Dennis Greene (1992)

The American entertainment industry is in the grip of an economic downturn which is proving to be devastating to many companies and careers.

Record sales are down, theater ticket sales are precarious, movie box office is dropping, and network television is in chaos.

This state of affairs is disastrous for many people who depend on the entertainment industry for their livelihood, however this “seriously ill” patient is not terminal, but simply needs some non-traditional diagnosis and treatment.

The traditional diagnosis for entertainment industry recession is that money is generally tight so therefore less money will be spent on entertainment. The therapeutic treatment tends to be for entertainment companies to nurture shows or artists who have the greatest appeal to the “market” and to divest expenditures on fringe entities. Unfortunately, this approach is simply a cure for the “symptoms” with no treatment of the “disease.”

The “disease” is that the entertainment industry is selling “traditional product to a traditional audience.” As an industry, we develop and produce projects based on 1) who we consider our audience to be, and 2) what we consider them to want.

This modus operandi is natural, logical, and no longer functional. As an industry, we must expand our concepts of who the audience is and by definition this will redefine and expand what they are interested in.

For example, the primary consumer group for films tends to be young, while for theater it tends to be older. Yet a film comes along like Driving Miss Daisy or a play such as Cats, and the norm is reversed. These non-traditional successes can serve as symbols for the future, as to how the audience for entertainment product need not be limited to historical scenarios but can be opened up to new consumers.

Traditional thinking will attempt to defend the status quo of the entertainment industry as “just the way things have to be.” I would disagree. As an industry, we are at the point where creative strategies for success must be put into action. Fundamental to this approach is the need for business people in the entertainment industry to overcome the urge to force-feed our product to a shrinking “traditional” consumer pool, but rather to expand our concept of “our audience,” and develop our projects responsively.

In the Nineties, producers in the entertainment industry can survive and prosper if we proactively deal with changing demographics, tighter economics, and diverse cultural groups rather than being victimized by an unrealistic attachment to outdated business practices.

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