Sunday night attracted the great and the good of the Spanish film industry to this year’s Goya awards, the country’s version of the Oscars. Reading the papers the following morning, I see confirmed once again, that Spanish cinema not only deserves the problems it faces, but the head of its Academy of Cinematic Arts (which runs the event) it deserves.
For me, the indisputable winner of the event was Enrique Gónzalez—the man who once prompted me to swear never to enter a Spanish cinema for as long as he holds the Academy’s presidency—whose speech celebrated one of the “greatest triumphs” of his tenure: winning his “personal bet” against his forerunner, movie maker Álex de la Iglesia, who in 2011 had the courage, in his speech, to say that, “the internet is not the future, as some believe, but the present.”
Referring to falling audience numbers and the corresponding decline in box office receipts, González blamed the internet, and Spain’s erroneous reputation as a hotbed of digital piracy.
Along with the photo at the top of this page, I can think of no better example of how to go about executing a self-fulfilling prophecy: the Academy, after having shunned a president in the form of De la Iglesia, a man who did all he could to understand the needs of the cinema-going public and who tried to drag the Spanish film industry screaming and kicking into the twentieth century, decided to elect a man who has done little else other than to excoriate against internet users, calling them “criminals” and calling for “Uncle Sam and the Seventh Cavalry to sort this out”, and who, two years into his mandate, still believes that he is right in describing the internet as a “parasite” and that it will never be “the present”.
Well, in a way, he is right: the internet is still not the present of Spanish cinema, and the reason is because the film industry here doesn’t want it so. Which is why it appointed a man like González to make sure of this by doing all in his power to prevent it.
The internet generates little revenue for the Spanish film industry because it continues to charge absurd prices that we movie goers are not prepared to accept, and because it prevents us from accessing movies how and where we want (at home, on the screen or device we want, at the time we want, and not several months after movies have been withdrawn from screens, if they were ever shown here at all).
When reproached for its retrograde attitude, Spain’s movie industry invariably accuses moviegoers of not wanting to pay for its products. Let me say this again: we do not expect to see movies for free. We want reasonable prices; we want a range of viewing options, from free (paid for by advertising) to pay-per-view, and taking in flat-rate tariffs, and any other solutions that will help to boost consumption.
And, needless to say, we want a viewing platform that provides access to a full catalogue of movies, because I am not going to sign up to a service only to discover afterwards that half the films I want to see are not in it. Is this really so hard to understand? As long as the movie industry spends its time and energy in insulting us and boycotting the solutions provided by the internet and those who use it, it is pretty clear that the internet is never going to be a meaningful part of the industry.
The internet is not the present of the Spanish film industry in large part because said sector continues to shun people like De la Iglesia, preferring cavemen like González. Self-fulfilling prophecy: I am going to steer the ship onto the rocks so that I can say I was right when I said it was going to sink.
Congratulations, Enrique González: you are a genius. You won your bet; your bet against the times we live in, against progress, against business logic, against moviegoers, and against common sense. Keep up the good work.
(En español, aquí)