EW's 8th annual 'Power Issue'

Wake up, Dorothy. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore. Welcome to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s eighth annual Power Issue. This year, we rip back the curtain on that smoggy Emerald City known as Hollywood and reveal a power list as twisted as Dorothy’s tornado. Directors, actors, and talk-show hosts — oh, my! — are taking their seats alongside the suits.

Why? In a journey much like Dot’s, Hollywood’s most powerful awoke from sweet dreams of mergers and acquisitions to discover that there’s no person like Spielberg or Cruise or Winfrey when you’re paving a yellow brick road.

From Jerry Seinfeld trumping the tin hearts at NBC to Sarah McLachlan’s spellbinding Lilith tour, we expose the underpinnings of a whole new Oz. Which, by the way, has a foggy counterpart in London, this year’s creative hot zone. It’s all here, from Girl Power to Austin Powers. And if it’s too hot to handle, baby, we’ve got a lexicon to help you tell a Malibu Barbie from an OTB. We even hear from long-lost Munchkin Michael Ovitz, who tells us about life in retirement land.

So come out of the woods, step into the light — we’re off to meet the wizards …

AGE 50

Suits are fine — no one’s going to argue that running a hydra-headed media conglomerate is a snap. But actually dreaming up what Hollywood buys and sells is more rare — and more valuable. In 1997 Hollywood shifted its focus away from ornate executive suites back to the ”talent.” Content is now king — which makes this guy Midas. Just ask Sony (the Spielberg-produced Men in Black earned $243 million) and Universal (The Lost World grossed $229 million). Who can recall the last time in Hollywood history that one person racked up a one-two summer punch this big? But Spielberg’s imprint can be seen in more subtle ways and goes to the core of how studios are run. After all, he invented The Event Movie, the strategy all the big studios now use as their fiscal blueprint.

Not that everything Midas touches is gilded. DreamWorks hasn’t tapped its potential. However, to paraphrase George Orwell: All partners are equal, but some are more equal than others. Geffen and Katzenberg can’t create hits; Spielberg can. And rest assured, if every DreamWorks movie had Spielberg directing, they’d be eating the other studios for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Ultimately, Spielberg isn’t the most powerful person in entertainment because he can alternate high-concept blockbusters with Oscar-friendly dramas. He’s the most powerful person because right now anyone on this list would sell their spouses, parents, or kids to be in business with him. Isn’t that the definition of power?

chmn.-ceo; vice-chmn., time warner

AGES 58/58 CREDITS Royal treatment from Wall Street (stock hit a record high this month), which likes $7.5 billion Turner merger and Ted’s frugality; Tele-Communications deal stands to make TW largest cable operator. Captain Outrageous now General Magnanimous after U.N. donation. DEBITS The annus horribilis in music, film divisions could tarnish the empire.