The direct economic impact of film is clear, but the effect to the wider economy is also significant. The UK House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee- in a 2002 report on The British Film Industrystated, "... Of the 23 million people who visited the UK in 2001 — spending approximately ? 11. 3billion — VisitBritain (formerly the British Tourist Authority) estimates that approximately 20% visited the UK because of the way it is portrayed in films or on television. The flow-on effect from film (i. e. the use of services and purchase of goods by the industry) is thought to be that for every ? 1 spent on film, there is a ? 1. 50 benefit to the economy".
Cinema has become a powerful vehicle for culture, education, leisure and propaganda. In a 1963 report for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization looking at Indian Cinema and Culture, the author (Baldoon Dhingra) quoted a speech by Prime Minister Nehru who stated, "... the influence in India of films is greater than newspapers and books combined. " Even at this early stage in cinema, the Indian film-market catered for over 25 million people a week- considered to be just a 'fringe' of the population.
"The narrative and representational aspects of film make it a wholly unique form of art. Moreover, the collective experience of film as art renders it a wholly distinct leisure activity. The unique properties of attending the cinema can have decisively positive effects on mental health. Cinema attendance can have independent and robust effects on mental wellbeing because visual stimulation can queue a range of emotions and the collective experience of these emotions through the cinema provides a safe environment in which to experience roles and emotions we might not otherwise be free to experience
Moreover, the cinema is unique in that it is a highly accessible social art form, the participation in which generally cuts across economic lines. At the same time, attending the cinema allows for the exercise of personal preferences and the human need for distinction. In a nutshell, cinema attendance can be both a personally expressive experience, good fun, and therapeutic at the same time In a rather groundbreaking study, Konlaan, Bygren and Johansson found that frequent cinema attendees have particularly low mortality risks –those who never attended the cinema had mortality rates nearly 4 times higher than those who visit the cinema at least occasionally (Konlaan, Bygren, and Johansson 2000 So how has cinema grown to become such a preeminent part of human culture? In this exclusive interview we talk to Tom Sherak, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (best known for their Academy Awards, also referred to as "Oscars").
We look at the role of film in society and how it has grown to become such a ubiquitous art. We discuss what makes a 'great' movie, some history of film, the economics and future of the industry, and how the internet and other technologies such as CGI and 3D have affected the movie business. Thomas Sherak, whose remarkable career has seen him at the pinnacle of motion picture marketing, distribution and production, is now serving as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and is also consulting for Marvel Studios and Relativity Media.
Q: What is the role of film in society and why has film become such a strong part of the arts? [Tom Sherak] Film is a reflection of society, both present and past. I think the film and it's innovations sometimes has to catch up to society but sometimes it leads society too. Movies are stories, movies are people who come out with ideas about something they want to say, something they want to tell someone. Movies are a form of communication and that communication, those stories, come from societies- not just where society is presently and what it's doing now- but where society has been. It's been that way for as long as movies have been around!
Movies are different things to different people, that's what is so incredible about them. To me personally, movies are about escapism. Movies are about sitting in a theatre, watching something- watching a story unfold with people I don't know- watching that happen and emoting an emotion knowing that for those two hours, when I walk into that theatre, I don't have to worry about what is going on outside. I lose myself in what I'm watching. Movies can educate too. They tell us things we never could have known. They tell us things we might not know, and they give us a way to explore the past, the present and the future.
You asked why movies have become so popular, I'm going to tell you why, it's because the images move... They're not static. I could stare at a Van-Gogh for hours, but I sit in a theatre and the images move. As the frames move and tell a story, it is that movement which emotionally connects you. To me, this is fundamental about why movies have become global. Every country has stories to tell, about their past, their culture now, and views of what the future will look like through their eyes. What hadn't happened for many years, and what started to happen relatively recently was a couple of things.
Firstly, movie theatres began to be built all over the world- not just here in the USA. In many parts of the world, the phenomenon of movie theatres is only ten or fifteen years old. These theatres give people a place to go, to escape, to learn. Before that, society had the stories, but they didn't really have the places to go and enjoy them like that. India, for example, wasn't making six hundred films a year fifteen years ago. All of a sudden, the business part of film allowed people to invest and make movies- and also have somewhere to make their money back, in theatres! Then the internet came along.
If you go on YouTube, you can see the most talented young people all over the world who take a camera and start to film ideas they have and put them online. They're going to be the future of the industry. The internet has connected the world together so a person in Vietnam can put a movie on the internet which can be instantly seen all around the world, you simply couldn't have done that before. I believe, personally, that movies allow people to be taken places they can't get to on their own- be it travel, or culture, or learning. The arts are not just one, they are all connected- and movies have become a huge part of the arts.
Q: What are the impacts of current-affairs, politics, social issues and corporate interests on film? [Tom Sherak] This is one of the great things about movies. Some movies take sides- you can agree or disagree with the content. Some movies take sides and create a conversation, and that conversation can be in any area; be it political, social, or even within specific disciplines such as fashion. Movies can create controversy, and tell difficult stories. Movies have always either taken a side, remained central, or projected something forward.
For eg. In 3 idiots movie how movie places the importance of excellence in education. During the Second World War movies in the USA created a feeling of valour and heroism in what we were doing and you saw this in films that came out at the time such as the Purple Heart. , if you really want to continue the conversation? "hey! did you see Avatar? ". It doesn't matter whether you like the movie or not, but it starts a conversation. It's one of the few things around the world which we all have in common. Can you give me something else which the world has in common? that we can have an opinion on without being right or wrong?
Movies also create debate, they create conversation, they create an atmosphere. Not all movies of course... I'm not going to sit here and tell you that 'Never Been Kissed' causes a debate... but movies are often made by film-makers who want to take a position on a topic, and you can debate it. One of the governors of the Academy is a gentleman by the name of Michael Moore who is to the left of the left! Michael Moore makes movies from a point of view, and whether you agree with him or not, whether you like him or not, it doesn't matter- his movies create debate, and that is a good thing.