Humanities Faculty Articles & Other Works

Title

The Impact of Hollywood Film Imports in East Germany and the Cultural Surrender of the GDR Film Control in the 1970s and 1980s

Document Type

Article

Published In

German History

Publication Date

3-1-2016

Abstract

When the first and only Film Week of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was held in New York City in 1975, East Germany saw it as another major success on the road to normalization and international recognition. However, trouble was already brewing under the surface of the GDR film sector, and this was indicative of larger political and cultural trends. Western film imports were becoming ever more important to the yearly cinema programme in the GDR, especially in order to attract the predominantly young film audiences. As the 1970s progressed and East Germany’s economic situation worsened, Western film imports, and especially Hollywood blockbuster movies, became increasingly indispensable to the economic survival of the GDR film sector as a whole. By the early 1980s, the SED officials in charge of cultural affairs and movie selection eventually lost control over GDR film policy. Because of complex and multiplying cultural, political and economic pressures, ideological priorities were relegated to the back seat while economic profit and the financial survival of the East German film sector took centre stage. By the mid to late 1980s, the West and East German film markets, and their lists of top-rated films, increasingly converged as the two countries were dominated by an international and US-dominated film culture. In little more than ten years, East Germany was forced to surrender control of this vital cultural sector and core building block of its socialist identity, and this not only substantially weakened its cultural autonomy but also endangered its political stability and survival.