Ken Loach: You bastards!

Amusing little theory here:

Over a seven-year period, the US market share of box-office takings in British cinemas was between 63% and 80%. The UK share, which was mainly for American co-productions, was between 15% and 30%; films from Europe and the rest of the world took only 2% to 3%. So for most people it\’s almost impossible to have a choice of films; you get what you\’re given.

That people actively choose not to watch arthouse films is evidence that people aren\’t given the opportunity to watch arthouse films.

That people actively choose to eat pizza is evidence that tripe is not available, eh?

How can we change this? We could start by treating cinemas like we treat theatres. They could be owned, as they are in many cases, by the municipalities, and programmed by people who care about films – the London Film Festival, for example, is full of people who care about films.

In short, the places that show films should be run by the people who are more likely to show Ken Loach films and the viewing public be buggered.

It\’s an amusing theory alright, but there\’s really nothing new about some luvvie screaming \”Look at MEEEEE!\” is there?

23 comments on “Ken Loach: You bastards!

  1. Why is the cinema so important? This is not 1930 – we have other ways of watching movies these days, such as renting a DVD or downloading it. If people really want to watch art house stuff, there is plenty of opportunity to do so. The fact that people don’t even want to watch it at home for free, let alone travelling to a cinema and paying for it, speaks volumes.

  2. I quite like my local arthouse cinema. But that’s because it doesn’t have sticky floors, isn’t full of slack jawed teenagers grunting, has sofas instead of seats, and serves wine to quaff at seat. You’d be surprised at how wine makes the most tedious-but-worthy film just slide by.

  3. I should add that my local arthouse cinema is forbidden from showing mainstream movies until weeks after general release because the local Vue (or whatever they are called these days) gets to veto the release by the distributors. Apparently this awful market abuse is perfectly lawful. I’m wondering if the legality is down to some luvvie-origined regulation from yesteryear. Anyone know?

  4. The usual failure to address the issue of private sector monopoly. I don’t suppose you would like a very restricted number of newspapers and journals owned by Americans.Though they are less popular than the the Murdoch rags, are you saying that you should never have the opportunity to buy a Wall Street Journal or for that matter a Morning Star.? I thought modern capitalism was supposed to support diversity( Not round here it does n’t: it is sometimes difficult to pick up a Guardian or New Statesman.There is a basic freedom of expression argument here.My local arts cinema
    funded by the Borough Council (which is very unusual),shows some excellent World Cinema the multiplexes won’t touch. Films by Mauretian oddities like Sissako are actually better films.There is no place in your dismal philosophy for quality: it is all numbers and monopoly .(If its private sector it must be good).

    Tim adds: Wall Street Journal owner: R. Murdoch.

  5. Kay Tie

    I assume it will be a term in the contract between the distributors and the cinema chain. The chain is taking risk on the film, so wants at least some period of exclusivity if the film is a hit. Fairly reasonable commercial requirement from the chain’s point of view. Otherwise, smaller independents could just cherry pick the hits as and when, without taking the downside on the flops.

    It looks a restrictive practice, but without having thought about it, probably is exempt from competition laws under the Vertical Agreements Block Exemption given neither party is likely to hit the magic 30% market share thingy.

  6. @Kay Tie.That’s about the size of it but its all distributor in origin: distributors often take 75% of the box office from the cinema for first-run blockbusters.Naturally they try to restrict them to multiplexes ,which are kept in business by sales of sundries and popcorn (I kid you not).Disney used to prevent one their films appearing in two cinemas in the same town at the same time Dunno if that still goes on.(But if its private sector it must all conduce to the best of all possuble worlds.)

  7. This is another version of the anti-Tesco rant. People have such terrible tastes, we must stop them from being able to exercise their choices, and force them to have what I want instead (and make them pay for it too, as I’m not prepared to pay the extra for my minority tastes).

  8. @Tim
    I don’t read the Wall Street Journal: I was just trying to give you an example you could identify with. I am confident that the Morning Star is not
    Murdoch owned though I am sure if he bought it out and filled it with “Strictly come X factor meets Big Brother”stories,you would claim this was an improvement.
    You are picking off details not addressing the issues of monopoly v diversity (or Distributism) and popularity does not promote quality.

  9. You’d be surprised at how wine makes the most tedious-but-worthy film just slide by.

    They serve Chang beer in the cinema in Phuket. It’s a superb idea.

