How media became a commodity

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201009091025 How media became a commodity

We kept meaning to link to this fascinating post by blogging/internet consultant Dan Blank about the disparate ways Disney and MGM treated their legacies, beginning with a harrowing account of the legendary MGM auction of 1970, an event equivalent to the burning of the Alexandrian library or the retreat from Leningrad in terms of movie memorabilia:

In 1970 MGM auctioned off its entire history of costumes and props. Warehouses of items including costumes from The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, and countless other items worn by stars such as Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Fred Astaire, Susan Hayward, Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, and others in some of their most famous roles. Dorothy’s dress? $1,000. Cowardly Lion’s costume? $2,400. They also sold off their historic back lots, and flattened sets used in classic MGM films. That land is now filled with faceless condos, turning history into real estate.

Stories of the auction are scattered across the web. One person describes that a friend of his bought a large container of unknown costumes in the sale. Within it were two of the Lollipop Guild costumes from Wizard of Oz. This was not historic preservation, these items were sold in bulk, unmarked. How many treasures were lost in this manner? What if the person who bought it didn’t recognize them as Wizard of Oz costumes?


At the same time, Disney was hiring the legendary and beloved Dave Smith as their archivist, and turning their old crap lying around into IP, and collectibles. Or as Jim Hill put it:

[this] is why the Walt Disney Archives is now considered the model for corporate archives all over the country.


The fallout is brutal. Today MGM, in its day the greatest and grandest of studios with the most shining, brilliant library, is a hollow skull of a name that other moguls kick around for sport, and even getting the financing for a surefire hit like a Hobbit movie is beyond the reach of whoever owns the name.

And Disney is Disney.

Blank has a few takeaways, including It Takes Decades To Build a Brand, Moments to Destroy It. We doubt that given the Hoarders-like mindset of most folks in the comics industry, this isn’t too likely but…you never know. Heed the past.

Comments

  1. Great post, and a note of two items that I know about dating further back:

    * The Cecil B. DeMille Ten Commandments set was simply buried in the desert rather then dismantled and preserved at the studio. That was 1923.

    * A few years later, during the burning of Atlanta scene in Gone With The Wind, RKO was using various older set pieces to burn down in the background including the gates from King Kong.

  2. And then there’s the time Warner Bros. cleaned out their animation archives… just carted it off to a landfill. No auction, no “if you want something, grab it”.

  3. Ha ha, I live in one of the condo complexes that the article notes once belonged to MGM! I understand that the lake on the property was where a scene in “Meet Me in St. Louis” with Judy Garland was filmed.

    The main studio, though, is still there (now Sony), along with the Culver Studios which was formerly the site of the Hal Roach Studios, then Selznick, and Desilu Productions. So fortunately a lot of that film legacy is still an important part of the local area — the footprint is just a bit smaller.

  4. Thanks so much for mentioning my post, and for the comments!
    -Dan

  5. Η εταιρεία μας δημιουργήθηκε το 2005 με σκοπό να δώσουμε τις ιδέες μας και την εμπειρία μας σε όλα αυτά που αφορούν τα δάπεδα, laminate, στις παιδικές και επαγγελματικές μοκέτες.

    Η άριστη ποιότητα στα είδη μας ,δάπεδα, laminate, μοκέτες και η μεγάλη πείρα των τεχνικών μας στην τοποθέτηση για τα δάπεδα, μας έφεραν στην πρώτη θέση των εταιριών που ασχολούνται με τα είδη μας.

    Με τις παιδικές μοκέτες δημιουργήσαμε ένα παραμυθένιο κόσμο για τα παιδιά και με τις επαγγελματικές μοκέτες κάναμε τη διαφορά στο χώρο σας.

    Αν θέλετε να ταξιδεύει το βήμα σας ανάλαφρα, δεν έχετε παρά να προχωρήσετε μαζί μας πάνω στα δάπεδα,laminate και τις μοκέτες που σας προτείνουμε.

    | ΔΑΠΕΔΑ,LAMINATE,ΜΟΚΕΤΕΣ |

  6. John Hynds says:

    The once Mighty MGM fell harder & lower than any other studio thanks to one man… Kirk Kirkorian. A corporate raider who summarily asset stripped MGM of everything, including the kitchen sink, to fund his Reno & Las Vegas gambling den empire. All Hollywood studios went through tough times in the 60s; however 20 Century Fox was lucky enough have the Zanuck s & strike it rich with ‘The Sound of Music’ & was purchased later Marvin Davis & then R. Murdoch; Paramount had big success in ’69-’70 with ‘Love Story’ & ‘The Godfather’ & was purchased by Gulf & Western, Warners was purchased by 7 Arts & Universal by MCA hitting pay dirt with the mega ‘Jaws. If MGM had have been purchased by an industrial conglomerate in the 60s this sad story may have been different. Probably only RKO had a more tragic demise. It was MGM’s backlot that was the saddest loss, even more so than the Fox lot sell off to Alcoa.

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