The bank took a correct decision, since financing culture through the public apparatus has shown a socially regressive practice. A survey has shown that 58 percent of the movie audience in the city of São Paulo belong to the A, B1 and B2 classes
Caixa Belas Artes will once again be named only Belas Artes. Located in the corner of Paulista and Consolação avenues, the historical São Paulo street movie theater announced the end of its partnership with Caixa Econômica, which did not renew the contract, ended in December 2018.
Inaugurated in 1967, the space may be closed in two months’ time if it is unable to find new sponsors, according to Belas Artes owner and former municipal Culture secretary André Sturm.
The amount of money destined by the state-owned company to the movie theater for five years is estimated in R$ 11 million. The rest of the space alone, which has over one thousand square meters, costs almost R$ 2 million per year. In 2015, its net revenue was around R$ 4 million, of which Caixa’s sponsorship corresponded to nearly half, showing its dependency on the state-owned company.
The measure is part of an ample revision of contracts made by state-owned companies planned by the new government. As well as being a campaign promise made by Jair Bolsonaro, the Federal Accounting Court determined in late 2018 that the federal government should implement the obligation of transparency in sponsorship actions, listing all information in the state companies’ websites, including especially the motivation for the sponsored party’s selection.
This new marketing policy will also target the sports sector. Currently, the country’s largest soccer sponsor, with its brand on the jersey of 24 clubs, the bank is reviewing all these sponsorship contracts. During the last seven years, the state-owned company spent R$ 663.6 million on soccer, often paying amounts much higher than those paid by the market.
Following Caixa’s example, Petrobras also announced the “revision of its sponsorship policy”, and will cease to sponsor Sessão Vitrine, an initiative which aimed at granting more visibility to Brazilian movies. Unlike Belas Artes, Vitrine Filmes announced it will continue to function, even without the renewal of the sponsorship contract.
Regarding Belas Artes, some defend it for showing movies that are “off the commercial circuit” and which go “against the hegemony” of shopping mall movie theaters. However, according to market researches, location is a criterion more often used by customers when they chose a location to watch a movie than the programming itself: only 20 percent of customers claimed they chose Belas Artes due to the latter factor.
Movie theater for the wealthiest
Caixa is right in their decision, since financing culture through the public apparatus has been shown to be socially regressive. A survey done by Midia Dados Brasil, for instance, has shown that 58 percent of the audience who watches movies in São Paulo belong to the classes A, B1 and B2. Therefore, if someone is gaining from this governmental aid, besides the owner of Belas Artes themselves, they are the wealthiest inhabitants of São Paulo.
This is not an isolated phenomenon; among the economical science consensuses listed by Gregory Mankiw, an Economy professor at Harvard, is that governments should eliminate subsidies for cultural sectors, such as sports. European movie theaters, for instance, often survive without any financial tax aid.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be up to the public administration to help pay for a movie theater: they should be able to survive on their own, through the sale of tickets, popcorn or soft drinks, or through private partnerships and sponsorships. On the contrary, what remains is a mere use of public funds for the creation of an artificial demand – and, in that case, an especially unfair treatment of the lower classes, who usually don’t have access to the type of entertainment offered by these establishments.
Belas Artes has closed before
If the movie theater does indeed shut down its doors, it will not be the first time. The space was closed from 2011 to 2014, indicating that the difficulties of remaining financially viable are not new. At the time, there were protests, and a mobilization which collected over 90 thousand signatures asking for it to be reopened. Fernando Haddad, then-mayor of São Paulo, took advantage that his party was also in charge of the Planalto Palace, and helped to articulate Caixa’s sponsorship.
Following Haddad’s posture, the current São Paulo municipal administration regretted in a statement the end of the sponsorship contract, and “volunteered to help in the search for a solution,” indicating that they will exert some form of pressure in search of a new form of sponsorship for the company.
It must be pointed out that the brand claims to be viable for sponsors: in 2018, it was mentioned 1,150 times in the media, and had an estimated R$ 6.5 million in advertising. If that is so, it shouldn’t be a challenge to obtain a new contract with the private sector – something for which Caixa shareholders and the taxpayers would certainly be thankful.
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O banco acerta na postura, pois o financiamento da cultura por meio da máquina pública tem se mostrado socialmente regressivo. Levantamento mostrou que 58% do público consumidor de cinema na cidade de São Paulo integra as classes A, B1 e B2