October 28, 2021

Arts group

Expert Arts Folks

US film studios attempt to attract audiences back to theaters

7 min read

Hollywood studios are making a concerted effort to draw audiences back to the movie theaters after a 15-month period during which the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the filmmaking and film exhibition industries. The effort is characterized by the predictable shortsightedness, pragmatism and greed with which one normally associates the US movie business.

On May 19, the industry organized a conference, “The Big Screen Is Back,” at a Los Angeles movie theater, sponsored by the Motion Picture Association, National Association of Theatres, various movie studios and distributors and prominent figures in public relations.

Former California governor and Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger addressed the select media and industry crowd. “Now is the time to wind down this pandemic period, now is the time to get back to the big screen,” Schwarzenegger asserted, according to Deadline.

Pacific Theatres headquarters in Beverly Hills, California (Photo credit–Minnaert)

“The big screen is back, ladies and gentleman!” the actor declared, and “then led the whole auditorium at the AMC Century City 15 in a chant of ‘We are back! We are back!’”

For entertainment industry executives, of course, wealth and income never went anywhere. The vast majority engorged themselves further during the pandemic on the stock market and by other means, even as job losses and pay cuts, temporary and permanent, climbed dramatically.

Research conducted by Variety, for instance, pointed to the “largely cosmetic” character of the promises of “shared sacrifice” made last year by Hollywood CEOs even as “the global health crisis … closed movie theaters and theme parks and brought film and television production to a standstill, forcing companies to lay off or furlough thousands of workers.”

The trade publication pointed out that “the belts that companies tightened still seemed to stretch a lot with bonuses and perks that ensured media CEOs will continue to rank among the nation’s highest-paid executives.” While total employment at AT&T, Comcast, Discovery, Disney, Fox, Lionsgate, Netflix and ViacomCBS dropped by 57,153 in 2020, average compensation of studio chiefs remained at $30 million. Variety cites Charles M. Elson, professor of finance at the University of Delaware, who noted that while some executives “took salary cuts … Most of what they lost in salary will be made up for in long-term incentives.”

Variety ’s article observed that “a typical employee would have to work 338 years to match what the CEOs averaged in 2020 alone based on each company’s calculation of median worker pay.” Disney CEO Robert Chapek earned $14.2 million in 2020, AT&T CEO John Stankey $21 million, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts $32.7 million, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch $29.2 million and Netflix’s co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos $43.2 million and $39.3 million, respectively, etc.

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