Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford, EnglandSay it ain't so, my European friends: arthouse theaters on the Continent are -- shudder!! -- now showing mainstream flicks like Mamma Mia! and Wall-E alongside their usual specialty fare like the Israeli animated feature Waltz With Bashir. And not just on the Continent, according to Variety, but in Britain too! What is the world coming to? Is this the end of Western civilization?

It's not news that mainstream movies have crept steadily onto arthouse screens in the US. In my neck of the woods (Dallas), for example, Landmark Theatres operates two multiplexes that, once upon a time, showed independent and foreign-language pictures almost exclusively. The Inwood Theatre is currently showing Bedtime Stories in its large downstairs auditorium, with Seven Pounds and Rachel Getting Married screening upstairs in the two small (50-60 seats) rooms upstairs. It's similar at the Magnolia, where The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Yes Man claim three of the five screens. The Angelika Film Center operates two complexes in the area and does a bit better, with 10 of 13 screens dedicated to specialty releases this week.

Similar to the US scene, European exhibitors cite "changing audience tastes, a reduction in the number of single-screen venues that used to favor local fare as well as a glut of specialty pics." Western Europe has about 33,000 screens, of which "roughly one quarter" are single-screen venues. The single-screen houses are finding it tough to compete against the multiplexes, with more than 300 single-screen theaters closing in Italy alone over the past five years.

categories Movies, Cinematical