Written by Joshua Deale, PR/Marketing Coordinator
ACT I: The relationship between the iconic and legendary entertainment capital of the world, Hollywood, and the iconic and legendary technological capital of the world, Silicon Valley, has undoubtedly grown closer over the last few decades. As the highly lucrative entertainment industry has strategically extended its reach across countless mediums to audiences around the globe, the technology behind this trend has played nearly as equal a role behind the scenes as the talented artists in front of the camera.
Hollywood has had a long-time love affair with the Bay Area. San Francisco has served as the backdrop to hundreds of films (and television series) thanks largely to its unparalleled, picturesque scenery and renowned, eclectic architecture, and infamous streets. Wikipedia provides an extensive list of films if you’re interested.
It’s only natural that as the Bay Area has been transformed by the tech revolution, Hollywood’s portrayals have followed suit. Some notable films over the past decade have even centered around iconic Bay Area regional tech firms and leaders: The Social Network (Facebook), The Internship (Google), and Jobs (the ascension of Apple’s legendary Steve Jobs) are just a few —side note: there are several films about Steve Jobs currently. Plus, there is the modern-day HBO series simply titled, Silicon Valley. Highly acclaimed filmmakers such as George Lucas and Clint Eastwood (also an acclaimed actor) also have deep ties to the Bay Area, as do thousands of entertainers—some megastars. The region also houses many video and production companies. Notably, Pixar (Disney), whose animation studio is based in the east Bay Area city of Emeryville, has created many acclaimed and high-grossing animated feature and short films for over 25 years. And the 25th annualCinequest Film Festival is now in San Jose.
With its historic charm matched with its futuristic innovation and radically new commercial real estate campus environments, the Bay Area will likely be the scene for plenty more feature films and T.V. episodes, while its technology will play a crucial cast and crew member. Perhaps even one day large, white block letters will read S-I-L-I-C-O-N V-A-L-L-E-Y across the region’s hillside.
ACT II: But the relationship between Hollywood and Silicon Valley goes way beyond mere depictions of tech titans of industry and NorCal-based film auteurs. Simply put, it all comes back to tech. Notably, the crucial role of technology is a prime reason The Academy of Arts & Sciences sets aside about 90 seconds of “live” on-air time in each year’s Oscars telecast to honor and acknowledge some key players involved in the less glitz and glam Sci-tech component of filmmaking, which for a myriad of reasons, is a separate celebrative ceremony.
There has long been a symbiotic relationship between the sci-fi creations of Tinseltown and the realities being produced in the Bay Area. The Hollywood and Silicon Valley dream machines run on the same fuel; innovation. As discussed in this compelling Forbes piece, “Five Sci-Fi Gadgets Steve Jobs Has Already Made Obsolete,” Star Trek’s communicator already looks downright primitive compared to the iPhone. And my personal favorite is the Hoverboard. More a joke and bit of social commentary and euphoric craze when it first appeared in 1985’s Back to the Future, it is right now under development as an actual working product in Los Gatos (working prototypes have already been created).
But it’s not just about the technology in front of the cameras. The technology behind the camera is the real story, with much of the special effects wizardry that has revolutionized filmmaking having been created not in Hollywood, but here in the Bay Area. Of course, that topic alone could cover countless blogs and fill a full reference library. No doubt we will continue to see further technological advances allowing for filmmakers to bring previously unimaginable visions to life. But the most interesting action currently taking place at the intersection of entertainment and technology may actually be on the small screen… the really small screen.
And think of the several Silicon Valley-based companies providing streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku and Vudu providing alternatives to the movie theater-going experience. And others like Hulu (LA) and Amazon Prime (Seattle), which have some Bay Area presence. Statista published an intriguing study as of December 2013 that concludes 57% of people prefer watching movies at home, 21% prefer watching in theaters, while 19% had no real preference. Another quick statistic, Nielsen says that Americans in 2013 report owning an average of “four digital devices,” which include HDTVs, DVRs, PCs, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles. And all of this is leading to changing consumption habits.
