Hollywood was not built in a day. It can be said that it was built case by case - or rather - shaken. At least that is the approach taken by Gerald F. Phillips, a top Los Angeles based entertainment lawyer who has written, amongst other things, his account of Hollywood's formation in the "Five Cases That Shook Hollywood" article that has appeared in the Los Angeles Lawyer. The highly insightful article details famous cases that formed the "entertainment business," a term that Phillips feels is appropriate for Hollywood. From the famed Paramount case (officially called U.S. v. Paramount Pictures, et al) where anti-trust laws were put into play in a 1948 Supreme Court decision that brought an end to the studio system of classic cinema, to the cable disputes and to the much murmured about U.S. Constitution and its freedom of speech charter, all these cases (and many more) have had a tremendous effect on how the entertainment industry operates, as well as creative implications that have resulted.
Phillips ventured into the entertainment industry for what he refers to as "historical" reasons. Having a father who served as Vice President and General Counsel for Paramount Pictures, Phillips was surrounded by the industry. But even before that, four families arrived from Hungary with the surnames of Klein, Rosenbluh, Fox and Zukor. These families intertwined by marriage and eventually gave birth to Fox Film Corporation, Famous Player-Laskey Company and Paramount. The latter two have since entered another union, a merger. Today, motion pictures continue to be part of the Phillip's family legacy for the fifth generation. Both Gerald F. Phillips' son and grandson are involved.
Since the time of Hollywood's initial formation, however, some things have changed as far as law is concerned. "It was always difficult, but it is becoming an even more difficult industry to practice in. There are more litigious areas than there ever was before. However, the bright side is that more people are starting to use mediation and arbitration to resolve their disputes," says Phillips. When asked if he feels that films have become more of a business than an art through time, Phillips replies decisively. "Unfortunately those who are involved in making pictures are more similar to business men [than artists]. They are not the artistic people which they were years ago, yet they are the ones determining which pictures to make. They don't make a picture based on how good it will be to watch, but rather what the public -- and especially the younger public, will support."
Despite the times and changes one thing will remain certain: "Some pictures will find favor with the public, and other pictures will not find favor with the public," asserts Phillips. Perhaps another thing that will remain constant is the persistent legal struggle throughout Hollywood. Cases like the Paramount one are not exclusive to the past. With today's immense technological advancements and especially with the emergence of the Internet, piracy and copyright infringement has become one of the biggest struggles. "If you want pictures to be made, you have to pay for them. You pay for books... So you should pay for Motion Pictures, be it at the theatres, or on the Internet," says Phillips. Currently lawmakers along with the copyright office are working around the clock forming new legislations to deal with Internet Piracy.
But according to Phillips, the most important case, at least from a sociological point of view, was the "Burstyn Case," which stated that motion pictures are protected by the first amendment. "But I do think that if it wasn't the 'Burstyn Case' it would have been some other case," says Phillips.
Despite the numerous challenges, including the increasing problem with Internet Piracy, Phillips remains optimistic about the future of the film industry. "I think that the industry will be here, will survive, and do very well," he says, "Pictures will be delivered to theatres electronically, people will want to go, and there will be beautiful, comfortable theatres." Despite this and considering the current price of a movie ticket, the question on everybody's mind is: Will the prices ever go down?
"Motion Pictures ARE very expensive today. They used to be 25 cents. But today huge salaries are being paid, huge costs are involved. The expenses involved in making motion pictures today are far greater than they were before. And it is not only due to inflation. What has to go into a motion picture today is much more costly. All these special effects are very expensive and the stars are getting paid much more."
As far as legal conflicts go, Phillips believes that avoidance of lengthy and costly legal battles is the best solution. As an active member of various arbitration and mediation organizations he has spoken on mediation and arbitration at Universal Pictures, Dreamworks, Warner Bros., Columbia Pictures, Metro Golden Mayer, Disney Studios and many other companies in the entertainment sector. Phillips hopes that his grandchildren will carry on the family tradition in mediation, arbitration and the entertainment industry.