Is Clooney Right About Hollywood's Social Agenda?

But Kuntz said times have changed, and today controversy isn't always viewed as bad for the bottom line. "The rules have been rewritten in the last few years with films like 'Fahrenheit 911' and 'Passion of the Christ.'

"What we are seeing today is a continuation of what's been happening to the film industry since the 1960s," he said. "Hollywood has been fragmenting the audience by producing films for niche audiences. Now it seems the fragmentation has finally reached the Oscars."

Oscar night may lend some support to Kuntz's theory. No single film dominated the 78th annual awards, with four movies receiving three statuettes each: "Crash," "Brokeback Mountain," "King Kong" and "Memoirs of a Geisha."

"If Hollywood could make a blockbuster like 'Titanic' every year, it would not be that easy for other films to compete," said Kuntz.

Perhaps the most controversial film ever was D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation," from 1915. Based on the 1905 play "The Clansmen," it was vicious in its depiction of African-Americans, who harshly criticized the film.

The film caused race riots throughout the country, but it was also the first movie ever screened at the White House. President Wilson said it was "like history writ with lightning." The film is credited with rejuvenating the Ku Klux Klan and is reportedly still used as a recruitment tool to this day. It was also a huge box office success -- some argue the most successful film of all time.

Bottom Line Still Beats Social Messages

All three film experts agreed that Hollywood is still ultimately a business, and social issues are rarely the focus of filmmaking.

"The day after the Oscars, Hollywood executives probably aren't sitting around trying to figure out how to make another 'Crash,'" said Suber.

"They have to make money, and if they don't the revolving door hits you on the ass on the way out."

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