Screen quotas are a legislated policy that enforces a minimum number of screening days of domestic films in the theater each year to protect the nation’s films. The screen quota system is enforced to prevent foreign markets from making inroads into the domestic film market. The screen quota system was started in the United Kingdom in 1927 through the Cinematograph Films Act 1927. Other countries enforcing screen quotas include France, South Korea, Brazil, Pakistan and Italy.
In South Korea
The screen quota system has been enforced in South Korea since 1967. The system is:
- screening more than 6 Korean films each year and more than 90 screening days each year (1966)
- screening more than 3 Korean films each year and more than 30 screening days each year (1970)
- more than 1/3 of screening days each year (1973)
- more than 2/5 of screening days each year and reciprocal screening of Korean and foreign films in cities of more than 300,000 of population (1985)
In South Korea, the screen quota has contributed to the rapid increase in the film market. Until the 1990s, the Korean film market had lacked the ability to raise capital funds for films. The quality of Korean films has increased dramatically, with an inflow of capital funds into South Korean film market since 2000. The government has decided to reduce its 40-year-old screen quotas from 146 days to 73 days in 2006. As a result of the free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States, which was agreed on April 2, 2007, the screen quotas in South Korea will not be subject to change from the current 73 days.
In other countries
United Kingdom is the first country to enforce screen quotas under the Cinematograph Films Act 1927. It introduced a requirement for British cinemas to show a quota of British films, for a duration of 10 years. The Act's supporters believed that this would promote the emergence of a vertically integrated film industry, in which production, distribution and exhibition infrastructure are controlled by the same companies. The vertically integrated American film industry saw rapid growth in the years immediately following the end of the First World War. The idea, therefore, was to try and counter Hollywood's perceived economic and cultural dominance by promoting similar business practices among British studios, distributors and cinema chains. By creating an artificial market for British films, it was hoped that the increased economic activity in the production sector would eventually lead to the growth of a self-sustaining industry. The quota was initially set at 7.5% for exhibitors, which was raised to 20% in 1935. However, the act is generally not considered as a success, with an absurd influx of poorly made films being produced known as "Quota Quickies" which were produced purely to fulfill the act. Though 192 films were produced in 1936 alone. Later, The Act was modified by the Cinematograph Films Act 1938 and further acts, and eventually repealed by the Films Act 1960.
In Brazil, quota is defined by a presidencial decree every year. Currently, the requirement depends on the number of screens, varying from 28 days (for single screen movie theatres) to 644 (for 20 screens multiplexes).
In Greece, minimum days of showing domestic films each year is 28 days.
In Japan, the screen quotas was enacted in early Showa era, and was abolished in 1945.
In Spain, minimum number of screening days of domestic films is between 73 and 91 days.
The recent decision of the South Korean government to reduce the screen quotas system was due to heavy pressure from the U.S.A. trade negotiators after the talks between South Korea and United States for Free Trade Agreement FTA. The example of Mexico shows the fatal result of the ending of the screen quota system. Mexico enforced the screen quota system to prevent being swallowed up by inflow from Hollywood, but repealed the system under pressure from the United States in 1994 when Mexico made the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the U.S. As a result, the film industry in Mexico has suffered majorly in the 10 years following the establishment of NAFTA despite the rapid growth of the Mexican economy.
According to the opponents of the quota system, the domestic film makers have mass-produced low quality films to meet the screen quota system. As a result, the system leads to the waste of money and human resources and it is most important to strengthen the competitiveness of domestic film under the competitive atmosphere.