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By   /   Monday, March 15th, 2010  /   Comments Off on Hollywood

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Perhaps it was the moment that Montecito resident Jeff Bridges stepped on stage to accept his well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor on March 7.

Perhaps it was the evening that music industry maven Mark Hartley turned on the lights at the Watermark restaurant in downtown Ventura.

Or the moment when property titan Triliad Developers and Commonwealth Studios signed their deal to develop a new production venue in Moorpark.

Perhaps nobody will ever be able to date precisely when Hollywood took center stage in the economic development of the region. But it has, and that likely will change things for years, if not decades to come.

The coming of the entertainment industry means much greater visibility for our area — from Oxnard’s hosting the Dallas Cowboy’s training camp to film shoots that close downtown Ventura or the Guadeloupe Dunes.

It’s a great complement to the region’s traditional strengths in tourism, wines and wine tasting and arts-graphic design. Entertainment also likes to think of itself as a clean industry, which means care in mitigating environmental damage and innovative use of new technology to reduce carbon footprints.

But it also is a very risky tiger to ride. The entertainment industry tends  to be one of mega-hits and mega-flops with plenty of contentious dustups in between.

Witness the flap between Commonwealth and Triliad, first revealed in the pages of this newspaper on March 5.  Now, the former partners are rivals, each apparently pursuing a separate production operation in the Moorpark area.

Whether they will successfully double down and transform Moorpark into a mega-entertainment cluster or fail on their own because of lack of financial strength or expertise remains an open question.

The Hollywoodization of the region also has demographic consequences. After all, this is an industry where a few stars get really rich but where most professionals and all support staff must work hard to keep their cars running and mortgages paid.

As the entertainment industry takes hold the already yawning gap between our wealthiest citizens and middle-class families will get wider and wider.

But the best way to make the entertainment industry work for area businesses and communities is not to shun it but to embrace it. The more connected stars and producers are to our communities, the more they will be inclined to be generous to area charities, area restaurants and area merchants.

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