When Richard Greenfield says: ”3Disaster: American Families Just Say No to 3D…When Will the Novelty of 3D Wear Off Overseas?” and “The American Consumer is Rejecting 3D,” Hollywood listens.  His most recent pronouncement on the death of 3D was repeated by no less than the Times of London, New York and Los Angeles, not to mention the Hollywood trades and even KCRW.  His analysis can affect how the studios behave and how their parent companies perform on Wall Street.

But who the hell is Richard Greenfield?  No, not Rick Springfield (“Jessie’s Girl”), Richard Springfield.  Frankly, in some ways they’re about equally qualified to make global statements about Hollywood.  At least Rick actually worked in the business, not to mention a history of depression and alcohol abuse that could explain delusions of grandeur.

OK, I’m having a little fun here.  Richard Greenfield is a well-known and oft-quoted New York-based entertainment stock analyst now working at BTIG Research, the research arm of the brokerage firm BTIG.  And as an analyst, he’s proven adept at predicting the long-term stock prices of broadcasting and media companies.  According to his bio, “Greenfield was named a top stock picker in both the 2007 Wall Street Journal ‘Best on the Street’ (see footnote) and 2007 Financial Times/Starmine surveys, and was cited as top boutique analyst in 2007 by Institutional Investor magazine.”

But perhaps being able to get the studio heads on the phone makes him think he somehow has Hollywood down pat.  Which would be amazing because god knows Hollywood doesn’t have Hollywood down pat.  And instead of calling him on it, everyone keeps repeating his dictums as if they’re gospel.  I don’t get it.

Look, these days, there are no “studios” – they’re all part of media firms that are huge, multi-faceted, multi-national corporations.  And the more micro the statement about these businesses (especially when it comes to vagaries of public taste in entertainment), the more you can bet you’ll be proven wrong.  Which isn’t to say he is wrong about 3D (frankly I hope he’s right – even the “new “3D” gives this old man a headache).  But to make specific statements using such incendiary language with such limited data is just, well, what is it?   I guess it’s consistent with the smoke and mirrors nature (figuratively and literally) of The Business itself.  Take the case of the aforementioned 3D report.

That is a pretty strong statement about a thing that’s been around (this time around) for three (count ‘em!) years.

  • Is interest leveling off?
  • Were predictions over-zealous by people who have a vested interest in the success of the technology?
  • Were the studios stupid about trying to charge more for 3D movies?  Have they made some really terrible films banking on 3D to bring people in despite they’re crappy concepts and implementation?

Hell yes.  But 3D is still making tons of money, not just as much as some would have hoped/predicted.  So shouldn’t the headline be “3D leveling off domestically…does it spell trouble for the studios?”  BTW, for a more reasonable assessment about why 3D isn’t all that, read Mark Harris’ 6/24/11 Entertainment Weekly article “Honk If You’re Sick of 3D!”

Greenfield’s latest pronouncements are just his latest overstep.  The worst example was his 2009 condemnation of Pixar’s “Up,” saying: “We doubt younger boys will be that excited by the main character,” referring to the movie’s 78-year-old protagonist, adding that the beginning of the film (the only part he saw) was “somewhat slow.”  Is he a movie critic or an analyst?  Apparently, not much of either since a) the beginning of “Up” was lovely if not exactly kid-bait and b) the movie went on to make $731 million worldwide at the box office and Disney’s stock is doing just fine, thank you very much.

In his defense, Greenfield admitted his mistake.  But the damage was done.   Partially in the wake of his dire assessment (and the repetition of it by the media), Disney’s stock dropped to its lowest point in the last five years.

At the end of the day, my criticism really isn’t of Greenfield but aimed at the journalists and executives who take his word as emmis (that’s Yiddish for the truth).  When it comes to Hollywood, William Goldman’s pronouncement in “Adventures in the Screen Trade” all those years ago still holds true – Nobody Knows Anything.   And that includes people on Wall Street, Main Street and behind the studio gates.

Except for the geniuses at Pixar, I guess.  They clearly know something the rest of us don’t, god love them.

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* It should be noted that they only list the top five and that he as not among them.  In that year, I do know that if you had followed his firms advice to buy Blockbuster stock, you’d be pissed. But nobody’s perfect.

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