25 janvier 2012

American Fatalism 3 (Ebert)

"6. Lack of choice. Box-office tracking shows that the bright spot in 2011 was the performance of indie, foreign or documentary films. On many weekends, one or more of those titles captures first-place in per-screen average receipts. Yet most moviegoers outside large urban centers can't find those titles in their local gigantiplex. Instead, all the shopping center compounds seem to be showing the same few overhyped disappointments. Those films open with big ad campaigns, play a couple of weeks, and disappear."
Source: I'll tell you why movie revenue is dropping... (Roger Ebert; 28 Dec 2011)

He starts on a good note : the box office results are over-hyped (positively and negatively) to add drama to the industry and stir attention away from REAL issues. But then, his assessment of the situation turns to an individualistic distress about the audience lacking pampering treatment... as if THIS was the number 1 problem explaining the disastrous diversity awareness crisis on American screens.
He reports and supports the decades-old complaints among American audiences seeking excuse for not watching movies on the big screen : 
  1. event-spectacle : see Long Tail consumers
  2. tickets too expensive : is money the problem that the USA has and other countries in the world don't have to explain audience laziness??? The percentage of household expenditure for a theatre admission is 12 times lower than in the 40ies, which was the all-time largest cinema audience in USA history! (see:  Cinema admission pricing in the USA (1929-2002))
  3. noisy auditorium : the concept of a quiet audience is a very recent invention in cinema history. People used to talk during Silent Film projections. Even with the Talkies, theatres used to be non-stop screenings back-to-back all day long, people coming in and out at any point of the film's duration. If these disturbances didn't prevent the 40ies to be the LARGEST audience of history, then today's audience sure can handle it without recoiling at home.
  4. concession stand : as if anybody FORCED you to BUY food when you go consume cultural goods. Can't you just wait 2 hours before stuffing your face again? Do you buy popcorn at the library, at the opera, at an art exhibition too? That's proof you treat Cinema as leisure (consumer-oriented) instead of culture (artist-oriented).
So that's what stops American audiences from supporting "big screen exhibition"? Petty little selfish complaints... The resolve to access film culture isn't very strong if that's enough to make you give up. Stop crying like a baby and grapple the bull by the horns, it's up to you to stand your ground and reconquer the serenity of a public space destined to cultural education! 

Do you think that un-subtitled foreign films stopped the original cinephiles at Langlois' Cinémathèque? Wooden seats, sitting on the floor, standing up at the back... Poor sound quality, truncated silent film reels... Having to watch alternative films projected in the staircase of the Cinémathèque... Having to wait 2h for a midnight supplementary projection because the previous one was sold-out... and, OMG, no fucking concession stand!!!

If you want your country to own a film culture it deserves, you need to WORK HARD for it, to get out and FIGHT for it. Earn it. Win it back. If the French can do it, there is no reason why the American cinephiles or cinephiles from any country couldn't do it as well. The wealthy American market should be a safe haven for non-commercial artists, precisely because Hollywood already makes much more profits than any other market on Earth. France cannot afford to support foreign cinema at the expenses of French cinema, yet we do it, we pay for it. It wouldn't cost anything to the Hollywood multi-billion industry... and they don't even bother supporting World Cinema! What a shame! You've profited from world audiences for over a century now... don't you think it's time to GIVE BACK a little?

Writing about films that are invisible is a luxury you can indulge in a protected market like France, because films get distributed COMMERCIALLY there. Didn't you notice that for decades, whatever the navel-gazing choir-preaching press-niche published wasn't enough to open up Hollywood's stronghold on commercial screens? 
Writting is not enough if your local commercial market actively SUPPRESSES indie screenings, foreign blockbusters, critically-acclaimed foreign cinema, because the studios are scared shitless about losing 5% of their box office revenues to non-commercial films with low competitive value. This is scary indeed!!!

Nobody cares about your popcorn diet... GET THE BEST ARTISTS OF CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA SCREENED IN AMERICAN THEATRES! NOW!!! And whine about your own selfish comfort in the theatre later... when cinema is no longer in danger of extinction. Get your priorities straight!


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