America's Corporate Art: The Studio Authorship of Hollywood Motion Pictures

By Jerome Christensen | Go to book overview

6 Post-Warners Warners
Batman and JFK; You’ve Got Mail (1989-1998)

i. Mind the Gap

The space between the last chapter, which ends with the detachment of the famous WB from reference to any Warner brother, living or dead, and this chapter, which begins with an analysis of the use to which the inventive and persuasive Steve Ross put Warners pictures as he refined the art of the deal, represents a leap across twenty years of Hollywood history, which are associated with the emergence and dissolution of the so-called New Hollywood. Those turbulent decades were characterized by the dispersal of authority, by the blossoming of a “renaissance” of smart, stylish, and subversive motion pictures brought to the screen by star directors, such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Bob Rafelson, and Peter Bogdanovich, and by the countervailing force of corporate consolidation of multiple entertainment platforms, the emergence of the blockbuster mentality, and the rise to preeminence of the marketing model of filmmaking under the concept of the high concept, which presupposes, as Justin Wyatt has argued, that “the logic of the marketplace is clearly the author of [a movie’s] style.”1

The academic historiography of the period continues to debate the relative continuity of the New Hollywood with the Hollywood of the studio era or even with the global extravaganzas that Columbia, Warners, and Paramount have since become. For our purposes, it is important to keep in mind the picture that Thomas Schatz saw in 1993 as he looked out on a landscape where the acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in 1985, the formation of Time Warner in 1989, and the takeover of MCA by Japan’s Matsushita Electric Industrial Company in 1990 loomed large. Schatz concluded that the refashioning of the industry was not merely a matter of new production and marketing strategies; it involved the conglomeration of film companies into larger entertainment corporations and of entertainment corporations into global media giants. A major reorientation had occurred as “the vertical integration of classical Hollywood, which ensured a closed indus

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