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January 13, 2012


 Luis Enrique

"it is impossible to predict what films will be commercially successful"

I dunno, how about: " sequels, boring proven formulae and multi-million salary stars"?


I think it is you who have bared your ideological talons. Although no one can "predict" commercial success there is certainly a major difference between those films that are directed to the "art house" as opposed to "commercial" films. While neither is a guarantee of success (or failure) one can generally categorize a project as falling within those parameters. Cameron's remarks canbe seen as indicating government preference for films more likely to achieve commercial success. You are so quick to chastise politicians for lack of knowledge of business. I guess economists, when opining on business, have no need to have any relevant experience. Just like priests in the Catholic church can provide similar advise about sex.

Given the rest of the post it seems likely that your analysis is somehow designed to support in some way another ideological comrade.

 Luis Enrique

I'd have thought the role of government in funding films ought to be analogous to subsidising experimentation or film-maker education - enabling films that are not commercial successes but which act as proving grounds for new talent. That is something valuable which the private sector may not do very well on its own (experimentation has public good style characteristics). Developing UK film making talent like that gives the UK a useful comparative advantage / export industry.

coincidently, a tax expert once told me that tax breaks for the film industry were a text book example of why trying to use the tax code to encourage behaviour is a bad idea - when they designed the tax break, the estimated it would cost the Treasury about £2m, but in the event so many people worked out how to exploit it, it ended up costing hundreds of millions, far more than could be justified on grounds I outline above.

 Luis Enrique

more (sorry) - the question isn't so much whether predicting commercial success is possible per se (I think it is - it it wasn't, big budget films wouldn't get financed) its whether the government is going to be better at it than private sector film producers / financiers.

Private sector film makers are already trying to make commercially successful films and financiers will already back films expected to be commercially successful - you are right to say it's absurd to think government involvement will improve this process.

I think this also reveals awful pro-luvviness - you'd never get a Tory saying the government ought to get involved to help metal bashers be commercially successful.


How depressing.

This morning I watched an press-screening of 'Shame' (it's not released in Scandinavia for a while yet).

Really a fantastic film and would not exist if Cameron gets his way.

Account Deleted

I think this is less about managerialism (though that is, as you say, central to the ideology of the political class), and more about the UK film industry's long track record as a tax dodge.

While the 90s and early-00s extremes of "double-dipping" and the like have been addressed (they were too embarrassing to ignore, unlike the pictures they resulted in), the making of films remains a privileged occupation in the UK.

Cameron's thrust appears to be about deciding which sections of the industry should most benefit from these privileges. The presence of Tory peer Julian Fellowes on the PM's trip to Pinewood is not accidental.

I have no doubt that in Cameron's mind a "mainstream" or "commercially successfull picture" is by definition a conservative one, made by "chaps like us."

One further materialist point to note is that cinema, as a productive business, can produce very large profits very quickly - i.e. a hit film can deliver a fat revenue stream within 2-3 years of initial investment.

If you were looking to boost GDP, not to mention the balance of payments, in 2015, then you might be tempted to gamble on cinema ahead of a more predictable but slower return from classic manufacturing.

Kellie Strøm

On GeorgeNYC's distinction between art house and commercial: aren't art house films also commercial? The distinction might be better seen as between art house and mass market, between low stake productions aimed at narrow markets versus high stake productions aimed at wider markets. Film production, like publishing, is a betting game, and there can be a commercial advantage to spread betting on as many low stake productions as possible, rather than risking all on one spin of the wheel.

See "My Indecision is Final" by Jake Eberts and Terry Ilott for more.


Although I apologize for the early morning snarkyness, my point was that this really was not some form of "managerialism" but something else entirely. As pointed about by "fromarsetoelbow" it probably has more to do with typical cronyism rather than some misguided attempt to "pick" commercially successful films.

it is perhaps more offensive if you see it as cronyism masking itself as manegerialism.


I think film is seen as "sexy" and so gets a pass from the point of view of economic theory. From the point of view of theory it makes logical sense for the state to finance cultural out put that is good but not economic. As part of the Liberal end of promoting social good that the market will not. Keynes certainly thought that a board of big wigs like himself could pick cultural winners. Those cultural winners may be profitable or may not, but that is secondary to the aim of boosting culture. It seems to be pointless to provide tax relief to profitable films as the market of investors should make them anyway. Tax relief merely reduces the gain received by the state. If the Treasury applied this policy to all economic sectors then the Government really would be bust. The state should subsidise culture if it needs it by direct spending and profitable cultural productions can help to subsidise the loss leaders.


I might add that producing philistines "who know the price of everything but the value of nothing"
reflects badly on Eton and ther private educational bodies! If all your pupils have equally limited appreciation for culture then private education is a waste of money.

Chris Purnell

Isn't the Cameron statement just empty PR rhetoric said opportunistically? It's more 'mood music' than a putative policy.

Tory Burch Online

thank you for your useful site


The press is, for the most part, the propaganda wing of the Tory Party.

john problem

There three things necessary to guarantee commercial success (in addition to the obvious trick of attaching a big name star). They are sex, violence and gutter talk. Is our leader, the Head Prefect, propagandising that?

Tim Almond

The Guardian are dumbed-town Tory press?

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