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August 19, 2006

Reworking the Movie Business Model [1:09 pm]

Caught on Film: A Growing Unease in Hollywood

“It’s not like I view this as a private, artistic enterprise,” Ms. [Stacy] Snider, 45, said in a recent telephone interview. Still, she said: “I certainly felt the pressure. I felt the uncertainty. It galvanized the angst. We went from making movies to making product and content. I didn’t want to make franchises. I wanted to make movies.”

Hers is a common refrain in Hollywood these days. Despite a domestic box-office surge after years of declining attendance, 2006 is shaping up to be a time of Hollywood discontent. Studio executives have waged war on actor salaries, as high-profile projects with stars like Jim Carrey have been put off. Movie production deals, like the one Tom Cruise has at Paramount, are being renegotiated. Studios are also making fewer big-budget movies.

But while Hollywood has undergone periodic shifts like this before, many people here agree that there is something different this time, a permanence to Hollywood’s new austerity plan. Executives are facing too many unknowns, among them, changing moviegoer habits, rising costs and the threat of piracy.

[...] Studios are also under attack from digital pirates who distribute illegal copies online. As a result of the piracy, studio executives can no longer depend on waves of re-releases for steady income. “Once it’s out there, it’s out there,” Mr. [Robert] Shaye [founder of New Line Cinema] said.

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Formats, Recordings and Markets [1:05 pm]

Caught in the Limbo of Vinyl: The Case of the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood

I heard “Martha’s Madman” in my head, and I did what I usually do. I went to the iTunes Music Store. Nothing. Same at Amazon. So I walked down to the barn, where all my old albums are stored, and dug out my vinyl copy of “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood,” which is now sitting on my desk. I no longer have the equipment to play it. Nearly every album in those boxes in the barn was converted to CD long ago — some of them several times over. But not “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood.”

We live, of course, in an age of accelerating digital replication. Before long, it seems, every recording of every kind in existence, along with all the outtakes, will have been turned into a CD or a DVD or a digital file for download over the Internet. But some things get left behind.

[...] There will probably never be a movie based on the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, no commercial incentive to remaster and rerelease this album. The story of the band is a good one but all too familiar — the inevitable clash between the artistic and business sides of the recording industry. The band fell apart disputing the honesty of its manager.

What’s left is an orphaned vinyl LP. The inner sleeve, a space for record company promotion, says, “If It’s in Recorded Form, You Know It’ll Be Available on Records.” Well, I wish it were available on CD.

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