26 avril 2010

Hollywood 2009 - World Cinema Stats (15)

After a major economic crash, 2 strikes, and the threat of online piracy... you would think Hollywood would go bankrupt by now. Can you see the impact of the repetitive crises on the ever-growing economic prosperity of the Hollywood movie business? No? That's because there is none. Even though the attendance and revenues are on a constant rise, Hollywood still needs to whine every year when a crisis comes up, like if it was the end of the world. Why should we cry for Hollywood really?
Don't be fooled by the manipulation of overblown phenomena in the PR communication of these corporations. They fight to "protect" the copyrights (read "profits") stolen by pirate movies... but they refuse to give a decent share of revenues to their screenwriters (who own part of the Intellectual Property)! They complain about the effects of the economy on film production and they raise the admission price and the stars salary! They complain about the protectionist quotas hindering the free market in the world, and they prevent any penetration of foreign culture at home! They think the internet is a threat to the movie business and they appropriate this new platform to commercialise it! Hypocrisy rules... as long as consumers are ready to believe.

Does it look like such dire straits that LACMA shall shut down a $200,000/year budget film program? Is there no tycoon willing to spare an ounce of their profits to sponsor the projection of world cinema in LA? Is it possible to find a patron of the arts who invests in cinema for a non-profit project without any budget pressures, content control, bottom lines and yearly renewable financial commitments? You know, supporting culture for itself, not expecting any form of return in publicity or revenues from it...
Meanwhile the website The Auteurs sponsors a French cinema retrospective with a French Beer! Bring foreign cinema to American kids, yes, but don't forget to push alcoholism and consumerism or else it's not worth it. WTF? That's what you get when you let the private sector run cultural programs... Refusing the involvement of State government is one thing; if only private investments can be responsible and motivated by education only.

The MPAA has released last month the new statistics for 2009 (PDF). A new improved press release, with fancy graphs. Last year (2008 PDF), they added a graph for the number of individual admissions (people in the audience), while up to then they only published the revenue generated by Box Office sales (money in the bank) to show the success of movies. Finally catching up with the more complete stats released publicly by the CNC.

Even going beyond, with a survey of movie goers by ethnicity (such listing is considered inappropriate in France) and income (France does job types instead, because of our money taboo)! But still no segmentation by nationality, by debut films, by co-productions, by budget, or even by dissociating Canada from USA...

I would like to know how many movies made in Hollywood are not in English language! The USA prides itself of being multi-racial, fostering a meltingpot of different languages and cultures... How many movies are aimed at the latin American immigrants? How many movies in Korean or Farsi, European languages, Asian languages?

The concerns of the MPAA reside on whatever products (made domestically or bought in) is distributed, rated and viewed on the American soil. To figure out the proportion of domestically made commodities and foreign imports is of no interest to them. And to prove that this competition report is destined to investors, it only shows the shares of films owned by the major studios (members of the MPAA) opposed to "all the rest" : a free-for-all category (independent studios, foreign distributors). This survey oozes the "Us v. Them" mentality : how awesome we are doing, and how much more market share we need to steal from our competitors.

For the really pertinent statistics we need to turn to Screen Daily or Screen Digest (which are unfortunately not in open access like the CNC is).
Clearly with this kind of stats (which unfortunately stands as the national spokesperson for all American cinema) doesn't portray an objective and comprehensive state of cinema exhibition and consumption.

The MPA was formed in 1945 in the aftermath of World War II to reestablish American films in the world market, and to respond to the rising tide of protectionism resulting in barriers aimed at restricting the importation of American films. [..]
Since its early days, the MPA, often referred to now as "a little State Department," has expanded to cover a wide range of foreign activities falling in the diplomatic, economic, and political arenas. The Motion Picture Association conducts these activities from its headquarters in Los Angeles, California and from key offices in Washington, D.C.; Brussels; São Paulo; Singapore; and Toronto.
MPA (Asia Pacific ) website
The mission of the MPA (overseas public relation of the MPAA) is to fight online piracy (in their mind, every single pirate user who watches movies because they are free, are all lost consumers who would have bought the price of a ticket if piracy didn't exist...) and to push aggressively, yet legally, the overwhelming presence of American movies everywhere in the world. Meaning : to kill protectionist quotas on local markets, to make sure Hollywood blockbusters can expand its mass aculturation worldwide, with cheap "art".

