4 Abusive Hollywood Business Practices That Would Get A CEO Frog Marched on CNN

Celebrities, featured, Film

Everyone loves a good villain. And in the movies these days, more often than not the villain is a Big Business CEO. In the film Syriana, for example, the bad guy was not a group of terrorists or an enemy country. It was Big Oil that was trying to manipulate oil prices with terrorism, wars and so forth.

There definitely is no shortage of Big Business abuses in the real world, to be sure. But I started to wonder – Hollywood is a Big Business itself. So how does it conduct itself in its business and personnel affairs? Not so great. In fact, those people get away with stuff that would get a Big Oil exec publicly humiliated on CNN and arrested.

Examples? Here are a few I dug up:

1. Hollywood Accounting Practices Are Corrupt and Regularly Screw Actors Out of Hard Earned Cash

Actor David Prouse was the very tall dude who wore the Darth Vader costume in the original Star Wars trilogy. He recently stated in an interview that Return of the Jedi was shown on paper to officially have never made a dime of profit. Yes, that’s right. The film, ranked 15th all time in US box office history, that made more than $500 million worldwide, only breaks even on paper.

How is this possible? Really twisted Hollywood accounting. Studios usually set up an individual corporation for each film they make. Like any corporation, it figures its profits by deducting expenses from revenues. The studio then usually charges the film corporation a fee that overshadows the box office revenue of the movie. So, on the books, the movie ‘loses’ money or just breaks even. This means there are no profits to pay out to the actors. Sorry David, we’re just not able to pay you this quarter….

In the Jedi case, it sounds like the young, naive Prouse agreed to a share of NET profits, not GROSS profits. And therefore, Warner Brothers has been able to weasel out of paying him a dime for 30 years. In the article, Prouse warns young actors to beware of one-sided Hollywood contracts that try to take advantage of your youthful ignorance and screw you out of your money.

Wait, there’s more! This is not an outlier. It’s a routine Hollywood practice. The balance sheet for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, ended up with a $167 million loss. It made a freaking billion dollars globally! It’s one of the top grossing films of the last 10 years, people. They managed to turn it into a ‘money loser’ by charging $350 million for distribution, advertising and interest fees to the movie corporation. Check out the balance sheet for Phoenix:

In Hollywood, corporations thrive by maximizing expenses to record a loss, so they can screw actors out of money. And they think Big Oil is corrupt?

2. Hollywood Rapes Local Movie Theaters on Profits….Hey, Enjoy That 6 Dollar Popcorn

Admit it. You’ve shelled out 12 bucks for your movie ticket, then 6 bucks for your popcorn and 4 bucks for your Coke. Then you rail on the SOBs running the movie theater for charging you so much. Sorry. The real wallet rapists reside in the mansions in Hollywood. On the first weekend a movie comes out, the studio usually forces an 80/20 split on the theater. On the next weekend, it might be 70/30. On some huge movies such as Avatar, the word is that they can be released with a staggeringly awful 90/10 split. Of course, not many films do big business on the opening weekend. So the theater has little choice but to gouge you for your Milk Duds if they want to continue to be a going concern.

The studios truly are making an offer the theater can’t refuse. If the theater says ‘screw you,’ the studio doesn’t have to lease the movie to that theater. So, munch on that 6 buck popcorn with a bit more sympathy for the theater owner, ok?

3. Hollywood Marketing Whores Manipulate and Write Fake Reviews To Get You To Pay 12 Bucks to Watch Crap

How many times have you seen a trailer for a movie, and you see the ad take a word out of context from a review, with ellipses, such as “…stunning…” , or “…shocking…”? There is a good chance you are being lied to by amoral Hollywood marketing scum. You know of course that that could easily have been the reviewer saying, “What a stunning piece of trash this film is,” or “I’m shocked anyone would drive 12 miles and watch this dreck.”

What might really shock you is that Hollywood marketing departments do this sort of crap with shocking regularity. One recent action film got a review that stated it was “hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining.” The ad said the reviewer called it “hysterically…entertaining.”

Another really disgusting Hollywood practice is to buy movie critics with free film screenings, yummy food, visits to the set, sports event tickets, and other whorish behavior that would get a CEO or salesman fired. The cheap critics who fall for this crap are delightfully called “quote whores.” One quote whore named Earl Dittman claims to be a film critic for Wireless Magazine, which does not even exist. But his fawning reviews have managed to get quoted in several movie ads. The marketing whores in Hollywood just don’t give a damn.

4. Hollywood Filmmakers Abuse Low Paid Workers and Interns

Top Hollywood talent gets paid $5-10 million per film. Meanwhile, lowly production assistants (PAs) are the Hollywood version of ditch diggers. Although, ditch diggers probably are better paid. There are PAs for everything – cameras, costumes, office, art department, as well as gofers and so on. Most of them are young, trying to break into Hollywood, and almost all of them have horrifying tales of abuse on the job.

One PA told a story recently about being ordered to run into a burning building to deliver scripts. Not fake burning, but really burning. Another was shrieked at because she failed to bring back enough tortilla chips for the staff. “How #$#$# stupid are you?” the production coordinator yelled at her.

In September, two former interns who worked on Black Swan sued Fox Searchlight for alleged improper use of their services during filming. They claim that the studio violated federal and state wage laws. They are trying to end what they term “the studio’s improper use of interns.” One of the interns said he did nothing but make coffee, clean bathrooms and take lunch orders for no pay.

Sexual abuse is commonplace. A 22 year-old PA was fired last year after it came out that an ESPN baseball analyst had an affair with her.

In the zillionaire world of Hollywood, PAs are paid a meager $10 an hour on average. Sometimes they are paid minimum wage. And some producers won’t pay PAs at all.

So, the next time you see a film where a Big Business CEO is cat juggling, kicking a puppy or worse, remember some of what goes on in Tinseltown every day.

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