Hollywood Inc., Latin America
Magazine cover girl Salma Hayek
Looking at the WorldwideBoxOffice.com ranking of all-time movie box office receipts, it is clear that the global film market is dominated by products made in Hollywood, USA. Why are Hollywood products so popular? In his book, Scott Robert Olson proposes "the United States' competitive advantage in the creation and global distribution of popular taste is due to a unique mix of cultural conditions that are conducive to the creation of "transparent" texts --- narratives whose inherent polysemy encourage diverse populations to read them as though they are indigenous ... these narratives have meaning to so many different cultures because they allow viewers in those cultures to project their own values, archetypes, and tropes into the movie or television program, thus enabling the import to function as though it were an indigenous product."
For the all-time box office leader Titanic (1997), now approaching the US$2 billion mark (and larger than the annual Gross National Products of many countries in the world), Olson lists how different people in the world viewed the same movie:
Another competitive advantage that accrues to Hollywood is that the large US domestic market (population: 260 million plus) supports a number of huge multimedia corporations that can turn out a large number of big-budget movies that are marketed through numerous distribution channels (cinema houses, video rentals, pay-per-view/premium/regular cable television, broadcast television, video tape/DVD rental/purchases, licensing, merchandising, etc). No other country in the world can match the Hollywood cultural machine today. One of the major consequences of Hollywood domination is that many national film industries are overwhelmed by this competition, with the only chance of survival being placed on life-support with small amounts of government funding.
But while the external presence of Hollywood imports is a factor in the endangerment of the national film industries, the real factor is the preferences of movie goers. The situation reflects the fact that movie goers prefer the Hollywood product over their national ones. Here, we will cite some data from the TGI Latina study, which is a survey of persons between the ages of 12 and 64 years old in seven Latin American countries. At the outset, we restrict our base of investigation to people who stated that they had been in a cinema in the previous 6 months. This is the core group of people who account for most of the movie box receipts. These people were asked movies from which countries appealed to them (note: they were offered a choice among Hollywood movies, movies from their own country, movies from other Latin American movies and European movies). Among these people, 77% of them said that they prefer movies from Hollywood.
Movie posters of Maria Felix
The next table shows the demographic analyses of the preference to movies from Hollywood. We make the following points:
|Demographic Characteristic||% prefer movies from Hollywood|
Male 12-19 years
Male 20-24 years
Male 25-34 years
Male 35-44 years
Male 45-54 years
Male 55-64 years
Female 12-19 years
Female 20-24 years
Female 25-34 years
Female 35-44 years
Female 45-54 years
Female 55-64 years
Level A (top 10%)
Level B (next 20%)
Level C (next 30%)
Level D (bottom 40%)
|Comprehension of spoken English language
Not at all
(source: TGI Latina)
Relative to Hollywood, how do movies from other places fare? Here are the other preferences:
(Technical note: Respondents can choose more than one country of origin). Obviously, one cannot state a preference for movies from one's own country unless there are movies being locally produced or at least minimally a large national film library. So it is that the 13% preference stated for one's own country is in fact dominated by a 32% preference in Argentina over much lower numbers elsewhere.
(posted by Roland Soong on 12/26/00)
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