I was reading a magazine article recently in which Hollywood moguls and theater owners were wringing their hands about the latest big slump in ticket sales, spelling imminent doom for the whole industry. There were many reasons offered for the slump -- competition from new home-video technology, the rising price of going out to the movies, and the mediocre quality of the films themselves. There were, however, some signs of hope, such as pay-per-view options that were just awaiting the right technology to be workable, or the likelihood of increased demand for quality productions to feed the new 24/7 multichannel appetite for programming. Oh, and one other thing:
The article I was reading appeared 60 years ago in Life magazine.
Boom and bust cycles come and go in Hollywood, but panic springs eternal. Today, the heirs of those studio executives and theater owners quoted in Life in 1951 are worried that ticket sales for 2011 are down 20 percent from the same period last year. The culprits are pretty much the same: new home-video technology (TV then, hi-def digital today), high ticket prices and mediocre movies. The proposed solutions were the same, too. (It's fascinating that the industry was dreaming of pay cable and pay-per-view streaming long before they had the technology to deliver them.)
It's especially worth noting, however, that six decades ago the movie industry did muddle through and find a way out of its woes. The reasons for today's slump may be no more complicated (and may even be simpler) than they were then, so there's no reason to think Hollywood won't muddle through again.