In a single day, two major studios ushered in regime change. The message: A different day has arrived.
By replacing a respected, long-standing veteran in Dick Cook at Disney, and by dismissing two sharp, younger executives at Universal — Marc Shmuger and David Linde — the takeaway was the same. New people are needed at the helm to forge the path toward a new Hollywood. (Read TheWrap’s full coverage of the executive shuffles.)
In the case of Universal, it was by promoting two internal candidates, marketing chief Adam Fogelson and production head Donna Langley (which readers of Waxword would already have known since last week).
And in the case of Disney, it was by bringing in a talented executive from the Disney Channels, Rich Ross, who has built a reputation for understanding international markets and grasping the family-friendly brand.
But is change what will really happen?
Everyone talks about the transformative moment in which the entertainment industry finds itself. Many throw the word "Twitter" into every conversation, as if invoking this phenomenon will in itself stop the deadly slide of DVD sales.
But as the industry faces the fundamental challenges of a contracting economy, the infidelity of audiences, the shortening of attention spans and elusive revenue streams of the Internet — the mandate for change is far from clear.
Interviewed by TheWrap on Monday, Fogelson was asked about his vision for change. “In terms of my vision, it’s our vision,” he responded vaguely. “Donna and Rick (Finkelstein) and I have spent a lot of time over the past few days making sure we all felt good about something we could accomplish together. “
He added: “One of the goals is to redouble our efforts to make sure every time we greenlight a movie we are taking a responsible risk.”
In other words, focus on the bottom line. Well, that’s not new.
Langley told TheWrap that they were excited about bringing marketing ideas into the pre-greenlight process. That’s not new, either.
At Disney, Rich Ross was not giving interviews. He was still — an executive explained — getting up to speed. He met with his new staff on Monday afternoon.
What will it take to guide the studios through the shoals of the current maelstrom, other than just squeezing the price of marketing, cutting producer deals and making A-list actors take their money on the back end?
If the movie industry is headed toward crisis, it is not at all clear that the new group of executives have some secret insights about how to forge Hollywood’s future.
Indeed, the fundamental skills of a movie mogul may not be about understanding Twitter at all.
It may instead be about re-embracing the fundamental skills that go into making and selling entertaining movies.
For the talent agencies, that means an emphasis on cultivating relationships with the talent. That was clearly missing in the Universal equation.
And independent producers, who are struggling as never before, will tell you that it’s about teasing out the right stories, and making them for the right price.
Anyone with common sense will tell you that many movies have gotten too expensive, and that audiences are less easily fooled today by schlock.
Clearly, tapping the global nature of Hollywood’s brand — the one true area of growth in the moviemaking industry — is going to be critical. That’s not actually new, either.
It’s those fundamental skills that will make the difference for these major studios as they face the next period of change.
“Everything is being revamped and changed, but what is really changed?” asked one leading talent agent, who declined to be identified.
“This notion of ‘change’ is just for change’s sake,” he said. “It’s not really changing anything. It goes back to — if you put talented people in who appreciate artists, you’ll do well.”