Sound Media Industries

What do you see as the future for the rich tradition of radio as a medium for entertainment? For news? For political dialogue and comment?

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5.5 Motion Media Industries

Study Preview Hollywood is concentrated in a few major studios. While movie-house attendance has never recovered from losses to television 70 years ago, studios themselves have adapted with distribution through other channels. These include video rentals and sales, Internet delivery, independent production for television, and original series made by content distributors. Traditional television stations and networks now need to deal with their own new-age rivals, many of whom provide Internet-streamed programming.

Learning Objectives By the end of this module you will be able to:

  1. 5.5.1 Characterize the current movie industry
  2. 5.5.2 Differentiate television media by their delivery methods
  3. 5.5.3 Summarize how the television and movie industries moved from rivalry to synergy
  4. 5.5.4 Explain how trade organizations serve professionals in the media industries

5.5.1 Movies 1. Objective: Characterize the current movie industry

Hollywood is dominated by six vertically integrated movie studios. They are engaged in all processes of production, distribution, and exhibition of their films, but as conglomerates, interconnected business interests that allow them to successfully cross-promote their media products and market them through their various outlets. These studios are also enmeshed with the television industry, where they have

diversified interests. The movie industry can thus be considered to be an oligopoly, dominated by a handful of powerful companies with heavy investments in television, cinemas, and allied enterprises. This means that although there is a place for independent film production, “indie” options are rather limited.

Movie Industry Process The movie industry has three major components: production, distribution, and exhibition. The major film companies and, to a lesser extent, independent studios comprise the high-visibility production component.

Less visible is the industry’s distribution component, which does the marketing of movies and then books them into movie houses. Distribution companies also place movies in the growing array of alternate delivery modes, which now includes television networks, cable, DVDs, and online streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon.

A third component of the industry is exhibition. Technology has cut into the profitability of theater operators. The advent of television was the first blow to them, and it reduced weekly ticket sales from 90 million in 1946 to 46 million in 1953, when television’s popularity was soaring. On a yearly basis, the 4.6 billion tickets sold in 1946 has shrunk, today, by more than 75%.

The decline has been even more precipitous if you note that the nation’s population has tripled in the intervening years. Multiple entertainment options compete for the time, interest, and money of viewers and listeners. Although the movie industry’s production arm has thrived, and innovative delivery vehicles have kept distribution economically viable, movie exhibitors have struggled to stay afloat. It is true that today, a few powerful movie theatre chains (e.g., Sony, Regal, and AMC) own the lion’s share of theaters. It is also true that many enterprising owners have turned large- scale seating arenas into 10 or more theater “multiplexes” with much smaller auditoriums. This has cut down on the number of empty of half-empty theaters.

Despite these efforts to keep moviegoers filling up the theaters and profits up, there were several developments subsequent to television that ate at exhibitors’ profits. Among them were videocassette recorders (VCRs) popular beginning in the 1980s for their time-shifting (record now, play later) functions, later, DVRs and in a multichannel digital television and satellite landscape, streaming video and on- demand movies.

Major Studios A few major movie companies, all part of larger media companies, dominate Hollywood— Disney, Columbia, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal, and Warner. Ranking studios is tricky because one mega hit or one clunker can upset a listing. But Disney is perennially among the leaders.

Disney Although not realizing it, illustrator Walt Disney created the Disney franchise with Mickey Mouse in a synch-sound cartoon in 1928. In 1937 Disney risked it all with a full-feature animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Audiences wanted more. Disney responded with Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Bambi.

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