The East Is Green

Ever since 1948, when the Justice Department won its lawsuit, U.S. v. Paramount, against the major movie studios, it has been illegal for a company to produce and distribute movies while also owning the theaters in which they are shown.

If you read carefully the article in today's New York Times about the high hopes of Hollywood in China, you will notice that the rule laid down by that 1948 case does not apply there. For example, Time Warner is investing not only in production and distribution but also in "more than 70 cinemas around the country in preparation for a potential theater-going boom."

Americans like to think that our movies are just so wonderful, the world can't get enough of them. On the whole, we reject the left's now stale-sounding accusations of "US cultural imperialism." But despite the genuine popularity of our films worldwide, there has always been an element of coercion involved, as well as a distinctly double standard regarding business ethics.

This is an old story. During World War I, the fledgling studios made domestic propaganda films for the Committee on Public Information, and after the war, Washington repaid the studios by pressuring war-weakened European governments to allow the import of US films. Without this help, countries like France (then the leading supplier of films in the world) would have been more successful in keeping the US out of European markets.

This process got racheted up after World War II, when despite much rhetoric about free markets, Washington exerted extremely heavy pressure toward the same goal, while in the process allowing the studios to engage in monopolistic practices overseas that were outlawed at home. In a nutshell, they were allowed to form a cartel, the Motion Picture Export Association, that conspired against foreign theater owners by acting as a single distributor, booking films in “blocks,” threatening to cut off supply if theater owners showed non-US films, and allocating foreign profits based on domestic box-office receipts.

The studios were also given a huge advantage over foreign competitors by the Informational Media Guaranty Program (1948), which reimbursed them in dollars for all films sold to countries with soft or inconvertible currencies. And finally, the Marshall Plan for Europe contained provisions linking financial aid to the willingness of foreign governments to reduce or eliminate import quotas on American films.

A few years later, TV followed same pattern. In 1960 the Television Program Export Association enlisted the aid of the State Department in overcoming foreign resistance to “Batman,” “Mod Squad,” and “The Fugitive.” Especially after the movie studios began producing TV shows, they made the same case for the small screen that they had made for the large - that exporting entertainment was not just good business but also good PR. As Harrison Salisbury once said, “American pictures are the best and most forceful medium for selling the United States.”

This may still be good business, but is it good PR? That is a question very much on my mind these days...

July 4, 2005 1:45 AM |

Categories:

Soundtrax

PRC Pop 

The Chinese pop music scene is like no other ...

Remembering Elvis 

The best part of him will never leave the building ...

Beyond Country 

Like all chart categories, "country" is an arbitrary heading under which one finds the ridiculous, the sublime, and everything in between. On the sublime end, a track that I have been listening to over and over for the last six months: Wynnona Judd's version of "She Is His Only Need." The way she sings it, irony is not a color or even a set of contrasting colors; it is iridescence.

Miles the Rock Star? 

Does Miles Davis belong in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? Here's my take on his career ...

Essay Contest 

Attention, high school jazz listeners ...

more trax

Me Elsewhere

Edward Hopper 

Painter of light (and darkness) ...

Dissed in Translation 

Here's my best shot at taking Scorcese down a few pegs ...

Henri Rousseau Revisited 

"Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris" appeared at the National Gallery of Art in Washington this fall ...

Paul Klee's Art 

Paul Klee was not childish, despite frequent comparisons between his art and that of children...

Our Art Belongs to Dada 

Rent my "Dadioguide" tour of the Dada show (before it moves to MoMA) ...

more picks

Blogroll

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on July 4, 2005 1:45 AM.

Good News! More Manure! was the previous entry in this blog.

Contact me is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads


AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

culture
About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Dewey21C
Richard Kessler on arts education
diacritical
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Flyover
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

dance
Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

jazz
Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
ListenGood
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Rifftides
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

media
Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Overflow
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
PianoMorphosis
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
PostClassic
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Sandow
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

publishing
book/daddy
Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

theatre
Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

visual
Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
Artopia
John Perreault's art diary
CultureGrrl
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.