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Moving to Hollywood

 Friday, 28th April, 2017

Sam Radclyffe, United Talent Agency, shares his insight on the shifting landscape of telly across the pond.

The Hospital Club is moving to Hollywood, and they’re not the only ones.

The divide between northern and Southern California is traditionally deep and hotly debated. Are you more Berkeley or Beverly Hills? Sweater weather or desert seeker? Giants or Dodgers? But there are signs that - even if sporting rivalries prevail - two great industries from NorCal and SoCal are moving closer together.

Tech giants of the Bay Area are expanding into the movie business and its real estate. Netflix recently leased an entire five-story building in Hollywood, bringing its total space to more than 500,000 square feet including multiple buildings at Sunset Bronson Studios, former home of Warner Bros. Studios. The home of Amazon Studios is in Santa Monica, whilst Hulu have space for their original shows at historic Culver Studios. There has been such an influx of media companies and digital startups that LA’s West Side is dubbed “Silicon Beach”.

But it’s more than just geography. This year’s Oscar wins for Amazon and Netflix marked the first time that any streaming service has triumphed at the Academy Awards. Amazon made its mark with Manchester by the Sea winning best original screenplay and best lead actor, whilst UTA client Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman won best foreign-language film. Netflix continued its success in the documentary categories with a best short-subject documentary win for The White Helmets, following previous nominations for The Square, Virunga, What Happened, Miss Simone?, and Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.

And there is no sign of the streaming giants going anywhere soon. This year’s Sundance Film Festival was particularly prolific for the two leading streamers as they fought to outspend each other. The nominations for Manchester by the Sea (including Best Picture – another first for a streaming service) were a timely reminder of the potential success a Sundance purchase can bring. Two UTA sales this year highlighted the continuing willingness of Amazon and Netflix to move on the most popular titles. Amazon picked up the rights to The Big Sick, splashing more than the previous year’s Manchester total on the most hotly anticipated title of the festival starring Kumail Nanjiani and produced by Judd Apatow. Meanwhile, Netflix secured rights to Bryan Fogel’s explosive examination of illegal sports doping in Icarus, one of the biggest buys ever for a nonfiction title at the festival.

The signs are clear – change is afoot. There are new arrivals, and led by two companies set up to challenge Blockbuster and to sell books online, they are making waves. Hollywood has weathered plenty of storms throughout its long history, many driven by technological change. But unlike the VHS, this one feels like it’s here to stay.