Mark Armstrong (that’s not him above) is the founder of Longreads, and editorial director for Pocket.

This past week’s Steven Soderbergh speech on “The State of the Cinema” isn’t as big a downer for film lovers as these choice quotes might have you believe:

“Shouldn’t we be spending the time and resources alleviating suffering and helping other people instead of going to the movies and plays and art installations? When we did Ocean’s Thirteen the casino set used $60,000 of electricity every week. How do you justify that? Do you justify that by saying, the people who could’ve had that electricity are going to watch the movie for two hours and be entertained—except they probably can’t, because they don’t have any electricity, because we used it.”


“When people are more outraged by the ambiguous ending of The Sopranos than some young girl being stoned to death, then there’s something wrong.”

Soderbergh does offer some encouraging news about the amount of independent films being distributed:

“In 2003, 455 films were released. 275 of those were independent, 180 were studio films. Last year 677 films were released. So you’re not imagining things, there are a lot of movies that open every weekend. 549 of those were independent, 128 were studio films. So, a 100% increase in independent films, and a 28% drop in studio films…”

The downside, of course, is that it’s harder to get them seen:

“…and yet, 10 years ago: Studio market share 69%, last year 76%. You’ve got fewer studio movies now taking up a bigger piece of the pie and you’ve got twice as many independent films scrambling for a smaller piece of the pie. That’s hard. That’s really hard.”

For further reading, the Soderbergh speech reminded me of a few other excellent #longreads about the business of art:

1. “Letter to Emily White at All Songs Considered” (David Lowery, June 2012)

Lowery, the founder of bands including Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, paints a bleak picture of the state of the music industry, particularly when it comes to professional studio musicians.

2. “The Business of Literature” (Richard Nash, VQR, Spring 2013)

Nash offers historical context for those worried about the future of books: “Book culture is in far less peril than many choose to assume, for the notion of an imperiled book culture assumes that book culture is a beast far more refined, rarified, and fragile than it actually is.”

3. “Some Thoughts on Our Business” (Jeffrey Katzenberg, Letters of Note, 1991)

Katzenberg’s memo to colleagues at Disney, which in addition to having allegedly inspired the memo in Jerry Maguire, also addresses the blockbuster mentality.

4. “I’m for Sale” (Genevieve Smith, Elle, April 2013)

Smith searches for a balance between creative fulfillment and financial security. 


What are you reading (and loving)? Tell us.

(Photo by Thore Siebrands, via Wikimedia Commons)