Hollywood is Dead.

Exhibit 1: An independently-produced Christian film, Fireproof, opens at #4 in the nation and grosses $33 million from a half-million dollar budget.

Fireproof opened at No. 4 in the nation last September, beating out Spike Lee’s Miracle of Saint Anna.
“Monday morning after the opening weekend of Fireproof, we got a call from one of the guys at the Hollywood Reporter,” recalled Stephen Kendrick, who co-wrote and produced Fireproof. “And he said, ‘Who in the world are you, and what in the world is Fireproof?’ Of course he used much more salty speech.”
“I told him we’re a church and he says, ‘You’re a church?’ He says, ‘Do you realize what you just did? I’ve been tracking every movie that’s coming out. That’s my job. I know how much they cost. I know who’s in them; I know the calculations as to what they’re probably going to do in the theaters. Fireproof was not even on our radar screen.'”

You can read or listen to the full story at NPR.org.

Exhibit 2: Escape From City 17. Using $500 and one video game, a couple canucks produce a short action thriller with production values as good as blockbusters from a few years ago.

Exhibit 3: The RED Digital CameraCanon 5D Mark II. Suddenly, independent filmmakers can get into the cinema-quality high definition game for $17,000 $3,000 outright, rather than the $3,000 a day it can cost to rent “professional” digital video cameras. While the RED has already changed the game in digital cinema, the Canon, at less than 1/5 of an already cheap price, is even more exciting. See this amazing short film by Vincent Laforet if you need convincing. Granted, he used a bunch of expensive lenses, but the entire thing was done with a $3,000 consumer-targeted digital camera.

Hollywood won’t completely vanish, but cheap digital film-making will democratize mass entertainment like blogging has democratized news. It’s already started, actually; internet video makes TV comedy almost irrelevant. Sure, there are a few gems out there, like The Daily Show and The Office, but for many, CollegeHumor, Derrick Comedy, and Dr. Horrible are all the comedy we need. Big media has enjoyed a cushy existence up until now, with expensive barriers to production and distribution, but the barriers are crumbling, and Hollywood needs to reshape itself if it wants to survive.