In the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein covers what he calls The Dark Age:
If Hollywood had a suicide prevention hotline for despondent agents, managers and producers, the switchboard would be swamped. In the last few weeks every industry insider I’ve had lunch with has been morose, sullen or depressed — one poor guy actually rushed off to see his therapist right after we got the check.
To hear the talk, the dark ages are upon us. Producers are glum because studios are killing their deals left and right. The agents and managers are bummed because after untold years of actor and filmmaker salaries heading in only one direction — up — studios are putting the squeeze on talent, having recently killed a series of costly star-driven movies in favor of more manageable genre pictures and family films.
And what is keeping Hollywood alight these days? Fantasy farnchise Sequels (Spidey, Pirates, etc.) and…the toons.
The talent is feeling the crunch because many studios believe it’s crazy to give away 25% of the back-end profits to talent who can no longer guarantee they can open a movie. Of the four films generally considered to be this year’s most profitable big hits — “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” “Cars” and “Over the Hedge” — only one has a movie star. In fact, three of the four don’t have any actors at all.
Ask any studio boss. Animation is the most profitable segment of today’s business, in part because talent costs are so low. This is no fluke. None of last year’s top-three grossing films — “Star Wars Episode III,” “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” — were driven by a movie star either.
Move over, Tom and Brad. A big green ogre just stole your parking space.