What’s Wrong With The Film Industry?
The resignation/firing of Rich Ross as Chairman of Walt Disney Studios, which I suggested was coming when I wrote a couple of blogs on the mentality that produced the disaster of John Carter several weeks ago, demonstrates another point I have made: that the average shelf life of the head of production at a studio in recent decades is in the range of 18-30 months.
An astute analyst of the film industry who had substantial investments in it compiled a list titled “What’s Wrong With the Film Industry?” which included the following points:
- The constant turnover of the production head of the studio is disastrous.
- The conflict and turnover caused by the buying and selling of companies causes confusion, uncertainty, and weakens morale in the production areas.
- Authority is not clearly defined.
- Overhead is indefensibly high.
- Budget estimates are not complete or accurate when shooting begins. Budgets are a joke, since they are exceeded with impunity.
- Shooting schedules are disregarded; scripts are not ready when shooting begins.
- The write-off on stories and contracts is enormous.
- Screenplay costs are excessive.
- Producers hold exorbitant contracts, and there is no relationship between a producer’s salary and the box-office success of his pictures.
To cap this analysis, the expert concluded that there had been too much ‘business’ interference with the production of movies. He made the revolutionary proposal that someone who had intensive experience actually making films be appointed head of production at each studio.
The expert I’m quoting is Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of the future president of the United States, John F. Kennedy. Joe Kennedy had been involved in major film companies such as Pathe and FBO (the Film Booking Office, which was absorbed into the RKO studios), kept Gloria Swanson as his mistress, and knew the industry well. The list above comes the 1936 report that Kennedy presented to the board of directors of Paramount Pictures, after they asked him to analyze what was wrong with the film business. [This comes from Leo Rosten, Hollywood: The Movie Colony/The Movie Makers. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., 1941), Pp. 253-254.]
Fortunately for Disney (and all of the other studios), films only account for a modest percentage of the parent company’s income. However, that’s not so fortunate for moviegoers.