More than meets the movie eye

Sana Mouziane ©Reuters/Rafael Marchante

The 9th International Film Festival of Marrakech takes place on 4-12 December. The festival is a major annual event, drawing in stars from around the world, as well as home grown talent like Moroccan actress and singer, Sana Mouziane, seen here at the 2007 edition. The jury that year was led by Czech film maker Milos Forman; Iranian director and Cannes Palme d'Or winner, Abbas Kiarostami, will fill the role this year. Presided by His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid, Morocco has every reason to take the festival seriously, not just for art's sake, but because of its economic potential too.

A 2008 OECD report estimates the value of the worldwide film and video industries at some US$120-150 billions, most of which is earned within the OECD area. Worldwide box office receipts reached an all-time high in 2008 of $28.1 billion.

The film industry is labour-intensive, and between 2000 and 2005, 350,000 people were employed directly by the US motion picture industry. Moreover, it demands very specific high value-added skills. Most of that value-added comes from services related to production and exhibition of film and video. The only formally recognised manufacturing in the industry involves the processing and duplication of films, DVDs or video cassettes, which generated only 1-2% of 2002 US industry receipts. Relative to all other media products, film and video productions require a high amount of upfront investment, most of which is high risk, and often highly innovative.

The OECD has been watching the movies since it was established in 1961. Indeed, as the first ever edition of the OECD Observer in November 1962 points out, a committee of film experts was already on location, exploring the delicate issue of opening up the market to more competition and evaluating the restrictions. Because of its association with culture, film has been a sensitive issue, if not a stumbling block, in international talks on trade and investment over the years. There are tricky tax issues to deal with as well, which are covered under the OECD Model Tax Convention. And there are piracy and counterfeit aspects to keep an eye on too. Such policy issues may be hidden behind the scenes, far from the glamour of celebrities and movie cameras, but they are nonetheless part of the business that make festivals like Marrakech the success that they are.


OECD (2009 update) The OECD Model Convention on Income and on Capital, Paris

OECD (2008) Remaking the Movies: Digital Content and the Evolution of the Film and Video Industries, Paris

© OECD Observer, No. 275, November 2009

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