How Hollywood Conquered the World (All Over Again)
For all the talk of American decline, there’s one thing we still make better than anyone on the planet: movies.
In the frenzied final weeks before the Feb. 26 Academy Awards, a curious behind-the-scenes battle was taking place to persuade Hollywood that the leading Oscar contender, The Artist, was an American film — even though a Frenchman wrote and directed it, another Frenchman produced it with French money, and a Frenchman and Frenchwoman are the two leads. Harvey Weinstein, head of The Weinstein Company, which is distributing the acclaimed movie, even persuaded the City of Los Angeles to proclaim January 31 “The Artist Day,” arguing that the movie was shot there. IndeedThe Artist, a black-and-white tale about a silent star’s fall from grace and subsequent return to fame, has a chance to become the first non-Anglo-Saxon film ever to win the Best Picture Oscar, even though it has made just $29 million in the United States since it went into general release on January 20.
Foreign films simply don’t play with American audiences. On average, foreign-language movies make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. box office, says Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division of hollywood.com. In fact, compared to Hollywood productions, foreign films don’t even play that well in their home markets. Despite the relative decline of America and a huge spurt of filmmaking in countries such as Brazil, China, and South Korea, Hollywood still dominates in box offices across the world. James Cameron’s Avatarremains the top-grossing film ever, and when Chinese authorities attempted to remove it from theaters, their actions caused protests. Although some of the world’s top grossing films, like Rio, The Last Samurai, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, were shot outside the United States or focus on other countries, all of the world’s top 100 grossing films were Hollywood productions.