Rushfield: 12 New Year's Resolutions to End the Sad Sack Era
Take a studio private. Hire Richard Gere. Bring on a non-white guy studio chief. It's time to shake things up, in a good way
First of all, before we get on with today’s column, I wanted to pause for a moment of personal celebration here. Today marks the one-year anniversary of The Ankler 2.0, when the great Janice Min came aboard my little newsletter and we began the journey of growing this into a full-blown media venture, built around the same principles of smart, fun, uncompromised information that animated my one-man show. Since then, it’s been an amazing ride (as of today, our subscribers have grown 333 percent!), with great stories, new voices and special spin-off publications launching. You can read my highlights of the best of the last year here. But most of all, I wanted to thank all of you who have supported this attempt to bring wit and fearlessness to industry coverage with your subscriptions, time, thoughts and wisdom. Our audience remains, and always will, the center of The Ankler. So thank you. And if you’re not already a subscriber, please join our community!
And now, our regularly scheduled programming:
We're entering year six or so of one of the most morose, self-flagellating periods of entertainment history (L’Era Sad Sack, as historians will note). And as much as we've got plenty to beat ourselves up over, at some point — probably around now — global audiences are going to say: excuse me, righteous folks of Hollywood, is there anyone who feels like entertaining us?
As they say, the show must go on. And now might be a good moment for that.
As for our ongoing issues — we've still got a few! But how about making this the year we stop cowering, acting as victims to outside forces, and do something. You know, be proactive! Positive!
In the spirit of shaking off the gloom and remembering what we're here for, here are a few proposed New Year's Resolutions-slash-Crazy Ideas to put spring back in Hollywood's step in 2023.
1. Take a Studio Private
At the bottom of our woes, there is one irreconcilable divide that there seems no way across. Our studios being all or part of public companies are ultimately subject to the whims of Wall Street. You can ask Bob Chapek how well it works out to get on the wrong side of those.
Problem is, to put it delicately, Wall Street doesn't know what entertainment is or where it comes from, and what it knows it doesn't like.
Which is why when Netflix offered a new, data-driven, predictable-income- infinite-expansion utopian vision of a new course for entertainment, Wall Street said to all the studios: Yes! Do that!
The only thing we know about the next big thing in entertainment is that it won't look like any big thing that came before it. And beyond that, the rest is silence. To buy a lottery ticket for that route requires making a lot of crazy, indefensible choices that look really awful in a deck. But the other thing we know about tomorrow's entertainment choices: we don't know what audiences will want but it will be something new, and if we can't give it to them, someone else will.
There's no scenario here where you sell Count Chocula forever and the audiences eternally keep buying it.
For lots of reasons, Hollywood is in a rut… creatively, emotionally, and fiscally. The path out of it requires some wild swings that Wall Street would murder any CEO who tried them. But someone has to or the future is clear.
Which is why for our first resolution, Hollywood should take one of the major studios private, insulate it from the short-term, unrealistic needs of Wall Street, and let it do the sorts of things that every executive around here knows in their hearts should be done.
2. Fight the Niches!
Perhaps the most consequential cultural drift of recent years…