Kill Hollywood? Not so fast
I read an interesting (although slightly arrogant and bitter sounding) post on the tech forum YCombinator this week. Basically - the people that run YCombinator (an incubator for startups) put out a rallying cry to it's readership that they work to develop technologies and business models designed to...you guessed it..."kill Hollywood." More to the point, they suggested that the way to kill Hollywood was to build something that entertains people better than movies and TV. The assumptions here are that the business of Hollywood is untenable due to filesharing (or broader distribution model issues), and that people will inevitability be entertained in new ways in the future because they have a finite capacity of content. The first part I get and agree with - plus it's easier to kill a sick industry than a healthy one. But new ways of being entertained? They are partially right, but I think there is something missing. I just don't believe that Hollywood - at least the idea of Hollywood - will ever die because we have grown to need it. Hollywood's business model might die, but it's essence won't.
The business is already changing, and the big players might be different 10 years from now, but it's not going to die. We are a diverse culture with a very short common history, and mass entertainment is one of the few things that ties all Americans together. I think that as Americans, we will always have some sort of mass market movie and big name stars to gossip about. We need it - it's part of our national identity. I don't see something - a technology or business model reproducing or replacing the allure and meaning of the Hollywood lifestyle. It survived the evolution from stage play to radio to movie to TV. I think it will survive the digital world as well, at least in some form.
Secondly, I think the change YC is calling for is already happening on a large scale - but from within Hollywood itself. However, the goal isn't to 'kill Hollywood' but to overhaul it with something that allows storytelling to take advantage of our digitally connected world in a profitable manner. It's just the bloated business structure - not the product - that has Hollywood on it's deathbed. Hollywood (mostly the storytellers and creators that are its lifeblood) is still creating great content.
In fact, Hollywood's storytellers are already finding new ways to get their stories out there even with the downfall of the traditional model. They are becoming less and less incumbered by big Hollywood business. Just look at what Louis CK did with his new comedy special or the interactive projects that Anthony Zuiker (of CSI fame) has produced or any of the new production companies and distribution outlets (myself included) that have entered the space looking to fill the gaps that most big Hollywood companies are missing. I'd like to think that my micro-cable concept is one example of how Hollywood is reforming itself from the inside. We aren't trying to kill Hollywood. We are just working on the fringes to rebuild it.
All in all, I think what YC is saying is pretty much correct. Hollywood is dying. However, what replaces it will still be "Hollywood." Maybe not MGM or CBS, but other storytellers whose goal is to capture the imagination of the world. That's really what "Hollywood" is, and it won't die.