Former Studio CEO Barry Diller Declares "The Movie Business Is Over"

Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
One former Paramount and Fox exec thinks that's it for movies. 

Barry Diller made his name in the Hollywood studio game as the CEO of Paramount and Fox. So you would think he knows little about the movie business. Well, late Thursday afternoon, Diller appeared on NPR while at the Sun Valley conference in Idaho and had some interesting thoughts on the state of the industry. 

He said, “The movie business is over… The movie business as before is finished and will never come back. I used to be in the movie business where you made something really because you cared about it.”

His comments came amongst lamentations about the rise of streamers and corporate conglomerates that have changed what it means to create movies, and have altered how studios make money in theatrical releases. 

Diller's main point was that making movies with lasting cultural impact might be finished.

He continued to talk about what it's like to make movies for a streamer like Amazon, saying, "The system is not necessarily to please anybody. It is to buy more Amazon stuff. That's not a terrible thing. It just doesn't interest me."

These are not new worries and have been echoed by people since the start of the pandemic. Many feel that the closing of theaters and rising of streamers negatively affected the industry, turning movies into content, and pushing art further from commerce. 

Diller echoed these feelings, focusing on the quality of what's come out, saying, "These streaming services have been making something that they call 'movies.' They ain't movies. They are some weird algorithmic process that has created things that last 100 minutes or so."

There is a lot to unpack here and to worry about. Things need to change in Hollywood.

I am mostly worried about the idea of theatrical releases going away, and the opportunities of young voices also struggling to break through all the noise on streaming platforms. We're in the Wild West and no one can predict the future, but do you think movies are finished? 

Let us know what you think in the comments.      

You Might Also Like

Your Comment

10 Comments

While I somewhat agree, Netflix and Amazon do not make movies based on algorithms, despite his and other people's beliefs. The reason these streamers have succeeded is they do what the studios did, but better. They have resources, staffs that are helpful, and specs that are specific and available to any post production team. They allow creatives the freedom to make their own content, while also nursing the project along the way. I say this having delivered two films to Netflix and working closely with Directors and Producers along the way. They took what the Studios did and do it better and that's why they are running Hollywood now. It's just a matter of time before WB and/or Paramount are purchased.

July 8, 2021 at 9:23PM

0
Reply
avatar
Shawn Montgomery
Post Production Coordinator / Director and Producer
118

You are conflating different to better. Netflix's model is about quantity and generating user hours and user retention at home and on mobile. They don't make blockbuster films to see in a theatre - unless theres a name director attached, in which case they often become director vanity projects (see Mank and The Irishman). Its a different and more modern business model, is it better - I guess in this day and age it is - But note that Netflix is also competing with television so when Netflix beats Hollywood, they are often beating hollywood with television and not with film. I would hazard a guess that the amount of viewing hours on netflix would be massively skewed to Television, which is not part of the the blockbuster films business.... Netflix's goes is to keep you at home watching for as long as possible, The studio's goal is get you out of the home to watch for a set amount of time. Netflix provides and endless stream of entertainment you watch at will, theatres provide a finite at specific times....

I recently sold worldwide rights to Netflix on a TV show, and what people forget is how this cuts you off from any residuals down the track, this along with film residuals. Bassically whether this show does good or not, me and the team will both not know and not make a cent more from its success. This is bad for the viability of the industry, but its good for Netflix and good in the short term, but in the long term it feels like Netflix is operating like any tech giant... act fast and break things... Also to note because this was an acquisition prior to production and not production investment Netflix has no interesting in 'nurturing' anything along the way. We have had a 45 minute zoom call and thats it...

In terms of nurturing I would posit that A24, PLAN B, Fox Searchlight off the top of my head nurture talent. Netflix does not nurture talent, they poach it.

But also even from a business model, heres the key difference. Netflix runs at a loss and continues to receive capital injections to stay afloat. The studios run cashflow positive (or at least did for decades) and this is inherently a handicap... Netflix is not a sustainable business model because it turns a deficit each year....

