The Corporatization of Entertainment
When it comes to entertainment we are living in an era when bout 90% of mainstream media is seemingly owned by like three companies. Whether it is: film, theme parks, comics, or TV chances are it is owned by either Disney, Warner Bros. or Universal. Now, this may come as a surprise…but probably not, these multi-billion dollar corporations are not run by people who care about art in any form, their favorite part of a movie is when they make money off of “content”. In fact, phrases like “content” and “IP” to describe movies or show or anything like that has become incredibly commonplace as the suits in charge simply see these things as mere widgets with profitability potential. This is nothing new as there has been a certain understanding among all parties. They give us entertainment we give them financial compensation creating a balance. But with the recent appointments of Bob Chapek and David Zaslav as CEOs as Disney and WB the veil has been torn away as these two men are quite open about the fact that they are penny pinchers who solely care about the bottom line regardless of all else.
During their tenure we have seen things like Pixar’s Turning Red skipping a theatrical release altogether in favor of Disney+ because they needed a boost in subscriber numbers. At Warner Bros. Zaslav cancelled any release of the whole-ass Batgirl movie simply because this movie that so many people poured their hearts and souls into was something he viewed as a tax write-off. The Disney Imagineers who for decades have set the gold standard in the theme park industry have recently seen their number culled as Bob Chapek moved their headquarters to the other side of the country merely for tax purposes leading a number of the veterans to resign taking with them their knowledge and experience. In taking over WB, Zaslav has purged scripted TV shows from the actual freakin’ TV networks now under his control because they cost too much money.
I am not going to pretend that people like Walt Disney and Jack L. Warner were charitable and benevolent individuals when they started what would become global empires. They would not have achieved the success they had if they did not have the ability to be cutthroat. But they thought outside the box and encouraged creativity from those they worked with. We have hit a point in time where this attitude is now discouraged as those running the biggest media companies in the world are squarely focused on milking the most out of their intellectual properties and utilizing corporate synergy as a means to make money through all available streams. DC Comics and Marvel are no longer storied publishers who have given the world so many iconic heroes and villains they are now merely R & D for the next movie or show. In a stockholder meeting earlier this year the hit movie Encanto was not applaud as a successful piece of cinema; it was dubbed a “franchise” that the House of Mouse could continue squeezing profits out of through any venue available.
I am not so naïve that I do not realize that movies, TV, video games etc. have always been a business. But we have reached new levels of corporatization. Making matters worse is we are seeing these massive companies gobbling up as much as they can. Recently Disney even purchased Fox, another multibillion dollar media conglomerate. Now Warner Bros. has merged with trash television purveyor Discovery. It is like an entertainment arms race to see who can own the most “assets”. I remember an interview with Eddie Muller, founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation, when asked about the interest the public has in the films he champions. From the various film festivals and events he hosts, he realized that the interest is definitely there the problem is that so many of said films are being held by fewer and fewer people who have no appreciation for them. This problem only seems to be growing as not only are these fewer hands owning more of the things we love but they also hold the means of distributing them to the masses. This means if there is not an episode of a TV show or a film the powers that be decided you should not see then it is prohibited, largely by means of the streaming services they own. As mentioned previously, the Batgirl film originally slate for an HBO Max release has been deemed unworthy of such a release so I guess it will just sit in a file cabinet somewhere for the rest of time. In 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting, a very well deserved use of the “f–k” (this is a pseudo-family site) has been edited out meaning future generations will not know the awesomeness of Elizabeth Shue standing up to the Lords of Hell unless they can find an out of print DVD. While people like me are all about collecting physical media (you can read all about that HERE) the masses have embraced streaming as a means of consumption.
I am not writing this because I know the way on how to fix things, I mean I do but nobody will probably listen to some guy who rants about stuff on the internet. I am merely saying that there is a problem and it is only getting worse. The homogenization of entertainment will continue so the best thing we can do is put our brains and our money into supporting creators who are willing to push the envelope and do new things.