11 mars 2010

Admissions 1955-2008 - World Cinema Stats (14)

There was a Before and After the peak of the Golden Age (due to the development and spread of TV)... The cinema industry is just not like it used to be in term of transversal popularity. The "Hollywood hegemony" of today is not due to the USA curve being alone in the top pf the chart... it is only the curve of the domestic attendance (and the USA is a huge federation of smaller states, while France, UK, Japan, Germany and Italy are smaller states which population cannot compete with the larger American population, not to mention the higher admission per capita rate in the USA). What makes the Hollywood industry hegemonic in the world today, is the expansion of its exports pretty much in every country.

No wonder the Studios Golden Age, which started to fade out at the end of the 50ies, remains so deeply implanted in the general culture... a lot more people watched movies back then! A third less today in the USA (from 2,080 to 1,364 millions; after going down to half), half as much in France (from 390 to 190 millions). The defection of the movie goers is even worse in the other countries : UK (from 1180 to 164 millions), Japan (from 1080 to 160 millions), Italy (from 810 to 112 millions), (West) Germany (from 760 to 129 millions).
More people saw the popular studios movies in the 50ies than todays best Hollywood blockbusters! So obviously they influenced a lot more people upon release, who in turn carried on this "buzz" around them in the following decades. Today's critical authorities have been influenced by this frantic popularity, and when we poll the critics today about the best films of all time, it appears that the masterpieces of the peak years of cinema history shine much brighter than later masterpieces from the depressive era of cinema decline. Fewer audiences have seen and enjoyed todays masterpieces too.
Back then the critically acclaimed masterpieces were part of the zeitgeist (even if not always near the top of the Box Office or at the Oscars).
Today the best cinema is made in the smallest countries, has little audience at home (because Hollywood blockbusters monopolize local screens) and are seen by fewer critics abroad. So their influence is easily outweighed and rendered invisible by Hollywood's best movies, even if they are not as creative/deep.

The conditions of viewer-ship and popularity between then and now has changed dramatically... Then, everything was about Studios; the mass audience and highbrow critics almost shared the same taste for genre cinema. This was an era right when Italian Neorealism was reappraised. Before the clash with the Studio tradition of La Nouvelle Vague. Before the narrative revolution of Modern Cinema in the 60ies, before the Experimental scene of the 70ies, before Tarkovsky, before the "non-European/non-American" masters, before Deleuze... It is impossible to consider the Studio genre at the same level as when it was championed by unmatched genre masters like Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Jean Renoir, Fritz Lang, Charles Chaplin, John Ford... They don't make genre movies like these anymore, even with the technical/skills general improvement of the industry's standards!

Sources :

  • Bilan CNC 1987
  • Laurent Créton, "Cinéma et marché", 1995
  • "Quelle diversité face à Hollywood?" (CinémAction, hors série, 2002)