For the 89th consecutive year, they are handing out golden statues called Oscars this week.
What a different landscape it is compared to what the world was like when the awards were first presented at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood in 1929.
The stock market crash was still a few months away, and the industry was spending millions adjusting to “talking pictures.” The arrival of sound was one of many revolutionary transformations that movie-makers have endured over the decades.
The one that is happening right now is “live streaming.” Did you know that Netflix is now worth more than any of the old studios at the peak of their power? They have 93 million subscribers in 190 countries. Buried under all the Oscar hoopla this week was the story of a new movie called The Irishman, a $100 million gangster picture to be directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Robert De Niro.
Scorcese has a contract to release movies under the Paramount label, which has been around for almost a hundred years. But instead of opening on thousands of theatre screens, The Irishman will belong to Netflix. It’s based somewhat loosely on the life of a mobster named Frank Sheeran, a hitman suspected of taking out Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa more than 40 years ago.
The project was first announced in 2008, just before the most recent market crash, and there’s been all kinds of wheeling and dealing putting a deal together. In the good old days, a producer like Irving Thalberg would pitch a story idea to Louis B. Mayer, and the cameras would be rolling in a matter of weeks, with a star who was owned by the studio and did what he was told.
Who knows if Netflix will still be a powerhouse five years from now? De Niro and Scorcese will be in their 80s, sipping wine somewhere, remembering what it was like when they made Taxi Driver and Goodfellas.
The envelope, please…