Taking a Back Seat on the World Stage

The glitz and the glamour of Hollywood. Where anything is possible. Where a normal day constitutes a visit to a café frequented by Will ATS%20Hollywood%20signSmith, a stroll down a promenade side by side with Blake Lively, and the discovery that Paris Hilton’s pet chihuahua has mistaken your handbag for its home.  ‘Hollywood’ evokes more than just a film label. It encapsulates an important crossroad for international film with a rich history, a prosperous past and an uncertain future. While Hollywood remains a central character on the world stage of transnational film production, its current decline represents to many a changing global dynamic as cultural “contra flows” emerge (Shaefer, Karan 2010) and “boundaries between…the national and the global culture” begin to blur (Thussu, 2006).

Hollywood developed in the early 1900s in an active effort by the US to combat the rising global popularity of the French film industry, dominated by the company Pathé. By the 1930s Hollywood was responsible for 80% of films screened around the world. Filmmakers gravitated to the area, attracted by its mild climate and consistent sunlight that allowed outdoor filming all year round.  Innovative technologies saw technicolour and stereophonic sound adopted on the big screen, and cinema became a “one stop” shop for entertainment and a national pastime.

The paradigm shift that has accompanied the decline of Hollywood since the 1960s cannot be solely attributed to any one factor, but has certainly been facilitated by the emergence of contra-flows and the rise of alternate film industries around the globe. While Hollywood continues to dominate the market share of box office hits around the world, other countries such as India, Nigeria, China and Japan are beginning to make their presence known on the world stage (Evans, 2013).

What most people don’t know is that it is Bollywood, not Hollywood that is the “world’s most prolific cinema factory”. Growing in revenue at a rate of 10% per year, the Indian based industry has tripled its gross profits since 2004. Both marketing and production costs are significantly lower in India, transforming the global film industry from an elitist specialty into a common undertaking throughout the world.

The importance of major geographical locations as ‘hubs’ for communication and cultural flows is diminishing in an era of global interconnectedness. Today’s films are the definition of multicultural. American crime drama film Drive was directed by a Dane, led by a Canadian and displayed influences from Italian and Japanese culture. The Matrix was filmed in Australia with a producer from Hollywood and a stunt coordinator from Hong Kong.

Drive and That Matrix-Transnational Productions under the 'Hollywood' façade.

Drive and That Matrix-Transnational Productions under the ‘Hollywood’ façade.

All of this begs the question raised by Curtin- “Is the modern Hollywood any more than simply a meeting place for important personnel?” (2003). Perhaps the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is losing its shine as the once extraordinary is now being relegated to the back seat faced with an age where anything is possible, anywhere, and at a lower price.

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