The Age of the Studios

I’ve got a theory that the digital media industry will go through the same general phases that the film industry went through.  Try this on.  In the 1920’s and 1930’s, people were just learning how to make a film: the machinery, lighting, developing the film, etc.  The tech was unfamiliar and it was hard to get  film out the door and in theaters.  Knowledge of the technology to make a film was not widely disseminated during this first phase.  The same was true of Internet websites between 1994 – 2004 — Phase 1 of the Internet.  

In 1937, out came “Snow White” and in 1939 “Gone with the Wind.”  Those two films blew the viewers away, and showed the true potential of the medium.  The lucky people who were on the crews of those two films were now among the few that knew what it looked and felt like to make a GOOD film.   This was then the second phase of film, the Age of the Studio, where the few people who knew how to make a good film turned their resources into building film portfolios.  Talented actors/actresses worked with the same studio for long periods of time, starring in multiple movies.  The studios had the money to make a lot of movies because they were previously successful, and because they didn’t need every movie to be a hit to survive.  The more movies the studio produced, the stronger their distribution network became, which in turn helped the success of their movies.  Their success bred confidence which attracted more talent and customers.  The studios ruled. 

That knowledge, what it was like to make a GOOD film, spread slowly as more film projects produced excellent results, and by the mid 1960’s it became possible to collect a random group of experienced people in Hollywood and have as good a shot as any to make an excellent film.  That permitted the rise of the Agents, who ended the Age of the Studios and took control of Hollywood.  I think the Internet has now entered a similar second phase and may see the rise of vertically integrated Studios like Ooga Labs and Obvious for the same reasons we saw them in the film industry.  I wouldn’t expect this phase to last 25 years, as film did, but perhaps 12 years, beginning in 2004.  It will end by agents, or by government regulation, or by excessive competition (as we have in the film industry, a near zero-margin industry) or perhaps by platforms which will make it possible for literally anyone to play, but I suspect the end result will be the same: that the essence of the endeavor becomes more about politics and who-knows-who, then about talent.  If so, then these are indeed the good old days.