“There is always a new generation of kids who don’t know and who are interested in movies but who have no idea who Lubitsch or Hawks or Satyajit Ray are. And each new generation is a little more distant from the beginnings of cinema, from the heyday of the Hollywood studios, from Italian neorealism and the French new wave, and now from the ’90s, when the consciousness of film preservation had really taken hold.” — Martin Scorsese speaking to Variety‘s Christy Grosz in a 1.1.12 posting.

At this stage of the game a very small slice of humanity is aware of Lubitsch, Hawks and Ray, and a small fraction of even that crowd is engaged enough to buy Blurays or DVDs of their films or catch their films at places like MOMA or LACMA. Compared to the many millions who pay to see commercial movies and buy video games, I’d be surprised if more than a very tiny fraction has even heard of those guys. We’re talking about a relatively small fraternity of people in the filmmaking, marketing and publicity realms on top of film journalists and archivists and film festival organizers — a group that might amount to 8,000 or 10,000 people, and quite possibly less — on top of your mostly urban film geeks who number…what,15,000 or 20,000 or 25,000?

Maybe these percentages were more or less the same back in the ’60s and ’70s. Or maybe film literacy is greater now that at any time in the past due to the easy availability of just about any half-decent film ever made. I only know that I knew a little something about who Hawks, Lubitsch and Ray were when I was 21, and I would be very surprised if my two sons, who are probably more film literate than most due to the fact that I’ve been force-feeding them great movies all their lives, have any knowledge of them at all.