Hollywood is reeling. As a cocky young industry it wiped out segments of the entertainment industry like vaudeville. It became a massive industry, changing fashions, creating stars and generating torrents of money. It survived the advent of television by harnessing its power and striking up a partnership with the networks to broadcast its product. In the eighties it had to contend with a new technology - the video. For the first time the consumer had the power to make an infinite number of copies of a film and redistribute it. A whole new, shady industry clamped limpet-like onto the movie business: Piracy.
And yet Hollywood was strong and clever enough to once again not only survive the new technology, but to employ it for its own purposes - to sell movies. Almost overnight video sales - later on DVD - constituted half of a mainstream movie's income.
Then, in the last decade yet another technology became dominant and this time the movie industry was not so invulnerable. Broadband internet made the piracy and proliferation of movies a matter of a few clicks. In short order 'sharing' on the internet wiped out the video industry and with it half of Hollywood's profits. In an industry which worships the bottom line, there are few options left. One area of expansion was in the East, which has a peculiar penchant for sequels of hit movies.
Western audiences, probably more restless, are losing interest in yet another iteration of pre-historic animals trapped in the ice or of a hitman who continues to confound government agencies world-wide. The long romance between ordinary people and Hollywood is waning. And look what is making a comeback: live entertainment.
Live entertainment is impossible to rip, store and forward. Even if a concert, for instance, could be videotaped and the video uploaded online, it would still only be representation of the performance and not the performance itself. As impossible as it would be to coral and stash the performers in a can, so it is to pirate live performances.
The comeback of live concerts, theatre etc. is easily proved. Just go to the website of an online ticket reservation service and observe the variety of events offered.
Online technology has already altered the music industry, forcing stars to hit the road again on tour to make money from live performances. This effect is also at work with lesser known artists. And it is, to a large degree, those very same online ticket-booking services which has created a launching pad for newer and more courageous artists. The entertainment consumer has, right on his PC screen, more variety available than ever before. The experimenting, daring artist has as much chance of grabbing the attention of the public as a multi-million rand extravaganza.
Online ticket reservation services also provided the impetus for the proliferation of smaller, private venues and community theatres. While ticket sales at the movie box office are plummeting, patrons are turning to other forms of entertainment - much of it, ironically, of the traditional kind.
Movies are in essence image and sound. These are easily replicated. High definition screens and the most basic entry-level home theatre system produce images and sound which are easily comparable with that of most movie theatres. Live theatre and concerts offer an authentic visual and audial experience which cannot be translated to video.
Live entertainment has another unique benefit - the atmosphere created by the interaction between performer and audience. Coupled with that is the authenticity of the experience. No 3D experience can recreate a piece of furniture like, for instance, seeing a real chair on stage.
Movies have the advantage of creating illusions of setting and action. It can depict a million orcs attacking a castle. So it is not without its unique benefits. But it can, and will in future, be duplicated and disseminated. This is not a threat faced by live entertainment. Just to be sure - check with an online ticket booking service.