Occupy Hollywood

Liberals are strangely incurious about why their betters never instruct them to hate Hollywood during their class-warfare lectures.  I mean never.  Movie stars, singers, producers, directors, and star athletes are the millionaires you’re never told to envy.  Their “fair share,” and the methods they use to avoid paying it, are not topics for discussion. 

Liberals are even willing to extend this consideration to a grotesque caricature like Michael Moore, the greedy millionaire who made a fortune by making his fans look stupid, and refused to employ union labor while doing it.  He walked right past union operatives to receive a warm welcome from the Wall Street protesters.  He moved out of a luxurious New York City penthouse to avoid paying his “fair share” of New York taxes on his immense movie profits, celebrated the release of a movie lambasting capitalism with a posh party at another swanky penthouse, and filled in a wetland to put the finishing touches on his million-dollar Michigan estate. 

There are some obvious tactical reasons why the leadership of the Left meticulously avoids pointing fingers of blame at Hollywood millionaires.  The Left gets a huge amount of funding and ideological support from entertainers, of course.  Those entertainers are very good at generating emotional reactions, and drawing attention to themselves while they support various charitable and humanitarian endeavors – which is great for the worthy causes they support, but also creates an armor of selfless morality for celebrities that is unavailable to largely unseen businessmen who donate big money to charity. 

Also, there’s a sense among the liberal rank-and-file that entertainers earn their millions, in a way that businessmen do not.  Average liberals don’t know what goes on in a corporate boardroom, but they’re pretty sure it doesn’t involve the kind of work that goes into producing the glittering value splashed across movie and TV screens.  Of course someone who starred in a movie that made $200 million deserves to be rich!

Paradoxically, Hollywood wealth has a dreamy quality that sets it apart from the grubby, purportedly unethical dealings of the hated “one percenters.”  It’s common to fantasize about becoming a star, and this fantasy burns eternally in many hearts.  You could be one day away from the discovery of your long-hidden talents by a big Hollywood agent!  It’s like winning the lottery – a clean and pure blast of refreshing good fortune, quite unlike the dirty money bankers get by tricking people into signing mortgage papers.

Nevertheless, the Occupy Wall Street crowd really should think about dispatching some angry protesters to Occupy Hollywood.  For one thing, Hollywood accounting is crooked on a scale that would make any Wall Street firm blush.  David Prowse, the very tall actor who wore the Darth Vader costume in the original Star Wars trilogy, recently remarked in an interview that according to the studio, Return of the Jedi has never made a nickel of profit, so Prowse has never been paid any residuals.  The film grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide, but the studio rigged the books to show zero net profit, almost thirty years later.  In the course of explaining why this sort of thing is commonplace, Atlantic magazine notes that even Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is currently on the books as a net loss.

As a fascinating article at Film School Rejects chronicles, movie studios engage in all sorts of viciously “unfair” practices, such as using their muscle to virtually extort theater owners, stealing intellectual property, and marketing their lesser films with fraudulent “reviews.”  Any of these practices from a Wall Street firm would prompt a rush of patchouli-scented basement-dwelling youth that could only be stopped with pepper spray and plastic nets.

Are you mad as hell about the Durbin Tax your bank is getting ready to pass along through $5 monthly debit card surcharges, or the loss of your free checking account?  Well, how about those movie ticket prices?  The New York Times recently reported that theater executives predicted another average ticket price increase of 3% by the end of this year, which would make “the 17th consecutive annual increase in a business whose prices have outpaced the effect of general inflation by more than half since 1999.”  Is that taking more of a bite out of your wallet than debit card fees?  To say nothing of concession stand prices?

Studio greed has reached into the home video market, causing Netflix to make a very ill-fated restructuring of its rent-by-mail fees.  The licensing fees Netflix pays to movie studios will increase by eleven hundred percent over the next two years.

Perhaps your Occupy Hollywood rage is diminished by the thought that you can always choose not to do business with the robber barons of Tinseltown, although it’s a safe bet few of the crew occupying Wall Street missed any of last summer’s blockbusters.  Well, try meditating on how much money most of the other big companies you deal with are spending for TV advertising.  At Gaebler Resources for Entrepreneurs, the average cost of producing a 30-second national television commercial is pegged at $350,000.  The cost of getting on the air is vastly higher, as “highly-watched programs can command rates in the millions of dollars,” while even commercials during less-watched programs “may still run in excess of $100,000 per 30 seconds.” 

Like all business costs and taxes, these advertising expenses ultimately filter down to the customer through elevated retail prices.  Think you’ll hear any Democrat senators railing about the high cost of TV ads any time soon?

All of the money pouring into Hollywood winds up financing incredibly lavish lifestyles, which celebrities like to flaunt through reality shows offering the little people exciting videotaped tours of their stunning estates.  Popular animated series The Simpsons may be canceled after this year, because the voice actors won’t consider a cut in their $440,000 per episode salaries.  Shotime’s top series Dexter might end because star Michael C. Hall thinks the network’s tightwad offer of $20 million for two more seasons is too low, and demands not a penny less than $24 million.

Eco-sensitive director James Cameron, who thinks you little people should live more primitive and “sustainable” lifestyles, raked in $257 million in 2010.  (Do those hated Wall Street fat cats use their corporate jets to fly around and tell the peasants they have a moral obligation to save the Earth by accepting a dramatically reduced standard of living?)  Top star Johnny Depp got paid $40 million for starring in a hit, and $20 million for co-starring in one of the year’s biggest flops.  Even werewolf cub Taylor Lautner pulled down $33.5 million in a single year.

So: do you hate rich people, harbor a conviction they avoid “paying their fair share” through shady accounting tricks, and deeply resent the way your wallet is being emptied through price gouging?  Then it’s time for you to Occupy Hollywood.  Bonus: it’s lovely this time of year.