BURBANK, Calif. — “The ride ain’t over,” declares a poster for “Entourage,” the coming movie version of the hit HBO series.
Or is it?
Much has changed in the 10 or so years since “Entourage” turned Hollywood’s decadent business culture into a TV soap opera. The film, scheduled for release on June 3, is bound to evoke an era when DVD sales were a cash cow, YouTube was for amateurs and the movie business was a more dominant cultural force. Television, social media and sports have stolen much of the industry’s glitter. And the freewheeling days at the top talent agencies have largely disappeared, with the two largest shops — William Morris Endeavor and Creative Artists Agency, or W.M.E. and C.A.A. — now controlled by private equity firms focused on the bottom line.
“It’s harder now,” said Douglas Ellin, the creator of the HBO show, who also wrote and directed the movie.
Mr. Gold is the consummate power agent, a fictional rendering of a Hollywood archetype personified through the years by the likes of Lew Wasserman, Michael Ovitz and now Ariel Z. Emanuel. Mr. Ellin based Mr. Gold (somewhat) on Mr. Emanuel, the co-chief executive, with Patrick Whitesell, of what has become W.M.E./I.M.G., an entertainment and sports conglomerate now majority-owned by Silver Lake Partners. (Silver Lake’s rival, TPG, controls C.A.A., which has also pushed aggressively into sports.)
“Entourage,” the TV series, was born into a very different environment. In 2004, at least seven major talent agencies clustered in the heart of Beverly Hills, all within walking distance of a favorite lunch spot, The Grill. Today, the agencies have merged or scattered, budgets have been tightened and the business is focused on much more than movie stars and their foibles. The business has shifted from when the show had its debut and Mr. Chase and his pals arrived in a growling yellow Hummer. HBO has moved on to “Silicon Valley,” a comic series about Northern California’s tech culture, where trendsetters ride the Google bus to work. (And in a possibly bad omen for the film, Viacom partly blamed “Entourage” reruns’ falling short of expectations when it took a $785 million write-down last month.)
Warner Bros. has paid close attention to the cultural shift.
“Sadly, all good parties must come to an end,” says the voice-over an unusually wistful trailer that finds Mr. Chase woefully over budget on a film he is directing for Mr. Gold — now a studio chief, and not a happy one. He finds his power usurped by a nasty money man, played by Billy Bob Thornton.
“Entourage,” the film, may be something of an elegy for the movie business. Before the final credits roll, Mr. Gold may wash his hands of Hollywood altogether, people briefed on its plot hint. (“There may be something even larger for him,” acknowledged Mr. Ellin, who declined to elaborate.)
All of that is in keeping with the spirit of the HBO show, which never hid from the warts, blemishes and personal and business failures of its characters. Mr. Chase wound up in drug rehab, as his career rose and fell. Mr. Gold was kicked out of one agency, founded another, and lost his wife, at least temporarily, to the celebrity chef Bobby Flay before the eighth season wrapped in 2011.
“I’m going to excommunicate him from this entire town,” Mr. Gold promised of anyone who dared to dine at a Flay restaurant. (Mr. Flay is currently having real-life marital woes of his own.)
Mr. Emanuel, who represents Mr. Wahlberg, is still an agent. But in the real world, he and Mr. Whitesell now spend less time wrapped in the antic lives of their movie clients and more on the corporate complexities that came with their $2.4 billion deal last year to merge W.M.E. Entertainment — which had been formed by the merger of their Endeavor agency and William Morris — with I.M.G., a sports powerhouse based in New York.
A spokesman said Mr. Emanuel was declining interviews touching on the “Entourage” film, but Mr. Ellin said he had watched the new film several times. “Ari loves it; he was with me in the editing room,” said Mr. Ellin.
In real life, the agencies’ corporate structures have brought corporate behavior, which has posed a challenge for Mr. Ellin, who had to work a little harder to find the fun in chronicling it.
“You need to act a little bit more businesslike, a little more Wall Street,” said Gavin Polone, who was once an agent at International Creative Management and the United Talent Agency and now produces for film and television.
A veteran of the glory days, Mr. Polone was fired twice from agency jobs, but he sued and wrangled a $6 million settlement from the second of those incidents. “If you’re a young agent now, you’re not going to make the kind of money I was making when I was 28 years old,” he said in an interview last month.
The competition between agencies still occasionally erupts into Ari Gold-like corporate combat. United Talent recently raided more than 10 agents and dozens of clients from the much larger C.A.A. That agency responded with a conspiracy lawsuit that might have become grist for an “Entourage” subplot in its early days.
But that drama was more an exception than the rule. And Mr. Emanuel — focused on stable profits, not settling old scores — mostly stayed out of the fray (though W.M.E. taunted C.A.A. by sending framed “CAAN’T” posters to the defectors).
Tom Strickler, Mr. Emanuel’s partner in founding the agency Endeavor, is now the chairman of the Extera Public Schools charter school group. He said he was amused to hear that his newly finance-minded old colleague had recently been lecturing fellow agents on the importance of Ebitda — earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
“When I was an agent,” Mr. Strickler said, “we thought Ebitda was a character in ‘Star Wars.’ ”