Beyond Future Imperfect – Part 6: Arts and Entertainment No One’s Going to Be Interested

We’re down to the final installment as we speak. Luckily, for us this is the fun post in this series since it pertains to the arts and entertainment, which is a pretty big range. You have sports and games, which is a rather unpredictable realm since people tend to bet on sports. And you never know which game is going to be popular. You have media like newspaper and magazines as well as radio, TV, and Internet. You have TV which is used for news, shows, and seeing the world as your heart desires without leaving your living room. You have literature and books that have shaped the course of generations. You have movies that are among the most popular forms of entertainment for generations which explains why TCM appeals to multiple demographics. And finally, you have music which always existed but with the Edison phonograph, it’s huge business. Nevertheless, these art forms always had their critics and people who thought such breakthroughs were fads that’ll be gone in a short time. But they were wrong. So for the last time this series, I bring you my final installment of Beyond Future Imperfect.

Sports? You’ve Been Hit in the Head Too Many Times


Yes, basketball is just another new game. Of course, never mind that it’s one of the most popular sports in the world with professional leagues. And the fact that people do brackets on March Madness every year.

“Poor build. Very skinny and narrow. Ended the ’99 season weighing 195 pounds and still looks like a rail at 211. Looks a little frail and lacks great physical stature and strength. Can get pushed down more easily than you’d like. Lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush. Lacks a really strong arm. Can’t drive the ball down the field and does not throw a really tight spiral. System-type player who can get exposed if he must ad-lib and do things on his own.” — Tom Brady’s scouting report for the 2000 NFL Draft (Guess who helped the Patriots win 4 Super Bowls. Nevertheless, he’s still a jerk.)

“Possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation.” – early scouting report on NFL coach Vince Lombardi. (Today the Super Bowl trophy is named after him.)

“Taking the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and converting him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things I ever heard.” — Tris Speaker, baseball hall of famer, talking about Babe Ruth, 1919. (Apparently, Babe Ruth’s batting record made him a larger than life figure in the 1920s. And his record stood for 34 years until broken by Hank Aaron.)

“Huh. Another new game.”—-Frank Mahan, upon hearing of Basketball (You mean a game that will become one of the most popular sports on the entire planet?)

“Just so-so in center field.” – New York Daily News, after the premiere of Willie Mays, 1951. (Willie Mays is one of the best baseball players of all time.)

Games? Got No Time for That

“Why would anyone want to play a game that has no winner?” –Publisher who rejected Dungeons & Dragons (which is a rather popular game among fantasy nerds.)

“People won’t want to play these electronic games for more than a week, not once we start selling pinball machines for the home,” – Gus Bally, Arcade Inc., 1979. (Uh, newsflash, video games are now a multi-billion dollar industry in the 21st century.)

Print Media? Who Cares?

“A short-lived satirical pulp.”– TIME, writing off MAD magazine in 1956. (MAD Magazine is still around and is about half a century old.)

“Come on, Stan, people hate spiders. They’re creepy. And everybody knows that teenagers are sidekicks, not superheroes. This Spider-Man idea just won’t sell.” — Martin Goodman, founder of Marvel Comics (paraphrased by Stan Lee), 1962. (Spiderman would become one of the most famous and popular Marvel superheroes ever. Cue 54 years later, and he’s still enormously popular around the world.)

Web Media? Seriously, There’s an App for That?

“The subscription model of buying music is bankrupt. I think you could make available the Second Coming in a subscription model and it might not be successful.” Steve Jobs — Rolling Stone, Dec. 3, 2003 (Uh, Steve, have you ever heard of Netflix? So maybe the subscription model doesn’t work for music.)

“Think about it: You cannot pay the rent posting videos on YouTube.” — Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, 2007. (Maybe not, but it’s made a shitload of money for advertisers.)

Books? Who Reads Them?


Seems like children weren’t very into witches and wizards. So how JK Rowling managed to publish a series of books about a kid in a wizarding school that attracted a generation of fans is beyond me. Actually it’s not.

“If you believe it is a work of genius, then you may lose a thousand pounds.” — Stanley Unwin, giving permission to publish a work that everyone in the publishing house feared would lose money. (His son believed the same thing but wanted to publish it anyway. The work was Lord of the Rings.)

“Children just aren’t interested in witches and wizards anymore.”-an anonymous publishing executive to J.K. Rowling in 1996. (Yeah, despite that what this executive just turned down is the first book in the Harry Potter series. A series which consisted of 7 books, 8 movies, and millions of merchandise and royalties.)

“The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed…We have little more to say in reprobation or in recommendation of this absurd book…Mr. Melville has to thank himself only if his horrors and his heroics are flung aside by the general reader, as so much trash belonging to the worst school of Bedlam literature — since he seems not so much unable to learn as disdainful of learning the craft of an artist.”— Henry F. Chorley, reviewing Moby-Dick (Boy, did this guy underestimate one of the greatest works in American literature.)

