Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 April 2021
‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.’Hamlet – William Shakespeare
‘Fuck the audiences, for all I care!’João César Monteiro in an interview during the premiere of his film Branca de Neve
‘The song remains the same.’Led Zeppelin
Can a national cinema be successful or unsuccessful?
‘The film industry is unlike any other. […] No other industry has similar non-economic pretensions’ (Hoskins, McFayden, and Finn 1997, 3). Commenting on this premise in her 2003 book on film industries, Anne Jäckel acknowledges that this tension is particularly evident in the European context. Indeed, if it is true that cinematic works are, inherently, cultural products with a considerable symbolic significance, it is also undeniable that they are produced and circulate via a market system that, since its origins, has always been international (Jäckel 2003, 1).
Although there is no clear opposition between the two terms, the distinction between the value of a film and its price from the standpoint of the private initiative that produces it is not exempt from controversy. The variety and conflict of criteria used to assess the value of film is oftentimes overshadowed by reference to the profit it produces. That profit can, of course, belong to the public (e.g. the pleasure of enjoyment, the interpellation of the spectator and their sensibilities, the patrimonial dimension of the image) or to the private sector (i.e. the profit made from box-office ticket sales and copyrights, capital that is used to cover the expenses of the investment made). Given such apparently irreconcilable facets of profit, it is not surprising that measuring the success of a group of films made in a specific country is particularly challenging.
The long tradition of state support existing in European countries (as well as in European Union (EU) policies) is a sign that cinema is deemed too important from a social standpoint to be left at the mercy of market forces (Jäckel 2003, 3). Indeed, the coexistence between cinematic culture and the market is somewhat paradoxical. This issue, which is clearly a matter of contention in Portuguese legislation concerning cinema, has been studied by Paulo Leite.