'Hollywood Is Not American': James Schamus Explains What He Really Meant
In a letter to the editor, Focus Features' former CEO writes, "I was far from passing judgment"
This letter to the editor first appeared in the Oct. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
I'm flattered that the BAFTA/BFI talk I gave in London [on Sept. 18] has been deemed worthy of THR's attention, in the "Yes, I Did Say That!" section, where I am quoted as saying that "Hollywood is not American. … Its primary purpose right now is to make movies that 20-year-old Chinese people want to see," along with an explanation that the quotation comes from "a lively lecture at the British Film Institute that took aim at the movie industry for favoring commerce over art."
Yes, I did say that, but the meaning, however counterintuitive it may seem, was the exact opposite: My lecture took aim at art, not commerce, and when I pointed out that Hollywood was not primarily American (it hasn't been for some time), I was far from passing judgment. Indeed, 20-year-old Chinese people are among the few demographics showing an increasing interest in cinema; box office in China is growing 30 percent a year, fueled by an ever-younger audience, as opposed to America's steadily declining and aging cohort.
If you have any interest in the future of cinema, especially big-budget classic Hollywood cinema, you should be very interested in your expanding global audience, whatever their nationalities and however far removed they are from their eventual, if inevitable, deaths.
Far from being a criticism, the fact that somewhere in the world there is an audience moving away from assisted living should be cause for celebration. I, for one, couldn't care less what nationalities they are; I'm just happy they're going to the movies.