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March 1, 2009 4:47 PM

Media

Truly La-La Land

The country is in the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. In the media business, companies like Viacom and Sony have had to institute massive layoffs. But in Hollywood last week, the Oscars felt like business as usual. Sure,...

The country is in the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. In the media business, companies like Viacom and Sony have had to institute massive layoffs. But in Hollywood last week, the Oscars felt like business as usual. Sure, there were more cream-colored dresses on the red carpet — cream , of course being the safest color choice for a movie star who’s concerned about being perceived as ostentatious. And yes, Ed Limato and Larry Gagosian canceled their annual parties. But the parties I went to were as glitzy as ever, and there were more of them than there were last year, when the writers’ strike put a damper on things.

Part of the reason for this is that the movies being released now are actually overperforming. Box office is up this year so far, about 15 percent. As producer Lynda Obst put it to me, “Right now, the movie business is the best investment in town.”

But the reason things were so carefree last week might also be that the entire culture of Los Angeles is more adaptable to our current economic malaise than New York. The actresses Kate Bosworth and Rhona Mitra were explaining this at a party last week, pointing out that many people in entertainment work from job to job while New York is essentially a 9 to 5 culture. “We’re used to downtime,” Mitra said. “So this isn’t so different for us.”

Of course, people on the East Coast are beginning to feel the shift themselves. In January, Tina Brown wrote a column for the Daily Beast, in which she stated that for many people she knew, the new reality was not chronic unemployment but the “Gig Economy.” She defined this as “a bunch of free-floating projects, consultancies and part-time bits and pieces [people] try and stitch together to make what they refer to wryly as ‘the Nut’ — the sum that allows them to hang on to the apartment, the health care policy, the baby sitter and the school fees.”

By Brown’s estimation, the psychological reality Mitra describes is beginning to take hold, albeit slowly. So it’s new, and dark to us. And it might explain why the Oscars were fun, while New York Fashion Week wasn’t.
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