AMPAS-Funded Projects Include Study On Studio Corporate Mergers

With the 85th Oscars in the history books The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has gotten back to doing what it does the other 364 days of the year. The organization held its annual lunch Monday honoring the $25,000 grant recipients chosen as the 2012 Academy Film Scholars. The 12-year-old program started in 2000 offers the grants to scholars who “stimulate and support the creation of new and significant works of film scholarship about aesthetic, cultural, educational, historical, theoretical or scientific aspects of theatrical motion pictures”. The Academy Grants Committee chaired by PR branch member and marketing exec Buffy Shutt with Set Decorator Rosemary Brandenburg as Vice Chair awarded grants to Dr. Christopher Beach who will write “The  Image On The Screen: Directors, Cinematographers, And The Collaborative Process”  and Dr. Thomas Schatz who will create “Hollywood In The Conglomerate Age” which will look at the effect of corporate mergers in the period  since the 1989 creation of Time Warner and Sony-Columbia. This pair joins 13 other scholars currently working on projects commissioned by the Academy. Shutt said of the 95 proposals assessed by the staff, 12 were forwarded to the committee and these two were chosen.

The program has already produced an impressive array of books which were on display at Preston’s restaurant at Lowe’s Hollywood where the intimate luncheon was held. Among the titles are “Joseph P. Kennedy Presents His Hollywood Years”, “Twentieth Century Fox The Zanuck -Skouras Years 1935-1965”,  “Hollywood Left And Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics”, and RKO Pictures: A Titan Is Born” and several others.

Academy COO Ric Robertson presided over the lunch and helped Shutt present the checks.  With several Academy members present there was much talk about this year’s controversial Oscar show (most seemed to like it better than some critics) as well as other topics including the impending Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Heather Cochran, the Managing Director of the ambitious project that is a co-venture with Los Angeles County Museum Of Art told me they are hitting their financial targets and have virtually completed the design elements for the museum. The architects are due back in town next month and will continue initial work for the building which is planned for a 4th Quarter 2016 opening at this point.

The Academy’s Randy Haberkamp, who participates in the Scholars project also told me they  have firmed their continuing collaboration with the TCM Classic Movie Film Festival opening April 25 in Hollywood and will be presenting a program focusing on aspects of the Tarzan film series including the development of the famous “Tarzan yell”,  a special event devoted to Hollywood Home Movies and a screening of a restored print of the 1949 musical On The Town.

  1. Here’s the “flashes” that AMPAS might have missed during the late 1980s to mid-1990s on through to today: The “mergermania,” M&A frenzies have virtually killed the once-thriving independent studio business, leaving MGM to TEETER and limp along every year (since the late 1980s) and further leave us “creatives” in Hollywood wondering if Sony will soon “pull-the-plug” on its U.S. studio operations if they don’t sell more flat-screen TVs and Play Station video game consoles??!!

    1. You “creatives” aren’t very well-informed, are you? Sony didn’t sell the studio even after the Guber-Peters years. It’s going to hold onto the film/TV units, especially because it needs to bolster the PlayStation business. Here’s what the new CEO Kazuo Hirai told the Wall Street Journal in January 2013 regarding Sony Pictures: “I’ve said this so many times, but those properties are not for sale. A lot of people may say if Sony puts it up for sale, we’d be interested. But that’s different than Sony putting it up for sale. They’re not for sale.”

      1. Time and again I read stuff like this……..

        “It’s going to hold onto the film/TV units, especially because it needs to bolster the PlayStation business”

        How exactly does Sony’s film & TV divisions bolster their Playstation division? You do realize that SPE sells their films & TV shows on Xbox LIve as well don’t you? What is this huge advantage people talk about?

        1. Big companies like to keep their options open. If media changes so that there are more lucrative opportunities to distribute content via online channels such as video game services, Sony has that option available to it. I remember when people said selling music downloads would never take off, and time has proven them wrong.

          The value is there. Last month, Microsoft has been trying to get into scripted TV, and last month, it announced that it’s going to open an entertainment studios to create content for the Xbox. You do realize there are also benefits to bundling and having exclusives, right? Moreover, the PS4 is bigger overseas, which means emerging markets, where the growth is higher. Having content increases the PS4’s appeal.

          Not all of the movies Sony is selling on Xbox Live are immediately available for purchase. Look at Skyfall right now. Other studios do the same thing to Redbox and Netflix.

    2. Thriving? You act as though Hollywood’s greed and shortsightedness had nothing to do with all of this. Remember when UA sold itself to Transamerica and then went bust with Heaven’s Gate?! Now it’s busy shipping off production to places like China for the cheap labor, and when the Chinese learn your techniques, they’ll muscle Hollywood out of the market. Who will be to blame then…

  2. Good article, Pete. This is the work the Academy does the other 364 days of the year that few in the general media cover and the print trades can’t be bothered to note.

  3. Thomas Schatz’s book “The Genius of the System” is an absolute classic, a remarkable work of research and analysis. I look forward to his take on the conglomerate age.

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