Something got my attention this week. Filmmaker Martin Scorsese was quoted in the media, causing international headlines.
“Cinema is dead,” screamed one headline. I don’t know if was the so-called fake news, or the major press. It was all a blur. First thing is first. What did Martin Scorsese say?
“Cinema is gone. The cinema I grew up with and that I’m making, it’s gone. The theater will always be there for that communal experience; there’s no doubt. But what kind of experience is it going to be? Is it always going to be a theme-park movie? I sound like an old man, which I am. The big screen for us in the ’50s, you go from Westerns to ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ to the special experience of ‘2001’ in 1968. The experience of seeing ‘Vertigo’ and ‘The Searchers’ in VistaVision.”
He also said: “TV, I don’t think has taken that place. Not yet. I tried it. I had success to a certain extent. ‘Vinyl’ we tried, but we found that the atmosphere for the type of picture we wanted to make – the nature of the language, the drugs, the sex, depicting the rock ‘n’ roll world of the ’70s – we got a lot of resistance. So I don’t know about that freedom.”
I thought about seeing Star Wars in the now torn down University Theater in downtown Toronto in the 1970’s. I also thought about seeing Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark in grade school. My full appreciation of film came when I was in a part-time film in Ryerson University from 1995-1997. Citizen Kane, Chinatown, and Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep were all analyzed and appreciated. I remember filming with a scoopic camera.
These antiquated cameras were surprisingly user-friendly, but young filmmakers in the 1990’s had no digital cameras to master in such a time and place. Only when I see Wings 1927, Mel Brooks Silent Film 1976 , and James Cagney in Man of a Thousand Faces 1957 do I actually witness these vintage cameras in use in a recreated scene. Oddly enough, I really think it is too soon to say cinema is dead. Zap to 2013. I experimented with a digital camera and wrote/produced this and this. In 2014, I wrote and produced this and this. Lastly, in 2016, I rejigged a 2014 creation and got this. I don’t think cinema is dead but is evolving. Why? YouTube is a breeding ground for those who wish to learn about Old Hollywood and film their own material.
Another thing caught my attention in the media as well. In January 2017, I spotted an article in Variety, explaining how Chinese investors were in Hollywood. As you can see, the article featured a short story on how one Chinese investor, Dalian Wanda Group, had bought Legendary Entertainment, AMC, and Carmike Cinemas. Yes, American politicians voiced their concerns but every politician has a price, and they will be silenced sooner than you think. BTW, does anyone remember Sony’s decision to buy Columbia Pictures in 1989 and Matsushita’s purchase of Universal in 1990? Does anyone remember Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and the brooha he caused when he jumped from Seagram to Hollywood?
According to media reports, Edgar Bronfman Jr.sold Seagram’s stake in DuPont — which provided Seagram a steady source of income — back to the chemical company. He spent over half of the money from the sale to purchase the entertainment conglomerate MCA, which owned Universal Studios. Five years later, on the promise of building an entertainment empire, Bronfman sold control of Seagram to French telecommunications company Vivendi for $34 billion in stock. It was alleged such a deal was negotiated over a cocktail napkin. In time, Vivendi went from 34 billion to 3 billion. If you need insight into such a situation, watch Swimming with Sharks 1994.
So that being said, China is a very different deal that went on with Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Vivendi. Critics in the media suggest companies close to The Communist Party of China (CPC) get grants from the government and use this money to buy a strategic interest in the American media. It is alleged the Chinese investors want to eliminate negative portrayals of the CPC, its police force, and military machine. They also wish to prohibit a positive portrayal of religion and supernatural occurrences, including time travel. Word on the street, these Chinese companies want to appease The Communist Party of China (CPC). Men in Black 3 got cut, including Captains Phillips 2012. Why? China doesn’t want a positive portrayal of the US military. Mission Impossible 3, Karate Kid 2010, 2014 Transformers Age of Extinction, and Iron Man 3–all got cuts for one reason or another.
The new rulers in Tinseltown are offering 25% cut of the box office sales at a set price. Did you know 2012 Red Dawn had North Korea as a villain regime? So far, the new Chinese owners have hit every film that I wouldn’t even watch. A Chinese expat in Toronto offered some insight into The Chinese Communist Party. This source said The Chinese Communist Party is filled with old families, family dynasties, and socialites. This source postulated that tech start-ups were producing a new generation of leaders that were forcing a quiet revolution in The Chinese Communist Party. When will this revolution occur? This source speculated change, or reform, in The Chinese Communist Party would come in less than a decade, possibly in 2020, or 2023.
For the record, the last film I enjoyed in the theater was Midnight in Paris. I know I have my own conspiracy theories on what will happen. I fully expect the bubble will burst and foreign money will enjoy a fire sale of western companies. I wouldn’t doubt that these Chinese investors will move Hollywood out of the US, including its headquarters, and base the operations entirely in Beijing. Once that has been accomplished, China will produce all the super-hero movies with Chinese actors. Yes, I predict a Chinese James Bond, a Chinese Superman, a Chinese Spiderman, a Chinese Batman–all Marvel comics-inspired movies will see a new generation of actors–all Chinese in origin….. Star Wars and Star Trek will have an all-Chinese cast of actors. Why? Why make a billion with Hollywood in the US when all the Hollywood studios could make a trillion in China and become bigger than Bollywood. My stopwatch is running. It will be in just a matter of time. And that is my two cents!