By Ryan Clarkson, Leveller Media
Film history will always be incomplete. According to the Film Foundation, only one film in ten made before 1929 survives today; the vast majority of silent films were lost to film stock corrosion, nitrate recycling, or archive fires. We can mourn lost films like Hitchcock’s The Mountain Eagle or the complete cut of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed, but there’s nothing else we can do in such cases. Unfortunately, today’s market forces are more likely than fire and flood to keep film stories from the audiences that desire them.
When Disney launched its new streaming service, Disney+, much of its advertising depended on the idea that the new app would take the company’s backlist “out of the Disney Vault” that kept classic films only intermittently available. At last, the ads suggested, Disney would end the artificial scarcity of its classic movies. It’s true that Disney+ offers many movies for streaming, but while that service rolled out, the company decided it would no longer license the Fox film library to for-profit repertory theaters. A few businesspeople with spreadsheets and profit projections can lock up a whole swathe of film history to the detriment of our cultural life.
While film fans are understandably upset about Disney’s recent decisions, they’re far from the only studio making questionable choices. Netflix, now among the world’s largest movie producers, is reviving a monopolistic mid-century practice. The Paramount Decree passed in 1948 and sought to prevent movie studios from establishing monopolies. Its recent repeal by the Justice Department means that studios may once again own their own cinemas, and so Netflix has begun leasing cinemas. The names of the most powerful studios have changed since 1948, but their gatekeeping behavior and monopolistic tendencies remain the same.
Leveller relies on the wisdom of diverse audiences and fans, not the hunches of blinkered executives, to decide what gets made. It empowers creators and audiences, transforming a traditionally autocratic process into a democratic one. In this age of centralization and monopolization, Leveller and its community blaze a different path. Leveller’s blockchain integration allows for genuine crowdinvesting, and its proprietary AI matches creators, whatever their financial standing or established track record, with the investors most likely to connect with their work. Leveller doesn’t put stories into vaults. Quite the opposite: It sends creators and their stories out into the world.