Visiting scholar Marco Cucco

Dr Marco Cucco, member of the #ICIH advisory board and post-doc research fellow at the Institute of Media and Journalism at the Universita’ della Svizzera Italiana is visiting Leeds, week beginning 16 February, as a guest of the project and the Centre for World Cinemas. He will be teaching several classes and giving a seminar paper as part of the CWC series ‘Situating the Popular in World cinemas’ (details as follows).

Paper title: ‘The complex machine behind a popular success: the U.S. blockbuster movie’.

Date: 18-02-2015
Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Location: Parkinson B.11


Hollywood blockbuster movies are the most successful products released in the international film market. From an economic perspective, they can be defined as “popular” since they are able to satisfy the tastes of a wide and heterogeneous audience, overcoming geographical and cultural barriers.

Nowadays blockbuster movies represent both a paradox and a challenge. As regards the paradox, blockbusters are considered commercial movies with little artistic merit, a simple narrative structure and characters with a shallow psychological profile, which re-present something that has already been seen on the screen. But making movies that everyone can enjoy, in which every culture or sub-culture can recognize itself and onto which it can project its own values and meanings is not easy. For that reason the success of blockbuster movies demonstrates that they are in fact the most sophisticated products of the Hollywood studios as regards how they are conceived, produced, released and marketed.

Moreover the success of blockbuster movies represents a challenge for foreign countries, for their film production and for European film policy. What should European film industries do to re-launch their cinema? Should they emulate the successful Hollywood movies or should they make alternative (but often unsuccessful) films? And as regards European policy: should it encourage high-budget international co-productions aimed at reaching a transnational audience (even if it means entering into direct competition with Hollywood and betraying an old tradition of making films linked to the national culture of the producer)?

The paper I would like to present gives an overview of the main strategies developed by Hollywood for making popular movies and for achieving an almost certain success in the global market. Moreover, it highlights some efforts made by European producers to emulate the “blockbuster mentality” (coined by the Hollywood studios at the end of the Second World War) discussing the opportunities and risks of this approach.