Monday, December 21, 2009

From the many, to the few

In last Friday's edition of the Bangkok Post, Kong Rithdee wrote an article entitled Thai Cinema: The decade in review. The final section of the article is dedicated to the lack of diversity in Bangkok's vast cinema scene, despite the fact that the city has more movie screens than it's ever had before. More screens, yes. More owners, no. The near-monopolistic conditions currently afflicting the Thai movie exhibition business are an insult to an industry which once hosted a movie line-up as diverse as anywhere in the world, thanks, in part, to its wide-range of owners. Vertical integration, or the coupling of film distribution and exhibition within the respective big theater chains, likewise limits what makes it to the silver screen.

At the end of the article, Rithdee suggests that it might be time for the government to step in and play a role in opening up the nation's screens - hence people's minds - to more stimulating material. Problem is, I'm reasonably sure that the current government likes things just the way they are.

Here's the text in its entirety.

Screen savers: The multiplex factor

According to the report by Sanchai Chotiroseranee, there are now 136 multiplexes in Bangkok, offering altogether 616 screens. This is, by a modest estimate, over a 50 percent increase from year 2000. Excluding "second-class" cinemas specialising in soft-core flicks, there are now only two stand-alone theatres left, Siam and Scala.

Despite a large number of screens and hiking ticket prices, these theatre chains, ruled by Major Cineplex and SF Cinema, do not serve up a rich variety of films. More screens don't translate into more diverse kinds of movies.

Small Thai films that deserve a wider audience find it hard, if not impossible, to penetrate the lucrative slots occupied by big Hollywood releases. Sometimes SF and Major struck deals with independent filmmakers for limited release of their films (like Wonderful Town), but the short shelf-life usually didn't allow word of mouth to travel. Even Thai studio films sometimes find it exhausting to compete with new American blockbusters - hence the glut of Thai comedy and ghost films to snatch back multiplex screens.

Multiplexes are thus increasingly influential in shaping the taste of Thai audiences. Alternative cinemas such as House, established in 2005, and the veteran Lido, indeed offer choices, yet they represent less than 0.5 percent of the number of total screens in Bangkok. If creativity comes with diversity, this is another area that the government must look into as we step into the new, more competitive decade.

No comments:

Post a Comment