As consumers radically shift the way that they consume entertainment, these changes all bode well for Silicon Valley. But while the Bay Area may be the epicenter of the gadgetry already in place (ranging from tablet to smartphone and beyond), most of the major players here are also actively leading the charge to deliver the next platform of products. This includes everything from flat or curved-screen television, 3-D (or even 4-D) displays, holographic imagery and interactive virtual reality technologies. An article I highly recommend from Tech Crunch depicts Silicon Valley’s deepening impact on Hollywood, and how it was the “surprise star” at this year’s Sundance film festival. Not to mention, the preparation being made for the launch of driverless cars…
Driverless cars will be on the roads within the next five years. What escapes many is the fact that these will quickly evolve into traveling entertainment/work stations with the same connectivity you currently have sitting at your work desk. In a few years, driverless cars will be roving entertainment centers. We know about Drive-In movie theaters, but how about potential “Drive-Able” movie theaters?
But this is just one piece of an immense jigsaw puzzle; the rise of social media has radically changed the world of marketing and advertising and that holds especially true for the entertainment industry. The Bay Area is also at the center of social media, which has become a vital necessity in the cross-selling, cross-promotion and/or cross-marketing of today’s and even yesterday’s entertainment. I am sure you’ve experienced the many programs, namely Reality T.V. or ESPN, plugging live @Twitter usage in some type of #socialfashion. Facebook has 1.4 billion active monthly users (890 million daily), Twitter has over 288 million monthly active users, YouTube has over 1 billion viewers, and Instagram has 300 million active monthly users, according to Digital Market Ramblings.
But, what is a true love story without deep feelings and connection? Los Angeles is gradually growing its own tech corridors with much of that focus being the intersection of media, entertainment and innovation. This includes everything from the D-I-Y entertainment world like YouTube (headquartered in Los Angeles, but also located in San Francisco—and owned by Google) to the corporate titans like Sony (entertainment in Los Angeles, technology in the Bay). An interesting note, the area commonly referred to as Silicon Beach (spanning the renowned Santa Monica and Venice) is currently about 25% tech tenancy. Many major tech firms born and raised in Silicon Valley also now have a major presence in the Los Angeles area, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo!, Hewlett Packard, and Oracle. Meanwhile, Beats by Dre (acquired by Apple last year), Snapchat, Oculus, Buzzfeed, SpaceX (Google recently invested in this Elon Musk-fronted private space exploration firm) and even Myspace are all examples of tech players with deep ties to both Los Angeles and the Bay Area. And, of course, let’s not forget Seattle-based Microsoft, which remains a major player in both markets.
Some, though not as many, Los Angeles-based companies have positioned themselves on the Bay Area stage, including YouTube (Google), Oculus VR, and popular streaming firm Hulu that now has a small presence in San Francisco as stated earlier. One high profile example would have been Hollywood’s DreamWorks Animation, but which is shutting down its local Bay Area studio/office operation. Though, that was not the result of any regional or technological disconnect, as much as it was a challenging box office environment for animation. The company is also shuttering operations at one of its Glendale, CA facilities, which it is selling. And let us not forget the gaming industry, more closely related to Hollywood than ever—now even featuring celebrities. EA Sports has a strong presence in Northern and Southern California and new players continue to pop up in both places.
ACT III: The two regions will only grow more interconnected in the years ahead. This isn’t about mere geography (though the relative proximity of a one-hour flight doesn’t hurt), but is about the continued and evolving relationship between innovation and creativity, with technology as the rising star of both. Want a telling statistic? In Q4 2014, Los Angeles/Orange County surpassed New York as the third strongest market for venture capital activity (following Silicon Valley and New England). More than $1.223 billion of venture capital poured into Los Angeles and Orange County firms; roughly $1 billion of which went to So Cal tech firms. And what is driving the growth of those firms? It is the merger of media, entertainment and technology. And that wave of growth is not going away any time soon.
There appears only rising interest and enthusiasm for entertainment and technology, and as such, Silicon Valley and Hollywood should forever be joined in harmonious matrimony, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in boom or in bust…..until death do them part. El Fin.
I’d like to acknowledge Garrick Brown for his key Oscar-worthy role in helping make this production.
Do you think that Silicon Valley and Hollywood will maintain a closer relationship ahead?
Joshua is a PR/Marketing Coordinator with DTZ in Northern California and has worked for the company for over 12 years. Prior to his current position, Joshua worked as a Senior Research Analyst for DTZ’s Silicon Valley offices for well over a decade, specializing in the Silicon Valley and Peninsula markets, and assisting in other markets throughout Northern California and Coastal regions.