Culture has always held an important place in the lives of the people from different societies. It is the means through which humanity is able to preserve the way of life. However, the place of culture has been changing due to the fact that cultural products have become objects for commercial gains. Critics of the commercialization of culture argue that it is losing meaning because of the marketing interest that it has gained. While cultural consumption is a good thing, taking the perspective of the museum in promoting interactive sociality (Jafari, Taheri, & vom Lehn 2013), it is the role of the entrepreneur therein that is the focus of the criticism on the commercialization of the cultural products (Webster 1998). Film is one of the most commercialized cultural texts, with the players therein making billions of dollars every year from the business. A critical evaluation of the commercialization of film is vital to show the detrimental side of this aspect of marketing.
The Different Ways in Which Film has Been Commercialized
Film is one of the cultural products that have appealed to the consumers for a long time. It is the means through which different aspects of culture are communicated to the people. At the same time, this is one of the most commercialized and marketing cultural text in the world. Using a film brand theory, it is possible to understand how this element of culture has been produced for marketing to the audience (O’Reilly & Kerrigan 2013). Branding is a common concept in marketing, which indicates the presence of the product to the market in such a manner that appeals to the real and potential buyers. When films are produced to communicate cultural information to the people, the element of commercialization does not arise. However, when the producers introduce the element of branding into the cultural text, one thing comes to the mind; a product that will be marketed to the consumers to make profits. The work of O’Reilly and Kerrigan (2013) uses the illustration of the James Bond franchise in showing how branding has been used in the film business.
Experiential marketing is another strategy in the commercialization of cultural texts, including film. The producers within the industry are focusing on creating the experience for the consumers which becomes an attractive element of the text. Manipulation of the product to meet this objective is one of the evident characteristics of the film industry. Experiential marketing is particularly critical during the age of increasing competition with other cultural institutions. Creating the experience does not necessarily suggest that the product will be marketed in its original form. The commercialization aspect includes the importance of creating a product that the players believe will appeal to the consumers. The process of meaning-making also plays a part in the distortion of the cultural text for the sake of making money out of it (O’Reilly 2005). The marketers are in the business of attracting the customers to the product so that they purchase them. The product will be packaged in the best way possible to be more appealing. The reality is evident in the packaging of the films when they are brought to the market.
The Factors Governing the Production and Commercialization of Film
The demand from the audience is among the factors that have influenced commercialization of cultural texts. Since the beginning of the production of cultural products such as film, the producers have always been concerned about appealing to as much audience as possible. Based on the uses and gratification theoretical perspective, they are concerned about meeting the perceived needs of the consumers for entertainment (Lonsdale & North 2011). Whether one is looking at the “audience-as-mass, audience-as-outcome, and audience-as-agent” the reality is the same (Webster 1998, p. 190). The factor is the driver of the growing need for the entrepreneurs to commercialize the text and continue marketing it. Without the consumer of the film, for instance, the producers and directors would not be in business. Mostly, people are no longer creating the cultural products for the sake of communicating the culture, but for selling to make profits. “The base materiality of utility is under commerce and profit. In this case, the market is the driving force of the commercialization process of film and other cultural texts” (Davies & Sigthorsson 2013, p. 22). As long as there is the audience to sell the products to generate revenue, the producers will always commercialise the cultural products.
The increase in competition with other cultural texts is another reason for the growing commercialization of cultural texts. It takes a great deal of investment to create a cultural space and come up with products that can appeal to the audience. Financial challenges become a reality in the space because the competition from other cultural institutions. To fight for the survival, the cultural institutions have to brand their cultural texts in such a manner that they will appeal to the consumers and in the process make money from them to ensure their cultural and economic survival (Baumgarth 2009). In the modern world, culture is emerging in the least expected places; mostly in the material world where it is for business (du Gay, Hall, Janes, and Mackay, & Negus 1997). Indeed, the film industry is one of the most profitable in the world.
The Consequences of Commercialization of Film
Authenticity is one of the qualities of the cultural text that is sacrificed in the process of branding it for marketing. Hede and Thyne (2010) indicated that the audience is still interested in interacting with authentic cultural texts, including film. It is from this fact that they are revealed to take time to negotiate the authenticity of the products. The texts would be more authentic and real if they are presented to the consumers in their original form. However, this is no longer the case because the process of branding to appeal to the customers the originality of the product is lost. Fantasy re-enactments are an important element in the film industry. To achieve this, there is manipulation of the text, losing its authenticity in the process. The meaning-making process is one of the ways that the cultural texts are manipulated such that they lose the original significance to the audience (O’Reilly 2005). Hence, a major impact of the commercialization of the film is the loss of originality and authenticity.
Historically, cultural products have value to the community within which they are produced. When plays were created, they had meaning and significance to the people (Rodner & Thomson 2013). However, in the process of commercializing the products, the value is lost. In this case, plays do not come with the original touch and hence do not communicate value to any culture. The legitimation as a consumer choice like it is the case with the production and marketing of MP3 and other media packaging does not necessarily communicate the original value of the product (Denegri-Knott & Tadajewski 2017). The idea that the consumer in conjunction with the producer creates value is misplaced. The value is within the text itself, and it is distorted by the market system when the text is put out there for business.
Commercialization of the film and other cultural texts is evident in the market today. The multibillion-dollar industry indicates the reality that the producers and directors are focused on making profits more than communicating any aspects of culture. Branding and packaging are some of the ways the cultural texts are commercialized. The idea is to appeal to the consumers who will buy them for the business to make money. Demand, competition and the need to make money are among the reasons for the commercialization of culture. However, in the process, there are major effects on the cultural qualities of the text when they are put on the market for sales. Originality/authenticity and value of the cultural product are lost in the process. In the end, the product that is in the market is only to sell for profits and not of any cultural significance.