The Distribution of French Cinema to the United States.
Mémoire publié en 2002 - 78 pages
The emergence and first steps of French cinema are so closely linked, both economically and artistically, to that of American cinema, that it would be impossible to separate the two when telling the history of cinema be it from an American of French perspective. This mutual and often difficult background has set the pace for all relations both in the past and probably the future between these two countries in regard to cinema. It has therefore become a complex task for either nation to step away from the roles that they have cast themselves into throughout the history of cinema, the main problem that is plaguing French cinema of today.
Both nations quickly took their different paths in how they perceived and went about making their own brand of cinema. For the Americans, it was an industry to be developed as such, making movies whose strongest attribute was that of universal scope, thus becoming a readily exportable commodity. The French on the other hand perceived cinema as an art form that had to be equally respected and protected, both as a cultural status symbol, but also a legacy that had to be protected from the power of the fundamentally industrial American cinema which became their oldest and greatest competitor from the very beginning.
Now, after more than a century of esthetic and economic conflict, both cinemas have their own problems to deal with, but first and foremost the fact that spectatorship has been on a steady decline in both nations for the last decade. This in turn has made finding the financial support necessary to produce the movies for a growingly selective audience all the more difficult to come by.
However, America set out to become a world competitor, a task at which it has achieved phenomenally. American movies have continuously achieved greater box-office numbers in the majority of countries, the national cinema of these countries finding themselves unable to compete with the inexorable flow of American film.
France, on the other hand only recently saw the necessity of looking into the world market as a viable source of revenue. By reaching a larger part of the world market than at present, French cinema would set out to prove that, despite being victim to the same subjugation of American cinema, French cinema has equal claim over the world market, and that they would be equally successful in distributing abroad. Their main objective over the years, has thus become to penetrate the American market, and from there have an easier time at distributing to the rest of the world which for the greater part adamantly follows trends set by the American public.
So, whereas French cinema sees itself as being the great innovator in style, treating movies like a cultural heritage, the United States has always considered cinema's role to be that of an economical commodity that should be harnessed and used primarily as a means to further revenues and open doors to further production and distribution. France wants to achieve a similar goal as the US, but not at the sacrifice of its national identity through cinema, making the task all the more difficult, and yet noteworthy due to the fact that the only example at present of a cinema that has been able to conquer all market's was one that set aside all cultural bounds as a rule.
Vesalius College, Vrije Universiteit Brussel