America is the best! Happy birthday, America! The big 2-3-0! Woooo! Okay, enough celebrating of Independence Day. Cinema has no national allegiance, even if it seems we make the most significant movies in the world. The United States may be the most powerful nation as far as its military and economy are concerned, but should it also be the most powerful in terms of film? It isn't like we produce the most films, or the best.
I noticed two stories in the news this past weekend that show Hollywood's domination around the world isn't that welcome, not because it isn't enjoyed, but because it overshadows and overpowers some countries' own films. On Saturday, in Seoul,
North South Korea**, a few thousand demonstrators protested their government's elimination of a quota that required cinemas to show a minimum number of South Korean films. Thanks to pressure from the U.S. government and Hollywood, which requested the quota cut as part of free-trade negotiations between America and South Korea, fewer of their own films are likely to get proper distribution locally. Among the protesters were actors, filmmakers and film industry workers who fear their jobs will be lost. Meanwhile, in England, Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes is making a stink about the fact British audiences prefer Hollywood movies to their own country's. Although he mostly was criticizing the British industry for producing "irritating movies," his complaint still weighs in on the matter of American influence being too great.
People tend to forget that in many countries, domestic films can out-gross Hollywood movies. Seven of South Korea's top ten all-time grossers -- six of which are the top six -- are domestic releases (the other three are American imports). Unfortunately that will probably not be the case in the future. The only domestic film in Britain's top ten is The Full Monty, and only two others in its top 50 could be considered non-U.S. productions (Bridget Jones' Diary and Four Weddings and a Funeral). Comparatively, France, Thailand, Japan, Egypt, Italy and, of course, India all do pretty well domestically with their own films (I would also like to point out that Australia's all-time #1 grosser is surprisingly still Crocodile Dundee).
**(Thanks to reader greg rivera for pointing out the editorial oversight in placing Seoul in North Korea, rather than in South Korea, where it belongs. --ed.)