Globalization and the Silver Screen
Globilization and the Militarization of Miami

December 18, 2003

Are We Being Over-Movied? Globalization and the Silver Screen
An Anal-retentive's Guide to Blockbuster Overdose

Gar Smith / The-Edge

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"The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us.... You can see it when you look out your window. Or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work. When you go to Church.... It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth." ""--- Morpheus

Having nothing better to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon in mid-November, I decided to tote up all the movie choices available to residents in the San Francisco Bay Area. Grabbing the Weekend Movie Guide in one hand and a calculator in the other, I set to work. Here's what I discovered:

There are 89 commercial movie theaters in the Greater Bay Area, a region that encompasses ten counties: San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Sonoma, Solano, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sacramento.

San Francisco's 23 theaters schedule 144 movies a day -- and because ten of these theaters are multiplexes, those 144 films account for a total of 471 daily screenings. And this number quickly pales in comparison to the figures for the movie-motivated masses in the outside the City.

The 66 locations in the Greater Bay Area were showing a total of 438 films. But, whereas only half of San Francisco's theaters are multiplexes, nearly 90 percent of the GBA venues are multi-screen movie-malls. And because some of these theaters boast as many as 25 screens, they collectively accounted for a whopping 2,190 screenings a day.

Thousands of Screenings: Dozens of Choices
With a total of 2,661 screenings every day, you might think the Bay Area would be Movie Heaven. Unfortunately, only 25 of the Bay Area's 89 movie theaters can be classified as "art houses." In the Battle of the Screens, the majority of movie parlors in any US city are, on any given day, mainly showing the same 12 films. Sometimes the same film is screened at the same theater as often as 15 times a day.

On this particular week, the Top Dozen Hollywood Movies were: The Matrix Revolutions, Master & Commander, Looney Tunes, Scary Movie 3, Brother Bear, Love Actually, Chainsaw Massacre, Tupac Resurrection, Elf, Radio, Runaway Jury, and Kill Bill: Volume 1.

Three week later, the Top Dozen titles were: The Matrix, Master & Commander, Kill Bill, Elf, Brother Bear, The Last Samurai, Bad Santa, The Missing, Timeline, Honey, The Haunted Mansion and The Cat in the Hat.

The Dominant Dozen were omnipresent. Only on rare occasions did a second-tier film manage to break out of the line of march -- a Mystic River here, a Human Stain there, a random In the Cut or a totally unexpected Singing Detective.

The Breakdown: How the Counties Compare
While San Francisco's premiere movie meca, the 15-screen Metreon, manages to grind out 69 screenings a day, this multiplex takes a balcony seat to the Regal Hacienda Crossing 20 (with 96 screenings a day), the Century 20 Daly City (97 screenings a day) and the Century 25 Union City (with a stunning 128 daily screenings!).

San Francisco
More than half of the City's 23 movies houses (14) show films that are not part of Hollywood's Dominant Dozen. The Roxie, Red Vic, Cinéarts. Castro, Balboa, and the Four Star join with three UA houses (Galaxy, Stonestown and Vogue) and all five Landmark theaters provide 126 screenings of alternate film fare.

If the Dominant Dozen are rated on a Popcorn scale and Alternative Cinema is tabulated on an Espresso ranking, San Francisco can be said to score 30.7 percent on the Espresso column.

Alameda County
Across the bay, Alameda's 20 commercial movie houses were beaming 707 screenings a day. Alameda has only six sites devoted to non-mainstream flicks. If it weren't for the upscale Landmark chain, the only venue for cinema novelty would be Oakland's Parkway Speakeasy Theatre (offering Intolerable Cruelty, School of Rock, Spike & Mike's Twisted Festival of Animation and a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show). Rating: Popcorn: 89 percent. Espresso: 11 percent.

Marin County
Marin's nine movie houses screen 207 films a day. Despite the county's storied wealth and its fame as the home of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic operations, only the Rafael, the Cinéarts Sequoia and the Cinéarts Marin schedule Espresso fare. Rating: Popcorn: 87 percent. Espresso: 13 percent.

Countra Costa County
Contra Costa County's eight movie houses offer 311 daily screening on more than 70 screens but only the Pleasant Hill Cinéarts and the Park Theatre in Lafaytte screen Espresso fare. Rating: Popcorn: 91.4 percent. Espresso: 9.6 percent.

Santa Clara County
Of the 13 movie houses in Santa Clara County, only Palo Alto's the CineArts offers off-beat film fare (thanks to the presence of the Stanford University population). Still, screening Lost in Translation and Pieces of April a total of 11 times hardly offsets the 452 daily screenings of Hollywood heavyweights playing everywhere else. Rating:Popcorn: 97.7 percent. Espresso: 2.3 percent.

Solano County
Solano, Sacramento and Napa are totally colonized by Hollywood's merchandizing collosus. Solano's single filmshack, the 14-screen Century, serves nothing but Popcorn products 66 times a day. Napa's sole theater, the Cenedome 8, shows Popcorners 37 times a day.

Sacramento's seven multiplexes took top honors as the most Hollywood-homogenized region, screening Popcorners 372 times a day. Rating: Popcorn: 99.08 percent.

The only reason Sacramento missed a perfect Popcorn Score was because multiplexes in Elk Grove and Roseville were screening The Book of Mormon Movie.

