Wednesday, 30 April 2014

AS The effect of the Hollywood Industrial Model on the UK Film Industry

In the practice of Hollywood and other forms of industrial cinema, the phases of production, distribution and exhibition operate most effectively when 'vertically integrated', where the three stages are seen as part of the same larger process, under the control of one company. In the UK, distribution is very much focused on marketing and sustaining a global product in local markets. 

British cinema had a considerable advantage over European cinema in that the American market is huge and English is the national language. Many people across the world speak English, so the potential audience for British film is huge.

However, there is a downside: American cinema has the same advantage and on top of this, American studios have enormous capital at their disposal. They produce more films, both of the expensive, mass-appeal kind, as well as the more risky films with an independent feel. One success will pay for approximately nine failures at the box office. While British cinema does experience boom years when our films and film-makers ate feted throughout the world, we are generally consuming an increasingly large diet of American films, from the excellent to the awful and everything in between. On top of this, because of the popularity of American films in the UK, the distribution of British films into our cinemas and of British DVDs into shops is dominated by US companies, who are obviously going to put their resources into pushing their own products.

Distribution 50% of money spent on a film often goes on promotion. Film is a business like any other; it doesn’t rely on waiting and listening to audience response before delivering the product; it relies on knowing which part of the world and the media need its products and will pay for them. Does market forces competition give the consumer more power and choice and, therefore, influence, what’s made OR does it convince us that what we want is being made for us? Do millions go to see The Dark Knight when it opens because it’s a great film or because it’s been well-marketed? Or both?

The film industry in the UK – dominated by six multi-media conglomerates: Universal, Columbia, Paramount, Warners, Universal, Fox and Disney

They work for themselves and collectively under the umbrella of the Motion Picture Association of America they are an institutional force.

The set the technical standards for film production, distribution, marketing and exhibition. For example, they want their films shown via digital projection so cinemas have to have the facility to do this. Although there are directors, like Christopher Nolan, who still prefer 35mm film, they are running against the tide in the move towards digital film-making. The studios' bottom line — they no longer want to pay to physically print and ship movies. It costs about $1,500 to print one copy of a movie on 35 mm film and ship it to theaters in its heavy metal canister. Multiply that by 4,000 copies — one for each movie on each screen in each multiplex around the country — and the numbers start to get ugly. By comparison, putting out a digital copy costs a mere $150.

Of course, Nolan is tolerated because his work is immensely successful and brings a lot of money into the studio, either through profits from the film or promotional partner deals. Digital cinema is becoming standard all over the world.

Art-house and repertory theatres, however, which play classic and older movies, are largely dependent on print loans from studios. Increasingly, the prints are remaining locked in studio vaults. Last November, 20th Century Fox sent its exhibitors a letter to that effect: "The date is fast approaching when 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight will adopt the digital format as the only format in which it will theatrically distribute its films. ... We strongly advise those exhibitors that have not yet done so to take immediate steps to convert their theatres to digital projection systems."

They establish budgets for films. The average budget of a standard Hollywood mainstream film is about $50 million and on average, 50% of that budget is spent on promotion and marketing. What chance does independent cinema have?

Their releases dominate UK cinema over the summer - and these summer blockbusters are now released as early as May.

Large multi-media conglomerates can take a loss - Disney's The Lone Ranger for example, performed poorly at the box office, but the company is diverse and has many ways of making money from its many strands of business. A similar failure - a comparative/proportional one - for an independent film could wipe out the company.

They have created an oligopoly situation and the question is – how can other film-makers compete?

They control distribution in most territories; in fact, they often distribute films by independent film-makers – for a cost. To get the backing of a major studio is often essential if you want your film distributed.

They have set the standards for DVDs and digital downloads.

In essence, they have created the business model for the industry which their product dominates.

Three mini-majors: EOne (Canadian/British), Lionsgate (Canadian/American) and Studiocanal (owned by the Canal+ Group (which is owned for the most part by Vivendi, and Universal Studios (part of NBC Universal)). They have distribution outlets in several territories.

Big Hollywood films get saturation release and are heavily promoted that first weekend. They dominate holiday programming – starting in mid-May through to September. They can be shown in more than one screen in the same cinema and in several screens in the same city/town. 14 weeks later they are typically relaeased on DVD orBluRay, then they’re released to PayTV then to free TV.

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