The Circulation of European Films within Europe
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While more than a thousand films are made in Europe each year, only around 20 actually circulate in any meaningful way outside their own national market but within Europe. Despite the processes of globalisation and digitisation, we are clearly still some way from a film industry that knows no borders. This paper analyses the sorts of European productions that do travel successfully within Europe, and why. It draws on research undertaken for the MeCETES project (Mediating Cultural Encounters Through European Screens, 2013-2016), and especially the extensive database of films released in Europe between 2005 and 2015 put together by Huw D. Jones. The key factors affecting the ability of European films to travel successfully in nonnational European markets include the size of the budget, whether one of the major American studios was involved as producer or distributor, whether the lead producing nation was one of the Western European big five, the language in which the film was shot, critical acclaim, and the way in which the film tells its story. Five categories of European films, their production circumstances and their market performance, emerge from this analysis. First there are large-scale, big-budget blockbusters, many of them inward investment films backed by the Hollywood majors, which tend to travel well within Europe and enjoy equivalent success online. Secondly, there are small-scale, director-led, art-house films that command significant critical attention and travel to cosmopolitan audiences across Europe. Thirdly, there are feel-good, middlebrow films that occupy the middle-ground between these two extremes: modestly budgeted films that occasionally achieve crossover success and travel well within Europe. The other two categories describe films that travel very little, if at all, outside their domestic market. The fourth category is modest to low budget films with a strong national appeal, which may be successful in their own domestic market but rarely travel well beyond that market, whether theatrically or online. Fifthly, there are a great many European productions that fail to secure significant national admissions, let alone admissions in non-national markets. In many cases, this is indeed about failure. The dominance of the European film market by a small number of powerful American, British and French companies, and to a lesser extent, German, Spanish and Italian companies, indicates a lack of diversity within the films that circulate. And while some European films do circulate successfully outside their main producing nation, the vast majority do not. National film cultures within Europe are also surprisingly resilient in this era of globalised, digital storytelling and a surprising amount of national film-making is still enjoyed by national audiences. The challenge to policy-makers thus remains to find more effective ways of enabling a greater degree of cultural exchange, openness and inclusivity, within and beyond Europe.
keywordsEuropean film production and distribution; non-national European films; middlebrow films; blockbusters; auteur films
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