“I’m sorry, Mr Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” – The San Francisco Examiner, rejecting a submission by Rudyard Kipling in 1889. (Kipling is one of the most famous authors of the English language of all with works like The Jungle Book, Kim, “Gunga Din,” “Rikki Tikki Tavi,” and The Man Who Would be King.)

“You’ll never make any money out of children’s books” – Advice to JK Rowling from Barry Cunningham, editor at Bloomsbury Books, 1996. (She made a shitload of money off Harry Potter.)

Television? Just a Box of Plywood and a Screen


Some said that television was impossible. Others said it was only a fad that wouldn’t last. So how did we get from those old fashioned TVs to this then? My point.

“While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.” — Lee DeForest, inventor. (Commercially and financially it’s the ultimate juggernaut.)

“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” – -Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946 (Today TV is very much alive and well as we all see.)

“TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it.” from the New York Times, 1939. (Logical, but completely wrong.)

“Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” — Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948. (Uh, some flash in the pan television turned out to be since it’s still around.)

“Television? The word is half Latin and half Greek. No good can come of it.” C. P. Scott. (Oh, yes it can.)

“I will believe in the 500-channel world only when I see it.” – Sumner Redstone, Chairman, Viacom and CBS, 1994. (Man, does he have any idea on how many channels there are nowadays?)

Movies? Just a Fad


Sure Gary Cooper is happy that Clark Gable got the lead in Gone With the Wind and not him. Still, why MGM didn’t ask Gable to play Rhett Butler first is my question since he was born to play that role. Nevertheless, this film earned millions at the box office, won several Oscars, and is seen as movie classic people still watch multiple times. You have to love this movie.

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” — H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927. (Ironically, Warner Brothers was the company that released The Jazz Singer later that year, which changed the motion picture industry forever. Sound movies have been made ever since. Nevertheless, the transition wasn’t as easy as most people think it is.)

“I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.” — Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone With the Wind.” (To be fair, Cooper was right to turn down the role of Rhett Butler but not for the reasons he thought at the time. Most people agree Clark Gable was essentially born to play Rhett Butler, a role of a lifetime that gave him everlasting fame that he’s still remembered to this day. As for Gone With the Wind, well, it’s one of the most successful and critically acclaimed movies of all time that continues to be adored by people all over the world over generations.)

“Can’t sing, can’t act, slightly bald – can dance a little.” – Talent agent on Fred Astaire. (Astaire had that guy’s report framed and put over a fireplace in his mansion. Yes, he became an iconic song and dance man as well as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.)

“While Daniel’s reportedly making close to three hundred thousand dollars for the first movie, it’s been speculated that he’ll rake in close to fifteen million dollars, if the sequels are successful.” – Katie Couric on Daniel Radcliffe’s earnings on the Harry Potter franchise. (Keep in mind that Radcliffe made $53 million on the last two movies alone.)

“Time travel movies don’t work. They just don’t work.” – Executive who passed on Back to the Future (which is a 1980s classic, by the way.)

“No Civil War movie ever made a nickel!” — Louis B. Mayer to David O. Selznick on Gone with the Wind. (Boy, was Mayer wrong, especially since he was alive when Birth of a Nation came out {which was a huge hit, but it’s a racist piece of shit}.)

“You better get secretarial work or get married.” –Emmeline Snively, advising would-be model Marilyn Monroe in 1944. (Later she’d be an actress and the first woman to pose nude for Playboy. Today she’s an American cultural icon.)

“Movies are a fad. Audiences really want to see live actors on a stage.”—Charlie Chaplin (Pretty good guess for what would become an incredibly important medium of entertainment for generations to come as well as an industry earning millions of dollars. And yes, you helped create that.)

“If we put out a screen machine, there will be a use for maybe about ten of them in the whole United States. With that many screen machines, you could show the pictures to everyone in the country — and then it would be done. Let’s not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” — Thomas Edison on movie projectors (At the time, Edison had a thriving business making viewing devices called Kinetoscopes, which showed movies to one person at a time. Other people will improve this invention and would soon make full fledged movies.)

“I wouldn’t give a dime for all the possibilities of [motion pictures with sound]. The public will never accept it.” — Kodak founder George Eastman (Oh, yes, the public will. And they did.)

“…[S]ound is a passing fancy. It won’t last.”— MGM exec Irving Thalberg, after seeing “The Jazz Singer” in 1927. (They’re still with us in 2016. In fact, most movies made are talkies that sound departments are now the most underrated people in Hollywood. Some passing fancy that turned out to be.)

“I do not believe that black and white will disappear entirely. It will still be the ideal medium for certain subjects, not merely for newsreels and shorts, but for full-length pictures.”— Rouben Mamoulian, director of one of the first three-strip Technicolor movies, “Becky Sharp” (Nowadays most movies are in color because it’s cheaper. However, some films are made in black and white for artistic purposes.)

