I'm assuming the game's internal rules are built more on the alternate-reality premise that the 50s-style studio system never disintegrated, yes?
That depends. I don't know how far the gameplay changes around the evolution of Hollywood, as the hands-on impression given sticks to the 1920s.
There's supposed to be a research component involved allowing you to develop technological concepts like color, surround sound and special effects, but whether that includes paradigmatic concepts like the nature of contracts and star relations is something else that wasn't touched upon.
Regardless of whether or not that is in the game, I can imagine its not too difficult to implement as Age of Empires
did manage to incorporate theological and philosophical "technologies" into its research tree.
So the studio/player handles stuff like exclusivity contracts; the studio handling the talents' PR (as opposed to the performers themselves being responsible for it), and so forth.
The previews glossed over the exact mechanics of how the individual talent is hired, but it seems to suggest that each talent (janitors, actors, writers and directors) gain experience and corresponding salary increases but at the same time have unique personalities in the same way the first Sims hard-wired unique traits (under the hood in a way that you woudn't really know without cheating) into the characters.
The PR aspect is treated by evaluating an actor's salary and demands in relation to his star power, which increases the more successful movies he features in. The bigger the star power, the more likely the star starts acting like a primadonna. They can even start demanding an entourage.
Any idea whether the game covers things like franchising a movie concept, merchansing, and cross-marketing? Does it account for video production and home editions?
Apparently not. Unlike the real Hollywood, The Movies' alternate reality doesn't seem to base movies on other product nor does it account for ancillary markets. Just put the movie out there and wait for the money and reviews.
I think I read in some other preview that reviews and box office are going to be divergent such that you would ideally build a studio house that balances between critically acclaimed art-house fare and pandering to the masses, and variating between box office bombs and runaway success.