July 9, 2021 at 12:36AM

0
Reply
avatar
Isaac Elliott
Director - Producer
701

Regarding the plan of streamers to keep you at home; I remember many decades of going to an electronics store and looking the new TV models displayed in SD, HD... The colors and quality where shit, and very different each brand. If you go now to an electronics store, you see huge TVs 4k HDR etc with great image quality and more or less affordable. If you can watch a movie or a series with no commercials in one of those TVs at the click of your remote, it's harder to go to the movies. Isn't technology the main culprit of going less to the theater? Isn't TV that grew in quality to rival cinema? In the times of the NTSC,PAL, even HD, you had to go to the movies to have a blast of image quality. You realised that. Now, is just size. Isn't?

July 9, 2021 at 2:25PM

0
Reply
avatar
Javier Diez
Filmmaker
320

I actually meant they do the process of filmmaking "better". Instead of the studio micromanaging, Netflix likes to let the creatives and original Producers have control. Instead of wondering what the delivery specs are and negotiating back and forth, Netflix has a clear plan laid out, with resources and specs docs to help. Old school studios do none of this. It took me weeks to get answers from Warner Bros. on what they wanted delivered, then they asked for more! Netflix was all buttoned up, easy process, clear as day, though lots of paperwork and systems. So no, not all of their films are "better", but their process of making them has outpaced the old Hollywood studios. And that's a good thing.

The other thing they do right is reach a global audience. They put it out in every language, they find cool content from other territories and port it over. Not remaking it, but putting it in a way and a language others can understand. It's really opened up the world to making stories, not just the USA, Bollywood, etc.

The talent Netflix nurtured was not on the directing or creative side, but on the supervision and coordinating side. They "poached" all of the top talent from studios to pay them better and create the systems and specs that Netflix has in place. So no, they won't nurture you as a filmmaker, again, they want to micromanage as little as possible. But they have curated some of the best technical players in the industry to help them along.

If you want that old school, unorganized, boys club mentality where the studios "cultivate" relationships with filmmakers, sure, go to the other guys. But if you want your film to reach the widest audience possible (kind of the point, isn't it), with tremendous help and resources along the way, but little interference, Netflix is the way to go.

July 13, 2021 at 7:34AM

0
Reply
avatar
Shawn Montgomery
Post Production Coordinator / Director and Producer
118

I always find it funny when I hear these old timers talk about this stuff. He isn't in the biz anymore and his best days are behind him so of course anything coming out now is "inferior" or "not like we made 'em back in the day".

And even more so, this man oversaw Paramount in the mid 70s and pumped out movies like Bad News Bears Go to Japan which was 91 minutes long and shockingly bad. Yes he was there for movies that have had cultural impact but those dont happen all the time.

He like the rest of Hollywood didn't make movies because he thought they were going to somehow echo throughout the ages. They made movies to make money. Netflix and Amazon are doing the same thing.

If anything we are in a world where no names are getting more opportunities than ever. Between social media, youtube and platforms like Netflix open to buying movies to fill their catalog, newbies have less of a glass ceiling than those did during his era.

July 8, 2021 at 10:53PM

0
Reply

Unfortunately he is right. The way movies were created a few ago is gone, things change no matter we like it or not.

July 9, 2021 at 4:28AM

0
Reply
avatar
Alexander Coll
Marketing manager
88

This is like the eighth in its history that the movie business was over.

July 9, 2021 at 12:10PM

18
Reply
avatar
David Patrick Raines
Actor/Writer/Director
88

"Diller's main point was that making movies with lasting cultural impact might be finished." That I completely agree with. I think some people are forgetting the point.

July 9, 2021 at 12:13PM

4
Reply

- Coming from a 'suit' who fancied himself as "creative", Diller was more concerned with the bottom line than ever anything original.

July 9, 2021 at 12:42PM

0
Reply
avatar
Bill Aylward
Producer/Director/Guy
1

^ The only correct comment on here.

But let's get one thing clear: Making movies with lasting cultural impact will NEVER be finished if YOU (whoever is reading this) continue to make movies. Period.

What anyone, especially old white men, tell you about the state of the movie making "business" should not have any impact on anyone, ever. As long as people make movies, and are personally impacted by the movies they make, movie making in whatever form it takes will never die. Make it for yourself, not for suits.

July 9, 2021 at 1:01PM

0
Reply
bp
763