Is it being canceled, or is it being renegotiated? Donald Trump, through his outrageous use of the media and tweets, has created complete uncertainty in the face of the changed relationship between our countries, in which we are being treated with a contempt previously felt, but never before seen like this. Disgracefully, up until now, our government has not responded in a way that shows any sign of firmness or dignity in our defense.
The only thing that is clear and certain is that the big winner in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Carlos Salinas de Gortari got us into, has been the United States, even though the gringo president maintains the opposite position, and wants even more concessions, against our national interest.*
The unfavorable economic and cultural consequences come into focus in the film industry. Week after week, the 6,400 theaters in Mexico’s 173 cities are saturated with U.S. releases, leaving Mexican audiences without any real options. Day by day, like it or not, they are being informally inculcated with gringo culture. If they try to access alternative types of film or culture when they want to be entertained or informed, they face numerous obstacles and problems.
The schedules, the screens and the movie theaters give priority to U.S. releases. Mexican and world cinema are marginalized, banished and penalized through anti-competitive practices like dumping, reducing choice by increasing market share though saturation, and other unfair practices.
In the face of this, there has been only inaction and silence on the part of the Mexican Department of the Economy, the Federal Economic Competition Commission, and the Federal Consumer Protection Agency, which are responsible for these issues according to regulations, and should be taking action. However, mimicking former President Salinas, who was the force behind signing NAFTA, they neither see nor hear anything, and thus we suffer significant damage in production, with an unhealthy supply chain that puts the Mexican film industry under serious threat and at risk of extinction.
The numbers don’t lie. For 10 years, the gringos have been saturating Mexican movie screens, going from 36,109 copies per year in 2007, with 179 titles, to 181,051 in 2016, with only 190 releases. That is, there was an increase of 401 percent [in the number of copies] in the past decade, while the number of releases only increased by 6 percent. **
This amounted to releasing each U.S. title with an average of 953 copies in 2016. In reality, however, 12 films were released on more than 3,934 screens; that is, 61.4 percent of all movie theaters screened only one title, month after month. Examples of this are “Capitán América” (the Spanish-language version of “Captain America”), which occupied 5,422 screens (84.7 percent) and “Batman y Superman” (the Spanish-language version of “Batman and Superman”), with 4,677 (73 percent).
If we look at films released with more than 1,500 copies, they were screened in 42.2 percent of theaters weekly.
Conversely, Mexican films released last year averaged a paltry 274 copies, and films from the rest of the world, 91 copies per title because of a lack of theaters in which to show them.
The current policy of movie screen invasion that the Motion Picture Association is utilizing to eliminate or minimize competition is a commercial act that prevents the circulation of ideas in the movie theaters, limiting the communication of works of the national and global imagination to the citizens of Mexico. As a result, enrichment from worldwide culture is limited and is reduced to a poor one-dimensional vision, which emphasizes contempt for life, individualism, the triumph of the amoral, and so forth.
We have to remember that the film industry is one of the cultural industries, and it influences the way the public thinks about and sees the world. This is why UNESCO has been promoting the creation of public policies to enable the signatory countries, like Mexico, to guarantee the circulation of works of global imagination. Regrettably, in the 12 years since signing, our country has done nothing about this.
It is time to take advantage of the renegotiation of NAFTA, to restore the sovereignty of our national film culture.
*Editor’s note: Carlos Salinas de Gortari is a Mexican economist and politician affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party who served as president of Mexico from 1988 to 1994.
**Translator’s note: Data on the numbers of releases and copies over time in Mexico and the U.S. are available in the table in the original Spanish-language article linked above. The column headings in the Table are, from left to right: Year; Mexico Number of Releases, Number of Copies, Number of Copies per Release; U.S. Number of Releases, Number of Copies, Number of Copies per Release. The translated note at the bottom of the Table reads: Source: Table prepared by Rafael E. Portas, of the Observatorio Público Cinematográfico, with data from Comscore, Rentrak, Nielsen, Imcine & the preparer.