New York in Shock While LA Rocks!

W hile New Yorkers suffered minor heart attacks on Friday, as banking stocks plunged to levels not seen since 1997 around 2pm – before turning around and climbing back up, LA, so friends told me, was basking in sunlight – and its own glory.

In fact even as he watched Bank of America’s share-price nosedive on TV, one studio head blithely told me, Hollywood doesn’t want to know about the recession, the market fluctuations and wars in the Middle East: “No one wants to go to the movies to be reminded of anything like that. They want comedy, they want escapism.” Scriptwriters, take note.

Despite the reported decline in DVD sales affecting the major media companies’ bottom lines, the movie industry, unlike the banking industry, is actually booming. Theater attendance figures are up. (Just not for the mostly bleak films that have been nominated for Oscars).

So therefore don’t expect Hollywood tomorrow, to reflect the mood on the East Coast. Or across the rest of America. It won’t. Yes, some of the parties are a bit scaled back and ABC’s broadcast will have some weak advertising figures. But, for the most part, Hollywood intends on producing the glitziest Oscar telecast in years. (Spoiler alert: there will be up to four celebrity winners presenting the big awards – yes four!) And host Hugh Jackman intends to sing and dance his way through a show that reminds us of the illusion that Hollywood is really all about.

And in case teenagers are already yawning they can’t be bothered to stay up to see whether some overweight eccentric-dog-loving actor named Mickey Rourke wins, well here’s some news for them: they should stay up for presenter…Rob Pattinson. Yes, Twilight’s pale Rob Pattinson – a person largely unknown to all those viewers who know who Mickey Rourke is. In other words ABC hopes to cover a very broad demographic.

And all the self-congratulation we expect of tomorrow, isn’t necessarily out of place.

Yes, the decline in DVD sales will hurt studios in the short term, but Michael Burns, chief of Lions Gate says that in the long run, their decline will be a boon. “Shipping and packaging is expensive” he says. “How much more cost-efficient to be able to get people to buy content simply by pushing a button.”

For the next year or so Hollywood will face the same fiscal restraints as the rest of us. Fewer movies will get made. And those that get made will be carefully selected and priced – which actually benefit all of us.

Gone are the days when anyone thinks it’s a good idea to let Jerry “Blockbuster” Bruckheimer anywhere near a creampuff of a film called “Confessions of a Shopaholic” made for an astronomical $80 million – when the similarly-frothy but infinitely superior “Devil Wears Prada” was made for only $35 million. Mistakes like that will cost jobs.

So too, egomaniacal actors who want to be paid upfront and refuse to take a percentage of the film’s profits as payment may find themselves “resting”. And studios need to brace for a summer which will see reduced returns overseas on account of the dollar’s strength compared to other currency weaknesses.

But the line-ups ahead are very promising. Warner Brothers is bringing us “The Watchmen,” “Harry Potter” and “Terminator.” Dreamworks has “GI Joe” and “Transformers.”

So, Sunday night LA is prepared to party like there’s nothing wrong with the world. And that’s because, over there, relatively speaking, there isn’t. V

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