Ex-Columbia Pictures chief David Puttnam was knighted for making the world safe for British film with hits like Chariots of Fire
and The Killing Fields
. If any other ex-studio chief wrote a book called Movies and Money
, it would be essentially similar to Roger Corman's How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime
But Puttnam's book grew from his Oxford lectures--it's a scholarly history of the struggle for cultural supremacy between the film establishments of Hollywood and Europe. L.A. won the battle from the first shot. Despite massive totalitarian-government support, Russians shunned the masterpiece The Battleship Potemkin in favor of Douglas Fairbanks's Robin Hood. Today, 80 to 90 percent of Europe's filmgoers go to U.S. films, and Hollywood's influence is everywhere. Warner Bros. offered Puttnam extra money to reshoot Local Hero with a happy ending that would have destroyed its pro-pastoral, anticommercial message. He refused--but he admits it would've earned $20 million more with the Hollywood ending. The Crying Game was a flop in England, then a U.S. smash, thanks to superior Yank marketing. Four Weddings and a Funeral was made in England, cannily released Stateside, then repatriated as "America's No. 1 Smash Hit!"
Puttnam yearns to see European film get on its feet and fight back with hits of its own, supported with more savvy marketing. He's not just a film professional and historian. He's a local hero. --Tim Appelo
From Publishers Weekly
In 1908, the French film impresario Charles Pathe, who single-handedly transformed a rag-tag business of lab technicians and carnival sideshows into the first vertically integrated film company, ruled the fledgling movie industry on both sides of the Atlantic. By the end of WWI, Hollywood, which as late as 1913 was merely a dusty colony in suburban L.A., had begun to dominate the overseas film market. Today, according to Puttnam, a British film producer who headed Columbia Pictures from 1986 to 1988, 80% of Europe's box office comes from American movies. In this trenchant business history of the cinema, Puttnam explores how the balance of economic power has shifted between European and American studios over the years, and how producers, directors, stars and agents, as well as movies, television and new media, have jockeyed for control of the market. The bulk of the book is a panoramic portrait of American cinematic imperialism, from the patenting of Edison's first coin-operated kinetoscope to the international release of Jurassic Park, which coincided with the vexed GATT negotiations of 1993, as European filmmakers successfully fought off Hollywood's attempts to abolish tariffs on film exports (an anxious cover story in L'Express at the time featured a dinosaur striding across Paris). Puttnam fills each chapter with lively anecdotes, business statistics and micro-profiles of industry players from Louis Lumiere to Michael Ovitz. But these details are all marshaled to support an overriding polemic: only by adapting to the changing patterns of marketing, distribution and consumer demand, Puttnam says, can European film producers combat American box office dominance. Unfortunately, Puttnam belabors this argument to the point that, at times, his book might be mistaken for the opening PR sally of the GATT negotiations scheduled for 2000.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.