Will Hollywood eventually follow Rome’s downfall?
The parallels between the Roman and the Hollywood Empire are, once you look for them, very obvious. When the American film started in the early 20th century, traveling tents showing a limited range of movies were rapidly replaced by dedicated movie houses with an ever changing portfolio. The human capitalist realized there was big money hidden that just needed to be harvested. While across the pond, the European lacerated each other during World War 1 (and not short thereafter: World War 2), business flourished in California. It took a mere three centuries until in 1950 Hollywood was split into the big Populus and the small, ruling Senat (nowadays known as the Majors): 70% of all box office was owned by the Big Five; another 25% by the Little Three. In 1938, 19 of the 25 highest salaries in America were paid in the film industry.
There was a lot of money and it got used to produce even more (e.g. Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis or Gone with the Wind).
In 1975 then, Hollywood re-invented the Roman Colosseum when it released Spielberg’s Jaws unto the public: The Blockbuster was born. Hollywood had invented the perfect money machine, named after aerial bombs capable of destroying whole blocks of streets. They commodified stars, huge visuals and catchy soundtracks with their ever growing budgets. A form of keeping the masses dumb and happy while milking their purses like cows. To be perfectly candid: There is as much art in a modern Blockbuster as there was in a Gladiator slaughtering a lion.
Through the ages, Hollywood had it’s ups and downs but always came out on top. The studios managed to survive the rise of the television. American cinema got basically reborn after the financial crisis hit in the late 60s / early 70s. Over 80% of all movies shown across the globe are American. The example of Jurassic Park (and its THREE sequels) shows how they managed to extend their profit to far more than just the cinema. Blockbusters are basically “ads for their own product line”.
To come back to the comparison to the Romans, one big question looms over Hollywood’s head: When will the Barbarians attack?
We all know YouTube (no, I won’t put a link to YouTube here). Hollywood is afraid of YouTube, and it should be. It does not come from nothing, that they have started to recruit YouTube-Stars. Talk shows by giants such as NBC, ABC or TBS have YouTube channels with regular content. YouTube-Star PewDiPie earned 7 million dollars in 2014.
And YouTube is not the only threat: Crowdfunding, as an example, is helping more and more independent movies to get made without major studios… (e.g. Wish I Was Here or Iron Sky and it’s sequel)
So what I am saying is not, that YouTube or Kickstarter are going to destroy Hollywood in the near future. I just say, that nothing can last forever and that Hollywood has definitely reached its zenith.