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Hollywood’s Sigh of Relief

• March 05, 2010 • 11:00 AM

Globally, moviegoers’ tastes are becoming increasingly homogeneous, which is a very good sign for Hollywood.

Despite a record-breaking 2009, Hollywood is still roiling from shaky DVD revenues, a global recession, increased piracy, intense foreign competition and lingering questions about the dollar value of the medium. Although hope has now been pinned on resurgent 3-D revenues (and ever-rising ticket prices), insiders are still questioning whether the industry can remain a dominant force in worldwide movie distribution.

Perhaps a few of these fears can be put to rest.

A new study, headed by researchers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, finds that despite the challenges mounted by Bollywood and other foreign film enterprises, the global appetite for Hollywood films has only intensified over the past several years.

The research culled data from worldwide ticket receipts from 2002-2007 and examined 35 countries’ box-office revenues in comparison with each other and that of the United States. For every year, the grosses of all Hollywood films released to these foreign countries (ranging from 24 to 265 features) were analyzed and the similarities of consumption patterns were measured by the strength of the correlation between U.S. and foreign box-office receipts.

Although the countries that had the most similar movie consumption patterns as the U.S. were countries with large markets (Japan) or with similar cultures (Australia and U.K.), researchers found that even countries with cultures that have historically been hostile (Russia) or indifferent to Hollywood are being slowly but steadily won over by these features.

After performing regression analyses on the theatrical grosses in these foreign countries and the U.S. over this five-year span, the researchers found that cinema markets worldwide have become increasingly homogeneous. Not only have foreign countries become more similar in taste to the United States, they have in turn become more similar to each other.

Researchers noted that “the evidences for this tendency are limited to no particular region or subset of countries but suggest that world cinematic audiences have acquired increasingly indistinguishable preferences in choosing Hollywood features to watch.”

As far as box-office grosses are concerned, U.S. blockbusters have become the unifying force for theatergoers worldwide. Surprisingly, this win hasn’t necessarily come at the expense of native or alternative media offerings.

The study’s authors also found that Hollywood features (which are increasingly green-lighted with international appeal in mind) can effectively “coexist” (to some degree) with these competing enterprises. As a whole, the demand for film products worldwide is only growing — and both Hollywood and its competitors can reap the benefits from it.

Next up, how about resuscitating the flagging TV ratings for the Academy Awards?

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Erik Hayden
Former Miller-McCune Fellow Erik Hayden recently graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Religion. He regularly contributes for a variety of publications including the Ventura County Star and the alt-weekly, VCReporter.

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