Guy Adams: Hollywood reaches for the begging bowl

Los Angeles Notebook
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The Independent Online

A long way from Wall Street, in the town that invented Gordon Gekko and still functions on the basis that greed really is good, Hollywood's big beasts are reeling from America's stock-market crisis. Take Tom Cruise. His mini-studio, United Artists, is now tipped to lose its $500m credit facility from Merrill Lynch, following that investment house's takeover by Bank of America. Or Steven Spielberg. He's still waiting (after two months) for India's media giant Relianceto sign its promised $500m cheque allowing the launch of his much-trumpeted production firm.

Independent film producers are also dropping like flies. New Line has gone. Warner Brothers just shut three of its "mini-majors"; Harvey Weinstein is reduced, according to Tuesday's Hollywood Reporter, to touring the Far East in search of capital. Everyone's problem is the same: film-making is a speculative business, oiled by ready supplies of easy money which traditionally comes – directly or otherwise – from bloated City finance houses such as Lehman Brothers.

Now it's dried up, possibly for ever. And though optimists note that the Great Depression coincided neatly with Hollywood's "golden age", arguing that this proves the film industry can remain vibrant in a time of recession, I wouldn't be so sure. In the 1930s, cinema was the only show in town. Today, it must compete with a slew of rivals. And that's a battle it's losing. As this month's Vanity Fair proclaimed, modern television is sharper, better and more watchable than today's indulgent and ponderous films.

Sunday night's Emmy Awards will provide testament to this trend, showcasing a vibrant TV industry that greeted autumn with a cavalcade of returning hits (Mad Men, The Office, House, Californication) and expensive new premieres such as Fringe, 90210 and Life on Mars. By comparison, the best the film industry could muster was a slew of over-long studio staples (Indiana Jones, and Batman) comic book adaptations (Iron Man) and extended TV shows (Sex and the City). Take those box-office hits out of the equation, and it had one of the worst financial seasons in living memory.

As for the Emmy ceremony, it will take place at the Nokia theatre, in the heart of Hollywood. It's a new venue for the event, and one that bears witness to the way the entertainment business is headed.

Hallowe'en queen

Six weeks shy of Hallowe'en, fancy-dress shops in West Hollywood are ordering lorry loads of Sarah Palin costumes. Retailers say they're selling like hot cakes to the local gay community. I've no idea what this tells us about the presidential election – but I do know what part of town I'll now be visiting, come the evening of 31 October.