The Summary of All Fears 2018

OPENING MONOLOGUE: THE CIRCUS OF SHPILKIS
As I started this letter early in 2017, it was clear many in the industry were consumed by a nameless dread, a sense of impending doom. Dark forces seemed to be closing in from all sides and no one could feel secure about what, if anything, would be left when they were done.  Giving that dread a name and a shape became The Ankler’s central mission in 2017.

As the year went on and we turned over those rocks and looked those fears in the eye and to our surprise, they became even bigger. Nothing in 2017 suggested that we were wrong to fear for our lives.  As the events unfolded, they suggested we’d been too modest in our terrors; if anything, they proved the forces arrayed against Hollywood to be even grander and more ferocious than we dreamed.  And new ones came out from under the bed to add to the chaos. In the face of this peril, Hollywood’s leadership class played dead at the bottom of their pools, hoping the monsters would kill them last.

And so here we are in 2018; the terrors are bigger and more numerous than we can count.  But to get the year off on the right foot, I thought we’d give counting a try.  Welcome then to The Ankler’s field guide to that which might kill us in 2018.

I. CONSOLIDATION NATION

Once there were six great studios that together ran the entertainment industry and brought magic to the world.

And then there were five.

Now, thinking about Bob Bakish and Kazuo Hirai, neither of whom has show any particular fondness for the game of manufacturing entertainment…as they gaze upon the news of the past month, would you imagine they are saying:

A. What was Rupert thinking cashing out just as Hollywood’s about to take off!

Or

B. 50 Billion big ones!  Yoweeee! Where’s mine!?

If it’s hard to picture right now who the buyers would be for Sony and Paramounts’ entertainment interests, it’s not hard to imagine who the sellers are.

Hollywood is pursuing the notion that all entertainment will come to the people via a limited number of apps in their homes, and that the rush to be one of those limited number means building an enormous stockpile of entertainments, made with total disregard to any known laws of entertainment.

Given that, why wouldn’t Sony and Paramount, the next two least positioned to challenge Netflix for the Entertainment World Championship, also get rolled up under one of the semi-finalists?

At the beginning of 2017, the reign of The Six was as permanent and immutable as the 405.  People had whispered that in these crazy times, maybe a studio could go away, but when the news first came out, the initial reaction was still disbelief.  As we roll into 2018, who wants to bet how many will be left when the year’s over?  Nothing is unthinkable now. Minus Sony and Paramount to take us down to three?  Not impossible.

And while we’re at it, one of those remaining three has a little takeover deal that seems snakebit from the get go. Should the Telephone People vanish from the Warners’ horizons, there’s chatter than Comcast could take a – what with the Potterland at the theme parks, and their own IP machines needing to be fed…

So who is to say we’re not on the brink of a two studio world?

And then really, does anyone really need two of anything? If you break the first one, you can always find a replacement somewhere on sale…

2. ME TOO MILLION

Having cut a notable swath through Hollywood, the question stands: has this boom run its course?

The answer to that is: not a chance. The field remains, as they say, target rich, and the core issues remain completely unsettled.  Consider just a few points:

  • Not a single A list star has been brought down.
  • Not a single A list, brand name director has been touched.
  • The music industry has barely been scratched.
  • In a few months, we’ll see John Lassiter return to work.
  • The entire history of the 1970’s and 80’s and all those who lived through it remains to be adjudicated.
  • The fates of other, non-jail bound accused, such as Louis CK, remains wide open.

What has been reported so far, as impressive as some of those journalistic feats have been, has been the relatively low hanging fruit, where there were a plethora of victims, often aware of each other and ready to come forward.

The victims keep coming forward, and the more they do, the more others will be emboldened to join their ranks. Considering the above, we haven’t even scratched the surface on the serial, grotesque predators working in this business.  And as the process continues, the bar on what can be considered career ending behavior is only going to fall.

Patterns are starting to emerge.  With the numbers of accused adding up, we’re seeing certain companies having a critical mass of honchos who have been protected here for a long time.  Will those dots get connected and traced to the top?

The press isn’t going to just get tired anytime soon of airing stories of sexual misconduct in the world’s most talked-about industry.

3. THE SPOTLIGHT TURNS

The last time a Hollywood poohbah was overthrown due to press or public scrutiny was…at least before anyone reading The Ankler was born.

The whole point of Hollywood was to construct a playground where certain tyrannical temperaments could indulge their predilections free of the prying eyes that might be turned upon them if they were say in politics, or in any normal industry like wicket making or selling camping equipment.

Hollywood generated enough riches and, more importantly, aura of glamour to take care not only of its own but to hand out as party favors to any would be prying eyes.  In modern times, the largesse includes advertising, click-driving, cover-decorating “exclusives”, international junkets, tickets to premieres, directors and movie stars pretending to remember their names…

Well, there’s still plenty of that to hand out, and the long tradition of lick-spittle, press release posting Hollywood journalism isn’t going anywhere soon. In fact, there will probably be extra room for those publications who want to position themselves as ones whow would never, ever do something like that to their friends in high places.

But the pact has now been broken and the industry will never again be able to totally trust its faithful lapdog to know its place. Today, they bring down harassers.  Tomorrow they might start to pointing fingers at just normal old, regular people running studios and networks into the ground.

 

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