The Matrix: Reloaded: Rescreened, Relentless
On that particular Sunday, The Matrix: Revolutions was being screened 276 times every day. In a masterstroke of globalization, The Matrix: Revolutions opened at the very same moment on November 5 in 109 markets on six continents worldwide with 18,000 prints translated into 42 languages.

It leaves one to wonder whether movies are really intended to entertain us or whether they are actually designed to force-feed us through the eyeballs with a mass-produced mirage of commercially driven escapist fantasy intended to mask a larger cynical goal -- to keep the bloated Hollywood machinery functioning by sapping the essential wealth and resources of an immobilized population.

Come to think of it, isn't this what The Matrix was warning us about? Maybe it's time to wake from the dream and insist on seeing the world of film as it really exists.

Take two of those red pills and call me in the morning.

Militarization in Miami: Threatening the Right to Protest
Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman / Focus on the Corporation

When unarmed citizens protested US trade policies in Miami, the police threw them to the ground and leveled rifles at their heads. [For a report on the FTAA protests in Cancun, Mexico, see Orin Langelle's report, "FTAA Showdown" at :]
There was a real threat to the social order on the streets of Miami, during the Ministerial Meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). It wasn't protesters, not even those calling themselves anarchists or even those dressed in black. No, the threat came from the Miami police, Florida state troopers and the other police and military forces patrolling the city.

With more than $10 million in special funding (including an $8.5 million allocation in the federal government's Iraq appropriations bill), 2,500 or so officers -- many clad in full body armor and backed up by armored vehicles -- turned Miami into a veritable police state.

As was almost inevitable, the police used wildly excessive force to deal with protesters. They launched unprovoked attacks against people who were doing nothing illegal. They sprayed tear gas and pepper spray at protesters -- including retirees -- and shot many with rubber bullets. They used taser guns. They knocked down peaceful protesters and held guns to their heads.

They blocked thousands of retirees and union members on buses from joining a rally and march for which all required permits had been obtained. They attacked journalists viewed as hostile. They arrested approximately 250 persons, according to the best estimates, with little or no rationale. Credible reports have emerged of brutality and sexual harassment against several of those jailed.

At least as serious, the police deterred thousands from even considering joining the FTAA protests -- and protests into the future.

A Dark Week for the First Amendment
It was a dark week for the First Amendment, for civil liberties and for the right to dissent. A South African activist told us how deeply frightened she was walking down the streets of Miami. Even before the police violence erupted, marching in the streets amidst thousands of armored police sent chills down her spine, she said.

Last week's outrages had their roots in months of planning led by Miami Police Chief John Timoney. He whipped the city and the police force into a frenzy. The absurdist invocation of an anarchist threat convinced the local media (especially TV reporters) and much of the local population that downtown would be a riot zone. That was enough to empty the downtown and scare many local Miamians from joining any of the protests, no matter how tame.

We had first-hand experience with this problem. We had been involved in a planning a small demonstration two days before the main protests. We had obtained all requisite permits from the police. With agreement from their schools, more than 100 high school students were eager to join our small action highlighting how the FTAA and trade agreements interfere with anti-smoking and other public health measures. But no school could feel comfortable sending students to a militarized downtown, so the students were not able to demonstrate.

This was a small incident. Our demonstration wasn't going to change the world. (We do, however, intend to win on our demand to exclude tobacco products from all trade agreements.) But it shows how police over-deployment, scare tactics and militarization intimidates people from opposing corporate- and state-approved policy.

Indoctrination and Police Paranoia
It wasn't just the public and media that Timoney managed to frighten. There's little doubt that the police themselves buy the propaganda. After months of excessive training and hearing about the dangers posed by protesters -- and empowered by new body armor, shields, batons and other equipment -- the police were, to say the least, overeager to lunge at protesters. (Said one of a group of 10 cops on bikes as they crossed the street with one of us standing right next to them, "Let's go fuck 'em up.")

In different circumstances, it would have been funny to see the police outnumbering the direct-action protesters, or the comically attired "undercover" agents who were a bit too well built to credibly seem part of the ranks of the slight protesters -- many of whom are vegans.

But it wasn't funny.

Not when the police -- responding to provocations as slight as a couple small fires lit in trashcans -- went berserk and attacked protesters. Not when credible reports say some of those undercover agents may have been provocateurs, and when several of them emerged as some of the most brutal in attacking protesters.

Activists, the National Lawyers Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil liberties standard bearers must do all they can to oppose the rising repression evidenced in Miami.

There will, undoubtedly, be civil lawsuits and, if there is any justice, they will succeed. But that's not enough. As important as such litigation is, it is clear from recent crackdown on protests around the US that police forces are willing to absorb the costs of these suits.

Media Support for Police Tyranny Must End
The media and political establishment applaud the police for running scare campaigns, militarizing cities, directing violence against protesters and blatantly violating civil liberties. Often, as details emerge, criticism emerges from those same pillars of society. This must change. The establishment must speak out now, immediately after the abuses occurred.

In the future, the establishment -- we mean newspaper editors, political leaders of all parties, lawyers, even corporate executives -- must insist on appropriate police tactics in advance of large-scale protests, and they must make clear that regular police and top officers alike will be held personally accountable for abuses. If they fail to pursue this course, the consequences for the right to protest will be grim indeed.

© Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman. Focus on the Corporation is a weekly column written by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman. Reposted with permission.

What You Can Do:
To support those who were jailed and mistreated, and force the city to drop trumped-up charges against protesters, you can fax Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz via a free fax site set up by Public Citizen:

To make donations for legal support, contact: or to

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