The megaplex, conceived in 1997 by the Belgian society Kinépolis, is a movie distribution firm, containing at least 8 auditoriums, usually concentrated in a distribution chain, such as Cinemaxx, UCI, AMC, Constantin, UGC, or Gaumont-Pathé. AMC is the biggest distributor in the world, holding 343 megaplexes, 5 128 screens, and registered on stock exchange. Today, the firm continues to buy movie theaters in order to get bigger and bigger.
The concept of the megaplex gets popularized in the 90s, and in few years revolutionized the typical public: cinemas are today open to everyone, from grandmothers to Science-Fiction fans.
This change would have the power to make the big screenmore accessible. Following a normal logic, more people would lead to more tickets sold, and cheap prices. Unfortunately, the economic logic wants that the price gets more expensive.
Before, people used to go to the cinema as they would take a coffee (2$ in the 1970’). Today, the average ticket price in movie theaters is 8,16$ (2013). So why do we pay more ? We pay for the luxury of restaurants, games, toys stores of the megaplex nobody ever asked for.
Before, the movie theater would sustain independent artists, as film societies organized discussions, interviews and meetings. Today, the movie is preceded by 20 to 30 minutes of commercials encouraging the public to buy more.
However, beyond the fact that a ticket doesn’t worth 8,16$, and that the megaplex follows the principle of mass consumption, the real concern resides in the movies programs. People used to choose their kind of cinema, their kind of culture, they knew what “going to the movies” meant.
Let’s see how a movie is chosen today in order to reach your eyes.
The programming choice is a cycle able to divert a culture.
Let’s begin this programming cycle somewhere : let’s choose a movie to watch. The movie theater (the distributor) proposes 20 movies, all of them paid their “rent” to be projected, giving way to big budget movies, in other words commercial Blockbusters made to attract crowds. Anyway, let’s choose the most suitable movie, or the one that will not annoy the young lady we invited tonight, or even the remake of an old movie, in order not to be disappointed. Not to be disappointed means that we need to make the 8,16$ ticket profitable, as well as our time. When the movies are no longer in movie theaters, their popularity are rated thanks to the calculation of the box-office, which is no more than the takings the movie made.
Even if the movie will pass through critics, awards, and festivals, the real vote is the public vote which defines the popularity of the movie. Nevertheless, this vote comes from box-office statistics.
Here we are: distribution societies and producers (who invest their money) opt for smash hits, but they do not know it will be a hit before the movie is finished. The success results as a fate, an encounter between artistic ideas and the discovery of a public. So for producers, hits are synonyms of movies with no financial risks, which means no innovation and comfort of recycled movies.
Essentially big budget blockbusters trying not to get out of the outlined “artistic” path.
The pattern is clear: the producer’s salary matches with the hit with no risks. This enables to remove the support to independent artists, to innovations, and to squash them thanks to huge amounts of money.
The megaplex gets a reputation with commercials and doesn’t need to diversify the programming: the cycle is launched. Arrives the moment when the culture is deeply touched, because the phenomenon gets fashionable.
We watch ourselves in the simulacrum-mirror of this cinema, of this programming so-called representative of our society. Our culture is being dictated to us, and even if we do not see ourselves in this mirror, we try to guess ourselves to be fashionable.
This is the illusion of a choice. The producer finances Iron Man. Iron Man is part of a precise programming distributed by megaplexes to reach a public. The public chooses Iron Man among the programming proposed by producers. The producer doesn’t leave a chance to the innovative and independent artist, who didn’t have a budget big enough to realize his movie. The producer finally voted for the megaplex programming and influenced public’s taste and culture. The public, as for it, didn’t vote for the programming, and neither for his culture. Results: Iron Man gets a big box-office thanks to restricted choices and 8,16$ tickets.
The concept of cinema disappeared. We do not choose more the megaplexes programming than the reality shows that dazes us in front of TV. We chose to not choose, to buy what’s on the market is easier.
The producer owes the money, and so the most important part of the movie financing.
How can we take back the control over our cinematic culture? What would the cinema become if We, public, would be producers? If We would vote for the culture we receive? If We would participate in any manner to the realization of our culture? Isn’t it striking that in 2015 an artist needs to pay to deliver a message to the world? Does our society reflect freedom of expression or its purchase?
Crowdfunding, for example allows us to vote for our programming and our culture. We, public, internet users, select the projects we want to see concretely realized, with a democratic vote and a direct universal suffrage of the cinematic programming and culture. So, why don’t we start choosing, instead of buying?