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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

Hollywood:

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By: Caroline Maas, foreign correspondent

Dominating the world’s screens today are films that massively point towards American creativity, enigmas of western culture through a specifically American lens. Popularly known as “Hollywood,” the American cinema scene can be said to be largely responsible for shaping the way that other cultures are viewed globally. Known broadly for its happy endings, assembly-line approach to star creation, and booming economic market value, Hollywood represents a microcosm of the way America aims to present itself to the rest of the world: dominant. It has acquired so much power, in fact, that it has financially and culturally monopolized the national cinemas of other countries.

While the incredibly timeless and seemingly unwavering breadth and depth of Hollywood, marked by its success and enigmatic presentation, is a spot of pride in American identity, what then, does this mean for other, equally as westernized countries like Great Britain, whose film industries seem to go suspiciously unnoticed by the rest of the world?

University of Southampton’s Ian Christie says, “Films from the major US studios earn between 70 and 90 percent of the total film revenues in almost every country in the world (excluding India, China, Japan, and North and South Korea). The majority of these films are produced in America, as they have been since the early 1920s. Europe alone may make over 1200 films per year, but relatively few people get to see them outside their country of origin.”

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Despite Hollywood’s domination in terms of profit, British culture pervades the subject matter of films adopted and produced by Hollywood. Films such as “Alice in Wonderland,” “Harry Potter” and “Titanic” all come from British-inspired dimensions. Financially, however, Hollywood dominates even the stories that lie at the historic heart of British culture. Quite frankly, the British film industry does not hold a financial flame to the kind of funds accumulated by Hollywood. Due to historical hurdles faced by Europe, such as being the geographic host of the First and Second World Wars, the British suffered financial setbacks from which they never quite recovered from – financial setbacks that were never faced at the same extremity by the United States.

Placing a nationality on a film is complicated. In the U.K., for example, the film must generate a score of 18 points or higher on the British Film Institute’s “Cultural Test for Film” in order for it to be considered “British.” Requirements for the test include things like setting of the film, nationality of the actors, director, scriptwriter, producer and location of the filming. Making use of British actors such as Kate Winslet, Emma Waston, Julie Andrews, Colin Firth, Vivien Leigh and so many others, Hollywood has interceded between the stories and actors of British culture and, as is so infamous of America to do, has morphed and molded these stories into creations of their own, “Americanizing” them to appease American audiences.

While Hollywood has well-established their dominance in the global film industry, the British Film Industry does still exist, though it does so on a level that is relatively interdependent with other nations. As Hollywood is built around studios and conglomerates whose primary aim is to make a profit off of produced films, it is an extremely popular choice for British directors to have co-production and distribution agreements with Hollywood filmmakers. Popularly known companies such as Warner Brothers, Sony and Disney buy out British film companies, turning the goal of films away from accurately depicting cultural issues and more towards generating a profit.

Despite the domination of Hollywood, the British cinema does still exist, though it may be forced to compromise its style for revenue’s sake. Kate Domaille, professor of film, speaks to the strength of British film: “That’s a tricky one,” she says. “In the past, I think British film would’ve been mining its own stories, you know telling its own history and culture through film. Now I think it has some new strengths at being very good at special effects and production design (co-production especially). I think it’s a more diverse model of cinema than it used to be–less nationally faced, more globally faced.”

This co-production (combining production of films with other, larger companies for the economic position of the British film industry) does not always bode well for the continuance of national British identity. On an economic scale, however, it is sometimes the only choice. By selling British film companies to bigger American companies such as Universal Studios and Warner Brothers, British companies are put on a budget and given certain criteria which they must meet in order to receive a cut of the profit. Generally, this criterion makes British film appear less ‘British’ and more ‘American.’

When asked about the complicated relationship between Hollywood and the British Film Industry Domaille says, “Well, it’s complicated because you have to think of cinema as being a business, a culture and as a form of representation, and in British cinematic history it’s very hard to make all three of those things right. So, if they get the economics right they lose some of the representation and cinematic value. And Hollywood doesn’t care about that because Hollywood doesn’t think it’s about representing America particularly but more about representing common values (wanting to make cinema that works with tropes of heroes, heroines and easily recognizable stories) because it wants to maximize profit…[Hollywood] worries less about representation value than about profitability.”

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