clint Eastwood getting individually wealthy by killing all the bad guys and riding off into the sunset.  The best movies find some way to tell an individualized story about love, wealth, or power.  But movies lose their luster when they become instruments of statism.

Let me put it like this, when Wolfram Von Eschenbach wrote his King Arthur stories in the 12th century his subject was the individual casting off the limits of the collective.  The same kind of thing occurred with the Twin War Gods story of Navaho legend.  The society is in trouble and the individual must go out into the world to save everyone with their acts of heroics—alone.  When Hollywood adds all this “team” crap—and this “force of others” idiocy, the product on the screen gets watered down.  American audiences are by their nature individualists.  They don’t accept collectivist messaging in movies. They might endure them if there are cool action sequences or the leading lady takes her top off—but they won’t go out of their way to see the movie.  Now that China has bought up Legendary Pictures they are learning the hard way.  Their movie with Matt Damon about the Great Wall of China bombed in America big time.  And even the latest King Kong movie fell short—which I wanted to like badly.

I knew Kong: Skull Island was in trouble after the scene where the natives on the island were a bunch of utopian hippies who didn’t have any personal property or individualized desires.  They were autonomous robots who had learned to love serving King Kong as sacrificial elements.  As a result the movie only made 150 million in the domestic market but it did very well in communist China taking the film up and over the 500 million mark worldwide.  That paid the bills for the movie, but just barely considering that King Kong has almost 100 years of film history to build from.  It should have made a billion dollars—and could have if the filmmakers made a movie about individuals instead of collective salvation.  Audiences don’t attend movies as a collective.  They might share that experience with others—collectively, but they watch movies as individuals.

I watched with pain studio executives trying to explain why Scarlett Johansson couldn’t make Ghost in the Shell work.  With a production budget of 110 million it only had a domestic take of 26 million dollars.  The studio thought that Johansson did well in the Avenger movies so obviously she’d bring 100 million dollars to Ghost in the Shell?  No.  People don’t go to movies to see stars—you’d think that Hollywood would have learned this by now—they go to see stories about individuals.  At least that’s how it is in America—which then drives the world market.  And if Ghost in the Shell would have been cast by a Japanese woman—it would have done even worse—just for the record.  The content of the film is what hurt it—not that Scarlett Johansson was “white.”

Here’s the bad news, kids growing up today are interested in other things.  Their video games and phone apps are much cooler and individual based storytelling then modern movies and they just aren’t going to be there as adults giving Hollywood money.  The labor unions have driven up the cost of making movies to the point where small budgeted risky projects can’t be made.  For instance, you never see today movies like Days of Thunder or Top Gun being made where a Tom Cruise character who is over-the-top individually confident but loses his nerve after some tragedy, and the whole point of the character is in overcoming his individual fears and returning to the glory of being an arrogant son-of-a-bitch.  But that’s what American audiences want and Hollywood isn’t giving it to them so the movie industry is on life support held up by my generation who still goes to movies out of nostalgia.  The generation after mine will do something else because these movies don’t speak to them as individuals.  And those are the cold hard facts.