- Debate Topic -
A Rule Regulating the Monopoly of Movie Screens Should be Established
Thieves vs. Pieta. You can name this big match as ‘the most watched movie by Koreans vs. the most loved film by foreign movie industry.’ You might simply understand that it is a matter of which movie (what kind of genre) you like more. However, controversy has been gotten attention: why should I, a Seoulite, have difficulty to access a movie which is the most popular even in Venice.
YES, today’s topic is ‘screen monopoly.’ ‘Screen monopoly’ is a phenomenon in which a few powerful film distributors take overall influence on box-office outcome. In legal term, overall influence means more than 50% of cinemas show a same movie at the same time. Particularly, what makes worse is these powerful companies are members of conglomerates. Recently, the director of movie Touch, an independent film, sued film distributors and cinemas for not giving him fare competition. His movie has only 58 cinemas compared that A Werewolf boy, a movie commercialized by a conglomerate, has occupied more than 700 cinemas.
Even a report from ‘Annual inspection on governments by the National Assembly’ shows how serious this problem is. According to data from the report, three largest multiplex operated by conglomerates has occupied 86.7% of total screens in Korea. That means if you were a low budget independent film maker, you have extremely limited chance of showing your movie to public. This might cause weakness of Korea’s movie eco-system and eventually collapse of Korean film industry’s competitiveness. However, there are no screen antitrust law which aims to directly regulate a phenomenon of ‘screen monopolies’ in current legal scheme.
There was public debate on this issue. Regulation supporters argue that it is necessary to protect the cultural diversity. Per contra, the naysayers have been continued to insist free-market system. In 2007, the legislative bill of ‘Act on Promotion of the motion pictures and video products,’ in which a movie is limited to having no more than 30% of screen, were brought in the National Assembly for discussion. However, strong confrontation between stakeholder only brought suspension of such trial. In this circumstance, Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), has extended indirect and insufficient regulation, Article 28 (2) of ‘Act on Promotion of the motion pictures and video products’ to a few cases of screen monopolies which has been getting worse.
In non-governing mechanism, the Korean Film Commission has put its effort to reform the monopoly of film distribution and protecting low budget independent film makers, such as restriction on crossscreening without agreement by film-makers, opening and expanding of movie theatre for independent films, etc. However, because KFTC does not have administrative authority, its effort has not had distinct outcomes.
You can be advised by trend in USA and Japan in which even blockbusters films might take around 10% of total cinemas. Comparing that rate in two countries, our 50% monopoly regulation look too mild and adaptation of related government policies should be reviewed.
In conclusion, as we became a party of UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity in 2010, it is matter of our diversity on culture. As diversity in culture can give more creativeness, Korea’s future generation will have more bright future. In this regard, ‘screen monopoly’ should be immediately under proper government regulation.
Currently, the movie Kwanghye gained attention by having over ten million viewers. Of course, its harmony in directing, acting, and lighting and so on well contributed to its becoming a box-office hit. However, regarding the success of the movie, there exists a shade, too. It’s the monopoly of movie screens. The major company CJ who produced Kwanghye, started to take on the screens in movie theaters, from the start. On weekends and holidays, the movie occupied about 1000 screens, which is about half of the screens in CGV (a movie theatre of CJ). This kind of phenomenon is called the monopoly of screens and the rule regulating this must be set.
Firstly, the monopoly of screens takes away the right of the audience to pursue various cultures. These days, as the monopoly of the screens is produced by distributors of a few major companies, the place for low-budget movies and independent movies to stand is disappearing.
As a result, people are losing their opportunity to view these movies. That is, audience’s right to choose is decreasing due to the monopoly of screens. Secondly, for a movie market’s qualitative and quantitative development, a rule to regulate the monopoly of screens is necessary.
This year, director Kim Ki-Duk’s movie Pieta seized the spotlight by being awarded a Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival. After being awarded, the number of screens that played Pieta increased, yet, it was still insufficient compared to the number of screens for movies produced by major companies. Likewise, even the movie which was recognized for its craftsmanship globally is falling behind blockbuster movies. This condition raises a doubt that if this kind of monopoly continues, maybe it will be harder for Korean movies to develop a bright future.
These are the reasons for why a rule to regulate the monopoly of movie screens should be established. We are living in an era where diverse cultures coexist. Each one culture is invaluable in that it is generated and developed by humans. Therefore, no culture should be ignored, and no superiority can be set by criteria of capital. Nowadays, the movie market is in severe crisis due to the disappearing low-budget and independent movies, with blockbuster movies occupying all the screens. For conservation of cultural coexistence and for the rights of the audience, a rule regulating the monopoly of the movie screens is a must.
CJ shifted the opening day of the movie it produced, ‘Kwanghye, men who became a king’ and increased the number of movie screens to run it. Showbox artificially extended running days of movie The Thieves. Likewise, currently specific movies occupy 50 percent of screens
and a rule regulating the monopoly, such as the ‘Pieta Rule’ is being mentioned. However, this phenomenon should not be regulated.
Firstly, seen from the position of the audience, limiting the monopoly of screens can take away the opportunity to select contents of a superior quality. As customers, audience preference for good quality movies is reasonable. Small enterprises might have complaints about major companies enlarging their benefits without any consideration. However, it is often true that the contents of major companies are better. Regarding this point, regulating the monopoly of screens can narrow the audience’s choice to select better quality products. According to the poll institution Realmeter, 44.9% of the audience thinks the rule regulating the monopoly of screens should not be established. Likewise, most audience members are against the Pieta Rule, and the regulation violates the liberty of customers’ choice. Moreover, hasty regulation of the monopoly can cause recession of the movie market. If regulation of screens is set, imported films will hesitate to enter the Korean movie market, because regardless of the hit, the screen is limited, and therefore the possibility for the movie to reach deficit increases. It is also the same for blockbuster movies of Korea. If the monopoly is regulated, blockbuster movies that need expensive production costs will find it harder to make a profit. As a result, the rule might lead the movie market to shrink and contract. The rule that was set to secure diverse movies can contradictorily limit production of diverse movies.
Movies are also a product of the market. I agree on the point that we should protect various movies. Yet, I do not believe that a rule established to regulate the monopoly of screens can resolve this. Rather, when all the trades are made without any regulations following the theory of market, the diversity and good quality of movies can be assured by the‘invisible hand’ more than by the rule. Therefore, the rule to regulate the monopoly of movie screens should not be established.