  10. Jim is right that this is the same issue as Tesco’s
    which is too tiresome to go into, Tim has so mis-represented it below .Suffice to say it in not a matter of forcing people to watch Ken Loach films ,it is offering them a wider choice, which can’t be a bad thing .
    Where is Kay Tie’s arthouse cinema? Sounds good.

  11. I’m not down with Loach’s notion of “municipalities” but the love triangle between cinemas, distributors and the major studios makes it hard to see it as a simple question of taste.

    (Besides, I don’t want to even think that Twilight, Alice in Wonderland and those endless bloody Scary Movie sequels would be quite as popular otherwise. Snob? Well – a little bit.)

  12. I’ve done as you ask, Julia, and it seems the market would demand that cinemas show Star Whores and In Diana Jones and the Temple Poon.

  13. Hollywood, whatever restrictive practices it may try to get away with, is still voluntary. If the public don’t like what’s on offer, they don’t go. Very few paying punters want to plunk down their hard earned cash to see Loach’s marxist shite and they also don’t go. So now, local authority thieves, who already steal enough of my cash, should subsidise arthouse films, a lot of which are just as big a pile of garbage as any mainstream drek.

    If you are so keen on these type of films, start your own film club.

  14. Ken Loach translation: “I make tedious-as-fuck wodges of cod-socialist shite that no-one in his right mind would want to see, but he should be forced to anyway.” Put some more CGI explosions in, Ken, and then your artistic oeuvre might rise to the watchability of a Michael Bay Transformers movie. Otherwise, wind your fucking neck in.

  15. Ken Loach, of course, lives in that well-known haven of poverty Bath, where there is sufficient middle-class and student support to maintain a fully-functioning art house cinema, the Little Theatre.

    Strangely, the bulk of cinemagoers in Bath prefer to attend the chrome and glass Odeon multiplex and watch mainstream movies meaning that the former town centre cinema is now a Komedia and the other art house cinema has shut and become a children’s theatre.

    *starts playing Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” at full volume*

    Tim adds: Indeed Mr. Loach lives in Bath. I was most put out some years back when a would be artiste decided to move on from me to him. I calmed down eventually, after she got a job on screen in one of those home makeover programmes and I saw how it really was true that the camera piles on the pounds.

  16. DBC Reed,

    Have you got a City Screen picture house anywhere nearby?

    Ken makes a comparison that holds little water:

    Just imagine, if you went into the library and the bookshelves were stacked with 63% to 80% American fiction, 15% to 30% half-American, half-British fiction, and then all the other writers in the whole world just 3%. Imagine that in the art galleries, in terms of pictures; imagine it in the theatres. You can’t, it is inconceivable – and yet this is what we do to the cinema, which we think is a most beautiful art.

    Libraries and art galleries are repositories for centuries worth of output. Cinemas are not. They play what is expected to bring in bums on seats and then change what they are showing a few weeks later. Comparisons to theatre are not that great either – popular shows run and run and run. Old shows get reinvented or have a change of cast and they tend to stay at a theatre rather than be in a hundred theatres at once. That simply doesn’t fit with the cinema business model.

    To attempt a proper analogy Ken’s idea of filums is like modern art and popular filums are comics. There are people who are passionate about either but the market for modern art is tiny while the market for comics is enormous. One can be obtained at a newsagents on any highstreet in the land. The other requires you going to one place to see one display.

    If Ken’s filums aren’t commercially successful why should taxpayers be strong armed into supporting his endeavours? His is yet another statist persona that sees our productivity as something that is his to… direct.

    British talent is in demand in front of and behind the camera but from Ken’s green eyed diatribe you wouldn’t know it.

    One commenter on the Guardian piece says “British films are disproportionately slanted towards grimy, horrible, poverty porn.” and I fully concur. There is usual slew of rom com bollocks too. Post war British films used to be popular and varied. What changed?

  17. Post war British films used to be popular and varied. What changed?

    The people are watching the rom com bollocks: Richard Curtis – whether through the market or monopolies – has put t’ bums on seats. Oh, and by the way: you Loach-bashers can’t have seen Looking for a Eric: it’s a wonderfully bonkers film.

  18. I’m pretty sure that multiplex cinemas could produce evidence to show that Loach’s argument is complete bollocks.

    I once went to my local multiplex on a Saturday night to see The Piano. The place was rammed full of teenagers, and every other screen was full. The Piano, on its first Saturday night was a quarter full, at best. That was a film which won Oscars and had lots of publicity. I also saw Bullets over Broadway (one of the better of Woody Allen’s recent movies) in a cinema on a Saturday night and it was a quarter full.

