The crowning, deposing and re-crowning of "content" as "king" has become a ritual over the last few years. Wondering where on earth the industry is heading has given the old cliche a new lease of life. It's possible even to identify camps here: content as king is the mantra of the cinematic cavaliers, while those who see the future as ruled by the "customer" are roundheads.
Anyway, this week content was back on its royal throne, courtesy of Michael Eisner, former CEO at Disney, who has more recently been venturing into the roundhead territory of new platforms. Just in case we hadn't got the significance of his point, spelled out at Mipcom this week, he called on a higher authority. "We're all worshipping at the altar of creativity," he said. And no doubt there was an amen to that from many observers.
The message was reinforced at Mipcom by Philippe Dauman, CEO of media conglomerate Viacom, whose portfolio includes Paramount. "If you have a great brand supported by great content, there has never been a better time to reach more consumers, and reach them in a much deeper way than you ever could," he said.
Both men take a rather conventional view of new media as a means to extend the reach of "great" content. There's plenty of evidence to back them up. Last week, saw the opening of Disney's High School Musical 3: Senior Year in London. It may not be everybody's barrel of root beer, but anyone with children will be aware of the genius that has gone into the product.
The brand has used every possible means to get into the consciousness of children - games, television, merchandising, music ... High School Musical 3 is the first to be launched as a theatrical-first product and has been breaking advance-sales records in the UK,
Mark Zoradi, president of Disney, describes it as "cross-collateralising" product and in that potential, one can really see the future of the franchise. Given the other biggest Disney franchise is Pirates Of The Caribbean, which started life as a theme-park ride, you can see how far this has already gone.
The key issue here of the creation and nurturing of a brand in all its myriad forms should be noted by all. But there will be those in the independent industry who consider such grand franchise-building to be as remote as the absolute monarch from the horny-handed peasant.
Eisner, however, sees one universal fact: "If you have a great story to tell, it will work on any delivery system."
Even that is a debatable point. The relationship between stories and platforms can be highly specific as the history of poor adaptations of novels and plays demonstrate. The bigger question though is that, if content is king, why is the independent industry in its current difficulties around the world'
Surely if content is paramount, then the path to a better future is straightforward: make better films. Yet that cannot be the issue unless we believe in the notion there has been a collective loss of talent. Surely the delivery itself is a big issue.
It's always been the case that you can grow the finest vegetables but if you have no means of transport to market, you will fail. Now, even if you have a tractor, the supermarket shelves have been bought up by the retail giants. And that's not too far-fetched an analogy for film in the current circumstances.
Content should - indeed must - be the key concern for film-makers. Underlying the roundhead view about customers is the notion that understanding audiences does not compromise creative decisions but rather informs them. However, to reach audiences requires not only new delivery systems but also a mixed economy that allows creative potential to flourish.
There has been recognition of this fact for years and the current setting up of a tier of multi-territory distributors for specialist film is just the latest attempt to change a desperately unequal and inefficient system.
Also, the debate over control and exploitation of the digital rights by film-makers needs more attention.
Content may indeed be king but it rules by the authority of those who control the delivery system.