If you care about cinema, well the art not the industry, I mean world cinema : Cinema as an art in our (global) culture, then you should care about how the films you enjoy to watch and write about got the chance to get made in the first place and found a way to your eyes (being funded, filmed, acquired by distributors and circulated through the public circuits for you to watch them anywhere you are) in spite of the many commercial incentives not to make art but a popular commodity. You should care about what Hollywood does (and does not) on the world market to suppress cultural diversity and the prosperity of local culture. You should care about all the films you don't get to see, about all the films the press doesn't publicize, about the films not even accepted at festivals. Film culture is larger than the few hundreds "celebrity films" making the headlines every year.

If you care about the films you love, don't look at your navel, indulging the privilege you had to watch such or such film. How many other people can watch the films you write about? How much longer will auteurs continue to make films at your discretion if they are only seen by critics and professionals, and are not given exposure on the public sphere?

4 commentaires:

HarryTuttle a dit…

paragraph added : "I would like to know how many movies made in Hollywood are not in English language! The USA prides itself of being multi-racial, fostering a meltingpot of different languages and cultures... How many movies are aimed at the latin American immigrants? How many movies in Korean or Farsi, European languages, Asian languages?"

HarryTuttle a dit…

in other news : MGM shuts down.
If American studios can't find a place on the easiest market in the world, nobody else can.

HarryTuttle a dit…

David Bordwell (4-26-2010) : "We’re told that 2009 was a banner year, and 2010 will be even better. True, worldwide admissions for 2009 totaled $29.9 billion, a new high. But the increase, according to the MPAA, is mostly due to 3D. In the US, the format accounted for 11 % of the country’s $10.6 billion box-office income, a sum about equal to the gain over last year’s take. Moreover, the number of domestic tickets sold increased only a little from recent years, to 1.4 billion. Overall, the years 2005-2009 have fallen off from the high points of 2002-2004, when attendance was 1.5 billion or more.

Nor is the international film industry expanding its audience. For the last five years or so, worldwide attendance has been remarkably flat, with only the Asia-Pacific region seeing signs of growth. Overall, it seems, 3D serves to let Hollywood hang on to its audience, and charge more."

Note : when an American scholar (interested in world cinema) says "worldwide admissions" he means all tickets sold by American movies in the world, including the USA. He doesn't mean, as anybody else would understand it "global tally of all tickets sold in the world for all national industries". When he says "international film industry", he doesn't mean the cinema industry in the world, no, he means the "Hollywood exports outside of the USA". But then again, the American baseball single-handedly runs the World series! Go figure why Americans would become so isolationists...

Of course, the raise of the average ticket price is partly due to the success of 3D movies. But the conclusion is the same : the audience keeps on spending as much money as last year on the big screen!

Check out what happened to cinema theatres when they faced the competition of a couple of TV channels back in the 60ies. Within a couple of decades, theatres lost half of their audience both in the USA and Europe!

What happened during the frontal competition of 20 years of videotape, 10 years of DVD and online piracy? Pretty much an overall stagnation! And given this immense temptation to watch MORE movies FOR FREE (or cheaper than a theatre night out) on the small screen, I believe stagnation is a pretty big WIN for the big screen. We can't complain about that...

From what I can see on these graphs, it is obvious that in spite of all the issues related to theatrical screenings (price, noise, waiting line, driving distance, availability, diversity, release delay...), people still want to watch movies on the big screen in mass! Maybe essentially the mediocre mainstream fare, but still, the cinema real-size exhibition isn't dead yet, unlike what Bordwell predicts.

Meanwhile, Bordwell brags about being able to watch all movies he wants at festivals.
Unfortunately, if you're not David Bordwell, or a professional critic, or lucky to live near a festival venue... well too bad for you. But you can always READ about it from the privileged guys.

HarryTuttle a dit…

The entertainment business state of malaise
The Business (30 Aug 2010) podcast