12 May 2005

Market penetration

A LONG time ago, in a land far away, The Blob was one of my favourite movies. Apparently they're doing a remake. That's about all I can be bothered finding out about the remake of the The Blob at this stage.

If you want to know more go and look it up yourself. There are stacks of online resources where you can get all the information you could ever possibly want - and never possibly need - about The Blob and the remake of The Blob. All the goss, all the speculation, all the dross that's unfit to print, but that's so easy and painless to publish online.

And herein lies a problem. The web is awash with too much publicity for nothing worth promoting. 

Too much spin masquerading as informed opinion. Today movie marketing and film culture are interchangeable, indistinguishable. It is almost exclusively a commercialised sphere - not exactly news in an era of unprecedented penetration of the market into everyday life, almost everywhere on Earth.

American cinema, in particular, is looking wan and tired as its big screen epics heave and clumber round the cineplexes, creating carefully staged ripples of soon-to-be-forgotten pyrotechnic spectacle. As a mass cultural phenomenon, The Movie seems to be losing its conceptual lustre before our very eyes, fragmenting into re-usable chunks of corporate output, part of a matrix of cultural products that includes games, DVDs, marketing and merchandise. Profits are up, gravitas is down.

The surging games industry, now a bigger entertainment "sector" in raw market terms, is itself driving much movie content, while throwing up a greater challenge to the global cultural hegemony of "Hollywood" than TV ever did in the '60s. TV's challenge spurred a financial crisis in the movie business. Today its challenge is one of relevance, supercession and obsolescence. If Hollywood doesn't speak for America Inc. or serve the nation as Washington's mouthpiece anymore, who does it speak for? Moreover, who cares?

The US movie business is geared to serving shareholders and corporate masters over audiences. In fact they're in the business of creating audiences; it's the audience that's the product, not the movie; it's the audience that delivers the profit, not the movie. Most movies are just steaming piles of creative and intellectual waste made only to deliver us - and we're just here to be seduced then abandoned (A.K.A. entertained). This is rarely a satisfactory contract, and irreparable disconnect is imminent, if not already upon us. Even in the face of unprecedented competition for entertainment dollar, the movie business appears on a mission to drive away its key profit driver - its audience - through sheer boredom and indifference.

In other words, enough words wasted on the remake of The Blob. I may catch it on cable in a year or two. Then I'll forget it immediately.

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