International films traditionally have a difficult time breaking into box office success in the United States. They often are marketed to those who speak the film’s language or toward affluent English-speaking arthouse audiences. Movies like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Slumdog Millionaire enjoyed their moments of acclaim, with attention from the Academy Awards boosting their ticket sales, but none have broken the barriers to mainstream audiences the way Parasite has.
Parasite swept the 2020 Oscars, winning four Academy Awards and becoming the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. At a campaign rally in Colorado shortly thereafter, President Trump criticized the Academy for its choice, citing Gone With the Wind and Sunset Boulevard as superior movies because they were in English. Despite the President’s dismissive remarks, Parasite went on to gain another $8.8 million at the box office the following week.
Several factors go into the success of the international films that have done well in the United States, and Parasite has been more successful than others at achieving the type of recognition only top films enjoy. Timing doesn’t hurt, and social media plays a crucial role in the success of any contemporary movie, foreign or domestic. Because of this, a push for cultural diversity in entertainment may be the driving force that sustains momentum in the current climate.
Why international entertainment hasn’t been popular traditionally
Movie theaters have their own qualifications for the movies they decide to run. Of course, the majority of screen time is going to be given to films that are guaranteed to make the most money. Additionally, big Hollywood studios have traditionally had a lot of leverage when demanding space and controlling what gets shown where. This practice squeezes out international films that are relatively riskier, a challenge to market, and generally affiliated with smaller studios and distributors.
Until recently, most international films and television shows have been accessed by paying for premium cable programming, searching out content and subscribing to the channels that provide programming in a specific language. Some of the most hardcore moviegoers learn about films from festival buzz, but even the biggest festival winners often get only minimal mainstream recognition. Festivals are also intensely competitive and somewhat nepotistic, meaning that some of the best films will still get overlooked in favor of films by someone who is known in the industry.
Changes to the entertainment industry that lead to increased international popularity
Streaming services like Netflix are intentionally developing international programming to expand global reach, introducing American audiences to non-English content by suggesting shows similar to what they already watch on the app. Social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok give fans direct access to indie or small-studio content that has been curated just for them based on a consensus algorithm. Not only do audiences now have increasing access to international content, they are able to confidently choose how they spend their time, with suggestions based on the English-language programming they love.
Representation is proving to be good for business in Hollywood films: Movies that have diverse casts, including women and people of color in leading roles, outperform those with predominantly white casts at the box office. It is likely a circular result, then, that audiences want to see more diversity coming out of Hollywood. People are seeing the kinds of stories and talent that can come from a different market than the one that big-studio blockbusters have dominated, and they crave more.
Future of globalizing cinema
In 2013, UCLA released its first annual Hollywood Diversity Report, putting a spotlight on the entertainment industry’s inclusion practices. Though the year-over-year progress is painfully slow, representation has increased every year since the first report. Increased scrutiny in and of itself may be a factor in expanded diversity.
Actors themselves are also contributing to an atmosphere of inclusion. Oscar winning actress Frances McDormand suggested actors in Hollywood adopt an inclusion rider, requiring projects they work on to make representation a priority. Studios like WarnerMedia and Paramount have initiatives underway that focus on boosting inclusion, tracking progress and making numbers public. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have pledged to use similar policies in their productions, and Michael B. Jordan and Brie Larson have embraced the idea of a rider in their contracts.
In addition to scrutiny and star-power influencing the entertainment industry’s shift to a more representative environment, technology is supporting further advancement. Platforms like Filmio give creators from all over the world access to funding to help them tell their stories with diverse casts and crews. Fans have access to an increasing amount of international content, and Filmio takes access one step further than streaming platforms by facilitating engagement with creators from the start.
Expanding our worldview for better entertainment
Throughout history, the entertainment industry has benefitted from finding talent outside of the United States. Global production brings fresh perspectives to the content audiences consume, and international directors and actors bring unique energies to their craft. What would modern comedy be had someone not discovered Charlie Chaplin performing in the slums of London? Cerebral tension in film styles may never have been truly mastered in such a visceral way, without the influence of Ingmar Bergman. And directors like Alfonso Cuaron may not have the opportunity to take the world by storm with films like Roma if not for efforts at globalization of entertainment and the technology to facilitate it.
Filmio is here to support a new expansion of diversity in the film and television industries. We believe a representative industry is most beneficial to its audiences and most profitable to its investors. Our blockchain technology supports direct interaction between creators, investors and fans to reimagine an ecosystem that supports creation and investment no matter where the stakeholders are in the world, making Filmio the future of entertainment.