"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hollywood is no longer Hollywood

Transformers 3 director Michael Bay in Pushkin Square near the Pushkinsky theater, which
opened the Moscow International Film Festival with the world premiere of the movie.

The old Hollywood of Humphrey Bogart is dead.  Today America's greatest industry is "Hollywood" in name only as filming, production and jobs go off-shore.

The American political class is rapidly marching down the road to Socialism and poverty in a Soviet - FDR "command and control" style government.  The Beltway Elite do not have a clue how Capitalism and free markets work.

The huge changes in Hollywood reflect the realities in the world today.  The rise of newly wealthy Capitalist nations that go head to head with the United States for jobs now are the driving force in what was a near American monopoly on the movie industry.  But the hack politicians in America still live in a fantasy world that is ruled by the United States.

Emerging markets that were a backwater for the American film industry only a decade ago have become its primary growth engine, says the Los Angeles Times.

"Ten years ago Russia had only a few dozen screens, and now it is enjoying such enormous growth that we think it's fitting to have the opening of one of the biggest franchises in the industry there," Paramount Chairman Brad Grey said in an interview. "Russia is just one of several new markets opening up that are driving most of the increase in demand for our movies."

Box-office growth in countries such as Russia, Brazil and China (Europe and Japan have long been fertile ground for American movies) comes as theater attendance in the U.S. and Canada has flattened and once-lucrative DVD sales have plummeted.

The old Hollywood of Humphrey Bogart
is long dead.

Overseas ticket buyers now account for nearly 70% of Hollywood's box-office revenue, and it's quite possible for a movie to flop in the U.S. yet still be a hit because of its international appeal. For example, the Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie thriller "The Tourist" earned only $68 million domestically after its December debut.

But the movie was something of an international film,
  • directed by a German
  • filmed in Venice and Paris
  • featuring a largely British supporting cast
  • remade from a popular French film
The movie did a healthy $211 million overseas.

In Sony Pictures' "The Green Hornet," for example, executives tapped Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou to play the Hornet's sidekick despite his lack of Hollywood experience and limited English. He and co-star Cameron Diaz, who is popular in Europe, provided balance to star Seth Rogen, who didn't have a strong track record overseas.

"When it comes to casting decisions … we certainly take into account how well the character will play in international markets," said Neal Moritz, a producer of "Green Hornet."

Another movie Moritz produced, "Fast Five," takes place in Brazil, "not only because it was right for the movie, but because it was right for the international marketplace," he said.

The film had its world premiere in Rio de Janeiro and has grossed $21 million in the country, twice as much as 2009's "Fast & Furious."

In some cases, it's just a matter of branding. The film sold to Americans last fall as "Battle: Los Angeles" was called "World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles" in most of the world. This summer's "Captain America: The First Avenger" will be known simply as "The First Avenger" in Russia and South Korea.

The Rock and Vin Diesel at the world premiere of "Fast Five" held in
Rio de Janeiro.  The movie was also set in and filmed in Brazil.

In Disney-Pixar's just-released animated feature "Cars 2," which is set in several international locations, "there was originally a Russian villain, but there was concern about that," said Nathan Stanton, story supervisor on the film. The bad-guy car character was changed to a monocle-wearing German.

Kirill Razlogov, the Moscow film festival's program director, said he scheduled the "Transformers" premiere to boost the festival's international profile and doesn't really consider it an American film. "There is nothing American in 'Transformers,' and it is far more like a Japanese video game than a U.S. movie," he said.

France, Germany, Britain and Japan remain the most lucrative foreign markets, but are fast losing ground to countries where rising middle classes with more disposable income have fueled a multiplex building boom.

In China, where box-office receipts hit a record $1.5 billion in 2010, according to research firm Screen Digest, the number of screens doubled to more than 6,200 in the last four years and is projected to double again by 2015. In the last decade, China has gone from the world's 23rd-largest movie market to No. 6.

Russia crossed the $1-billion box-office mark for the first time in 2010, a more than fifteenfold increase since 2001. The former Soviet Union now has about 3,000 commercial movie screens, with 1,000 equipped for 3D, which remains more popular overseas than in North America.

But even as they count on at least several more years of rapid growth in Brazil, China and Russia, studio executives are eyeing other potential markets, especially India, which has a population of about 1.1 billion. It was the world's seventh-largest movie market in 2010, with $1.4 billion in box-office grosses. However, most of the ticket sales are currently for locally made Bollywood pictures.

"India could be a fantastic market for us," said Patrick Wachsberger, co-chairman of Summit Entertainment and a veteran of foreign movie distribution.

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