    My local multiplex did a “World Cinema” season a couple of years ago and never repeated it. And I’m sure they actually like these movies because they get to keep more of the box office than they do from big budget movies.

    Much like with the smoking ban, the chattering classes lie like a rug when it comes to going to the cinema. They say they’ll go to the cinema “if only the cinema showed what I wanted to see”, but when they do, very few turn up. They’d rather pay for a (cheaper) DVD and enjoy it with a bottle of pinotage, and then imply that the only reason they couldn’t take the more socially acceptable option is that it wasn’t available.

    Post war British films used to be popular and varied. What changed?

    TV and Video. The films that are really worth seeing at the cinema are action and horror movies. Unfortunately, most British cinema output was more drama and comedy which work nearly as well on the small screen.

    It’s why Roger Corman has never lost money, despite being hated by critics. He made films with the sort of subjects that teenagers would pay money to go and see, and didn’t spend too much money on them.

  19. “I’ve done as you ask, Julia, and it seems the market would demand that cinemas show Star Whores and In Diana Jones and the Temple Poon.”

    Can’t buck the market! ;)

  20. BenSix said: “Oh, and by the way: you Loach-bashers can’t have seen Looking for a Eric: it’s a wonderfully bonkers film.”

    Not bashing Ken’s talent, bashing Ken’s griping at how he isn’t as successful at getting bums on seats as other people.

    Tim Almond said: I once went to my local multiplex on a Saturday night to see The Piano. The place was rammed full of teenagers, and every other screen was full. The Piano, on its first Saturday night was a quarter full, at best.

    I’ve had a similar experience going to a Vue cinema to watch old films. Hardly any other bugger wanted to watch The Thing or Alien. Whereas at a City Screen picture house the audience for the original Godzilla was a full one.

  21. DBC Reed:
    I thought modern capitalism was supposed to support diversity( Not round here it does n’t: it is sometimes difficult to pick up a Guardian or New Statesman.

    This is nonsense. You are posting on the Internet, you can get access to the Guardian and the New Statesmen without even getting out of your chair. Or indeed, magazines from all over the world. People who don’t have access to the Internet might have problems getting this diversity, you don’t.

    My local arts cinema funded by the Borough Council (which is very unusual),shows some excellent World Cinema the multiplexes won’t touch. Films by Mauretian oddities like Sissako are actually better films.

    And what are the viewing figures?

    There is no place in your dismal philosophy for quality: it is all numbers and monopoly.

    And this is just false. Economic philosophy is all about money and quality, it’s about the cost-benefit tradeoff. People will do or purchase something if they consider that the value it offers to them is greater than the cost – so quality is at the heart of the trade-off. The way that numbers come into it is to quantify claims and understand the empirical reality.

    That’s about the size of it but its all distributor in origin: distributors often take 75% of the box office from the cinema for first-run blockbusters.Naturally they try to restrict them to multiplexes ,which are kept in business by sales of sundries and popcorn

    Thus leaving the field free for those distributors who don’t sell first-run blockblusters.

    I don’t read the Wall Street Journal: I was just trying to give you an example you could identify with.

    How about you try to also give examples that support your argument, rather than undercutting it?

    You are picking off details not addressing the issues of monopoly v diversity (or Distributism) and popularity does not promote quality.

    DBC Reeds, I’m going to let you in on a secret. The popular stuff is never going to be popular amongst those who claim they can define quality. What’s the point of spending years studying film, or music, or books, if you at the end have no greater insight than those people who just go to the cinema/concert-hall/library at random? The critics have to justify their investment somehow, and that’s going to be by denigrating what is popular and finding value in what is overlooked. This is a bias that no system of distribution is going to get around.

    Gareth: Just imagine, if you went into the library and the bookshelves were stacked with 63% to 80% American fiction, 15% to 30% half-American, half-British fiction, and then all the other writers in the whole world just 3%. Imagine that in the art galleries, in terms of pictures; imagine it in the theatres.

    I know, Gareth, that you don’t agree with the bit you quote, but I thought as an addition, that actually, if you look at European art galleries, they tend to be, what 90% + European artists? The big US art galleries (New York Met, Boston), have better international coverage, but the art galleries in Europe are very limited.

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