How Globalization killed National Cinema on the Big Screen


Odeon Luxe, TimeOut 2021


Globalization has impacted the entertainment industry in a larger capacity since the 1980s when box office statistics became a useful source of forecasting a film’s value (Acland, 2003). These values are based on the tickets sold and the revenue generated from a theatrical release in cinemas. The Hollywood box office, or U.S. market (often being referred to as the ‘domestic’ market), still has a strong influence over the major foreign markets such as Asia (e.g. China, Japan, South Korea) and Europe (e.g. United Kingdom, France, Germany). However, in recent years, China’s box office growth has dwarfed that of the United States and foreign sales now represent about seventy (70) percent of the total revenue for Hollywood movie studios (Phipps). The drive for increased profits in the film industry has drastically affected the national cinema and replaced its market focus with transnational content.


A primary cause for this was the shift of consumerism in the 1990s, with the birth of malls and multiplexes (Acland). These developments promoted a chain reaction in showcasing ‘blockbuster’ films with A-List Hollywood talent and/or international big screen stars. These films would become a focal point in a studio’s business plan to offset their overhead and recoupment costs from less profitable flicks (Nguyen, 2016). Basically, if one of these wide-released films hit $100 million or more domestically at the box office the market would suggest that it does well in overseas territories. A few of these breakouts then could propel these majors (studios and distributors) out of the red-line for the fiscal year.


Since 2015 we have seen the market shift away from low-to-mid budget films, opting for greenlighting higher budgets of $30 million or more. In doing so, content from National Cinema and Third Cinema (Mambrol, 2017), is often overlooked at the box office. During a recent workshop United Kingdom programmers admitted their selection of content often resides with the majors that can spend money to promote the films. This is reflected by Andrew Hickson’s research of the European film market between 2005 and 2015, wherein “21% of the total admissions for European films were for national European films (i.e. European films released within their main country of production)…” (Hickson, 2021)


Night of the Kings (2020) NEON


As a result, globalization has hindered the exposure of localized films on the big screen.


References

Acland, Charles R. (2003) Screen Traffic: Movies, Multiplexes and Global Culture Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 4-5; pp. 107-129

Hickson, A. (2021) “The resilience of popular national cinemas in Europe (Part one)” Available from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/25785273.2021.1989165#

Mambrol, N. (2017) “Third (World) Cinema and Film Theory” Available from https://literariness.org/2017/07/30/third-world-cinema-and-film-theory/

Nguyen, J. (2016) “The economics of a blockbuster”, Marketplace Available from https://www.marketplace.org/2016/02/15/blockbusters-superhero-movies/

Phipps, M. “How the Movie Box Office Works”, howstuffworks. Available from https://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/movie-box-office.htm

** content provided is part of a film industry study at the University of Westminster, 2022


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