Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy for Americans for the Arts, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, recently shared insights from his group’s study of arts trends nationwide. His message to business leaders emphasized the importance of investing in the arts as an industry, rather than treating arts as a luxury during times of prosperity and avoiding arts when the economy struggles. Increasing public and private support by using economic impact studies to leverage investment can help. But not every good idea needs to cost millions of dollars. “The city of Seattle sees itself as a music town, and it has a Music-On-Hold program. When you call a government office and get put on hold, you listen to music by Seattle musicians. They change it every quarter. It’s so popular the mayor does the voice-overs, and they sell the music on a website. Sometimes, it just takes coordination of existing resources,” says Cohen.
With the first half of the year in film festivals behind us, it’s hard not to notice the nearly complete lack of specialty film pickups by studios. Even Fox Searchlight, one of the few remaining studio specialty divisions, has been somewhat quiet. Since picking up “The Wrestler” at Toronto last fall, the label has made just one fest purchase: “Adam,” a small indie drama that played in Sundance’s competition in January. When it comes to the studio arms, these days it’s all about inhouse production, prebuys or, most typically, doing nothing. The distrib pool is being replenished — to some degree — but not at the major studios. Aside from Berney-Pohlad and mainstream aspirants such as Summit and Overture, a few indie newbies have entered or ramped up in the arena recently.
Boldness is increasingly common among a segment of the otherwise-depressed indie-distributor world, where unlikely players with unorthodox attitudes suddenly are filling the landscape.Execs from gay-oriented media company Here! are getting into the foreign-film business. National Geographic, best known for eat-your-vegetables nature documentaries, is snatching up Sundance dramas for theatrical release, as it did with Cherien Dabis’ immigrant-themed crowd-pleaser “Amreeka.” Traditional players, meanwhile, are furiously trying to reinvent themselves and come up with new ideas. Case in point: Ira Deutchman and his Emerging Pictures aims to outfit art house theaters with digital projectors that will allow exhibitors to break the rigid and expensive 35mm model. Together, they form what might be called the new indie coterie, a mixture of savvy veterans and eager newcomers who see opportunity in a specialty world where studios only have seen losses. For more on this story, follow the link
The movie and TV industry contributed 2.5 million jobs and $41.1 billion in wages to the U.S. economy in 2007, according to an MPAA report. That’s up from more than 1.3 million jobs and $30.2 billion in 2005 as reported by the trade group in its inaugural report a couple of years ago. The impact study, most of whose data is for 2007 despite the inclusion of some 2008 figures, shows that more than 285,000 people were employed in the core business of producing, marketing, manufacturing and distributing films and TV shows. The industry also boosts the cash in state and federal coffers — a key argument in debates over the value of production tax incentives. Taxes paid by film and TV workers in 2007 and sales taxes on goods and services amounted to $13 billion, up $3 billion from 2005.