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October 2006 | Vol. V - No. 10
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Hollywood ToyBoy: Why Hollywood Wants to Crush You

Small Retailers Take Note: You Can Fight the Power!


“We could have an Orwellian consumerism: People would buy what we tell them to buy. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?” Hollywood producer
Hollywood is bi... bi-coastal. LaLa Land and the Big Apple. Oh, they say they’re for the unwashed everyman living in Wisconsin and Oklahoma — that’s what Jimmy Stewart and Tom Hanks are for — but really there are only two cities that count: LA and NYC. All the rest is fly-over.

As goes Hollywood, so goes the rest of America. And what Hollywood wants is to sell a strictly bi-coastal world ... including toys.

“The movies have always been skewed a little oddly. Lately, so has the music business,” explained a quadruple award-winning producer whom I wined enough to get her to whine. “With iTunes and everything else, the mom-and-pop record stores and even most larger brick-and-mortar chains went the way of the buffalo. If we can control the rest of merchandising that way, we could have an Orwellian consumerism: People would buy what we tell them to buy. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?”

Think about it: a world of commercial totalitarianism. America as a buying suburb of Los Angeles and New York City. A world of Wal-Martians.

“Commercials. Product placement. Most kids don’t know anything but what they see, and what they see, they want,” lectured a VP in charge of development, sitting in the commissary of the major studio where he works. “And we tell them what they want. What use is quality or creativity when you can get the ‘latest and the greatest’ online for $9.95? With the studios taking control of the digital technology — Web sites, blogs, social networks — kids won’t have a chance. There will be no such thing as individual choice or even a place to exercise that choice.”

So what can a small retailer do?

“Take a lesson from Hollywood,” lectured an ex-president of a network, now turned merchandiser. “Find a niche market and sell the hell out of it. Independent films survive and sometimes prosper because they are completely different from what Hollywood has to offer. But that’s not enough; they also have banded together to make themselves hip. That’s what Sundance [film festival] did. They took all the little odd-balls and magic-wanded them into cool. The Toy Industry has to do the same, or in another five years there won’t be an independent retailer afloat.”

When asked if being online would solve a small retailer’s problems, a highly placed studio media relations person answered, “In the short term it’s more efficient, but there are bigger, badder online entities. The real advantage a small seller has is novelty and personality ... but only if it’s novelty and personality that isn’t too novel or unique. Hollywood’s always known that people want change — but only in small quantities. That’s why there are so many sequels, remakes and rehashes.”

Hollywood wants small retailers gone in the same way they’ve always wanted independent moviemakers gone. The answer? Revel in individuality, but only so much, and make sure there are a lot of other individuals reveling in the same direction you are.

It’s weird, but that’s Hollywood, folks.



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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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