When Hollywood Dies, Where Will Our Dreams Go?
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Pictured Above: Cast of Sabrina (1954) — Humphery Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden
It is safe to say that one would have to travel pretty far and wide to find someone who does not have a visceral understanding of Hollywood. Hollywood is far beyond a location. It is an encapsulation of the famous phrase: "The stuff that dreams are made of." Humphrey Bogart said the phrase as Sam Spade in the 1941 film noir classic The Maltese Falcon. Bogart's character was paraphrasing a line from Shakespeare's The Tempest: "We are such stuff/ As dreams are made on, and our little life/ is rounded with a sleep." (infoplease.com) In real life and in the movies, Hollywood is forever portrayed as a place where millions come, with only a few making it and the rest facing a death to their dream. Are Hollywood's idea and location still very much part of our culture, or is it waning? Will a dying Hollywood continue to hold its meaning and importance? Will songs and stories about coming to Atlanta or New Mexico become the standard for wanting to be famous, envied, and rich? Additionally, what if technology starts to change film and television so much that one could barely refer to them as films and television shows? What if the entertainment industry becomes the dream of computers and engineers?
The science surrounding networks began with electrical engineering and telecommunications. However, as computer science exploded, scientists began to see that the discoveries surrounding networks held true in many other types of phenomena, from neuro-networks in our brain to social networks in a company. Economists and epidemiologists also began to use network science to study the flow of disease throughout the globe or the importance of professional hubs when it came to the flow of specific industries and ideas. Silicon Valley exploded partially because it became a professional hub. Economists saw that talent and ideas tended to feed off each other when a particular industry formed a hub location, causing a synergistic effect. Since the early 1900s, filmmakers migrated from the east coast of the U.S. and other parts of Europe to form a filmmaking hub in Hollywood. This hub effect drew significant talent in the form of actors and directors and important writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald. However, the entertainment industry is undergoing an incredible revolution. Cities such as Albuquerque and Atlanta are rapidly becoming the new hubs. Places like Eastern Europe are also becoming popular American film and television hubs. Netflix has moved its main operations to Albuquerque in a major way. "In November 2020 Netflix doubled down, announcing plans for another billion dollars in projects and new developments, including post-production services, backlots, up to 10 new sound stages and training facilities, making it the company's main North American production hub, and one of the largest film production complexes in North America." Additionally, "Other studios are also taking note: in 2019, Lionsgate and NBC Universal announced plans to build a new downtown [Albuquerque] studio complex and half a billion in spending plans." (Albuquerque is Winning the Streaming Wars by Patrick Sisson, May 3, 2021, bloomberg.com) Atlanta, Georgia, is becoming even more of an entertainment hub powerhouse. "For more than a decade, Georgia's film industry has posted exponential growth to become an epicenter of film, with new record spending regularly set by productions." (Georgia's Film Industry Explodes: Hollywood Spends Record-Breaking $4 Billion in Peach State by CNN, July 22, 2021, cnn.com) Film giants like Disney and Marvel have moved their operations into Georgia with Georgia outstripping Hollywood in productions.
Technology too is changing Hollywood. It has completely transformed how shows are made, challenging the definition of old terms like films. Other aspects have also dramatically changed our understanding of what a movie is, as with streaming and subscription services like Disney+ and Netflix. Disney's streaming show The Mandalorian is made with a radical new technology that has allowed its creation not to be dependent on the physical location of Hollywood. Likewise, the technology has allowed extremely high-quality programs to be made at a fraction of the cost and without going on location for filming. The Mandalorian is filmed inside of a giant studio using this revolutionary technology. "This purpose-made studio—known as the Volume—is 21 ft. tall by 75 ft. in diameter and is enclosed by a 207-degree seamless wall of the 4k displays, which can project virtually anything, whether they are a space combat scene outside the main character's spaceship cockpit, a bustling alien city, or a planetary landscape." (Say Goodbye to Hollywood: in 2021 and Beyond, Movie Production and Consumption Face a Total Rewrite by Jason Perlow, December 11, 2020, zdnet.com) Other technologies like streaming, in-home surround-sound, and interactive programs are also ways that our idea of television and movies will become transformed. Even the advancement of deep fakes will soon bring historical figures back to life and perhaps will even replace humans as actors. These advances in technology not only cut costs but also, perhaps more profoundly, will revolutionize what we currently think of being a movie. "'These streaming services have been making something that they call movies,' he said, 'They ain't movies. They are some weird algorithmic process that has created things that last 100 minutes or so.' For Diller, this is about seismic change and nostalgia, but it is also about semantics. The definition of 'movie,' he said, 'is in such transition that it doesn't mean anything right now.'" (Barry Diller Headed 2 Hollywood Studios. He Now Says The Movie Business is Dead by David Gura, July 8, 2021, npr.org)
It looks like Hollywood as a location and a professional hub is dying. Places like Eastern Europe, Albuquerque, and especially Atlanta are drawing major studios, money, and talent. Advances in technology are redefining what a movie is and making home entertainment more attractive to consumers than traditional movies in theaters. Even the idea of the movie star will be challenged in the coming years as computer technology allows for virtual actors. As the significance of the location fades, will Hollywood's cultural significance fade too? I think dreamers will always flock to where dreams are made, which might mean Atlanta. After all, Shakespeare spoke on the Hollywood dream long before Hollywood existed, and I believe his words will be well understood long after Hollywood has sunk into history. "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts."—Shakespeare, As You Like It
Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.
Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.