“Films made expressly for theatrical distribution should not be funneled into television, nor should big-name personalities be encouraged to appear too frequently on video, because the public will tire of seeing them and thus their pictures will suffer at the box office.” — A group of thirty Hollywood producers and cinema owners, 1951. (Turns out that putting celebs on Leno, Letterman, or Conan actually helps ticket sales. And then there’s the teleplay that was later made into a movie called Marty that won a slew of Academy Awards. Not to mention, nowadays, they even have movie networks like TCM which is fairly popular. Also, a movie has to be out on home media long enough to be broadcast on TV where it’s edited for commercials and censorship {save on TCM, PBS, and Premium Cable}.)

“I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.” — Jack Valenti, 1982. (Within a decade of that statement, studios were making more money from home video than from movie ticket sales. So if your indie film didn’t do well at the box office. Just hope it comes out on DVD.)

“…[W]ithout even knowing what’s happening, audiences might gradually absorb that the digital images they’re watching in theaters are no different than what they see at home, that they’re actually just watching TV with more people. And that could be the end of movies as we know them.” — Variety film critic Todd McCarthy, writing about digital projection in 1999. (Nowadays, everything’s digital).

“…Digital technologies can enable a level of piracy that would undermine our capacity to produce films and entertainment, undermine deployment of broadband networks, undermine the digital television transition, and ultimately result in fewer choices and options for American consumers.”— Disney chairman Michael Eisner, speaking to Congress in 2002.(Eisner neglected to note that digital technologies can also radically reduce Disney’s costs of distributing content to consumers and to theaters. Also: at the time, Disney movies were not available legally on the Internet, and today, most of the Disney catalog is still available only on DVD. Who exactly is presenting consumers with fewer choices and options? Hint: It’s not Disney.)

“There are great cinematographers who’ll shoot on film for the next twenty years.” — Bob Beitcher, chief executive of Panavision, 2006.  (Though Panavision has been a pioneer of digital cinematography with cameras like the Genesis, its bigger business is renting high-end film cameras.)

Music? That’s Not Going to Last


So Decca turned down these 4 Liverpudlian mop tops because they hated their music and guitar stuff was on the way out. Meanwhile these guys signed with 2 other companies, produced a shitload of albums and songs, appeared in 3 movies and Ed Sullivan, and experienced a dramatic break up.

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962. (This is probably the worst business decision Decca ever made, which certainly went back to bite them in the ass. Columbia and Apple were I bet the person who made the decision was fired over this.)

“It’ll be gone by June.” – Variety Magazine on Rock n’ Roll, 1955 (Sorry, but Rock n’ Roll is here to stay and shows no signs of fading out anytime soon.)

“The phonograph is not of any commercial value.”— Thomas Alva Edison, 1880 (Edison has no idea what he just invented like a way to record sound that can be listened to later. This would lead to all kinds of developments as well as the birth of the recording industry.)

“Far too noisy, my dear Mozart. Far too many notes.”— Emperor Ferdinand of Austria, 1786 (Obviously, he knew nothing about music.)

“”Weird Al” Yankovic, your fifteen minutes are up.” – a review of UHF, 1980s. (Nevertheless, Weird Al is one of the most enduring and popular musical artists because he continues to parody music. He’s never went anywhere.)

“Stick to driving a truck, because you’ll never make it as a singer.” – Eddie Bond rejecting Elvis Presley, 1954. (Elvis would release his first few hits a month later.)

“Guitar is a good hobby, John, but you’ll never make a living of it.”—John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi when he was a teenager. (In 1964, a group of fans had that quote on a plaque and sent to her.)

“He’s not going to go far, is he? He’s just not star material.” – Rock journalist Judy Willis on David Bowie. (I’m sure she eventually underestimated the power of Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom.)

“Male vocal in the 1968 feeling—thin, piercing voice with no emotional appeal…dreary songs…one-key singer…pretentious material.” — A panel review of a BBC audition in 1968 of Sir Elton John to promote his first single, “Lady Samantha.” (He’d get much better after a few years.)

“I’ve heard they have beautiful lights but they don’t sound like nothing.” – Jimi Hendrix on Pink Floyd. (Boy, would he be wrong about them. I mean the group’s The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon have become iconic albums in their own right.)

“Home Taping Is Killing Music” — A 1980s campaign by the BPI, claiming that people recording music off the radio onto cassette would destroy the music industry. (No, it wouldn’t since it’s kind of impossible since the music changes so often. My parents just recorded stuff on cassette from records and CDs during the 1980s and 1990s.)

“The singer [Mick Jagger] will have to go; the BBC won’t like him.”— First Rolling Stones manager Eric Easton to his partner after watching them perform. (Sorry, but Mick Jagger is still the lead singer for the Rolling Stones and shows no sign of slowing down.)

“The Beatles have no future in show business.”— Dick Rowe, Decca Records executive, rejecting The Beatles (Makes me wonder whether he ended up fired sometime after this. I mean he’s basically made one of the worst decisions in music history.)

“Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput.” – Sir Alan Sugar, 2005. (It’s still around and was a massive success.)

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