In the 1930s and 40s, the American film studios were all powerful. Controlling production and distribution meant they were able to virtually dictate which movies cinema chains could show. Although this monopoly was eventually broken, the situation seems to have come back round again.
Last week a fascinating range of films were unleashed on the UK box office. From a Vampiric priest (Thirst) to a claustrophobic Canadian zombie film (Pontypool). Look around your local cinema listings, are these films even playing anywhere? From the blanket advertising campaign on TV’s and bill boards you could be forgiven for thinking that the only new release was Couples Retreat.
Its status is not a mark of quality though, merely of marketability. Based on its run in the US, the Hollywood marketing men have decided it should be a hit on this side of the Atlantic. This from the audience that gave a thumbs down to Donnie Darko and The Shawshank Redemption? The former even struggled to gain a worldwide release after its initial performance at the US Box Office. Forgive me if I question their judgement.
Regular cinema goers may have little choice in their weekend viewing habits because that’s what has already been decided. Come to think of it, what is the first warning viewers see before the main feature: tackling video piracy. It is seen as one of the biggest threats movie studios are facing.
However couldn’t they tackle this problem head on by releasing new films worldwide on the same day? It would not eradicate the pirates, but it would mean films were not available online, months before their UK release date. Is the reason for not doing this because it would de-rail the a movie’s marketing machine? A new release would not arrive on these shores with the gilt edged reputation of being number 1 at the American box office. How about letting us decide which films we want to see?