Everything That Degrades Culture . . . .

Interesting, disturbing item in today's Independent of London about two Parisian art cinemas that are "on strike" for Christmas in protest against the overwhelming favoritism shown the large chain cinemas in that city. We're no longer looking at the refusal to let smaller houses book American blockbusters; one of these theaters was beat out for Kaurismaki's Le Havre. (Granted it's a French-language film -- and a very good one -- but it's Kaurismaki for crissake.) Although, as the story notes, Frédéric Mitterrand, the culture minister, once was the manager of one of the theaters in question, there isn't likely to be much help as long as Sarkozy, the vest-pocket edition of Blair and Bush, is PM.

Of course, what is needed is some variation on the Paramount consent decree, forcing the theater chains to break their cozy relationship with the distributors, but it appears to me that the relationship is more complex than it was in the US in the '30s and '40s where the chains were simply owned by the studios (an admirable piece of vertical integration if I ever saw one). It's almost unnecessary to add that the Paramount decree was whittled away in the years after it was issued until Ronald Reagan shitcanned it completely as a gesture of gratitude to the studios who had made his entire career possible. Somewhere in Hell, Jack Warner was smiling broadly, albeit briefly, that day.

It seems to this rather underinformed observer that the best approach to keeping your home-grown cinemas strong -- and I mean both producers and end-users -- is an arrangement like South Korea's, a quota system that requires a substantial percentage of the films shown theatrically to be Korean-made. South Korea has one of the most vital national cinemas in the world today, and it's not hard to see why.

However, that doesn't really address the concerns of the theater owners in the Independent article. I don't know exactly what they can do, but I don't expect them to get help from their old employee.