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Great Influence Of Hollywood To World Cinema Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5045 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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No country, whether we are willing to admit or not, could compete with Hollywood of the United States in movies in the previous decades. As a place where movies are produced, Hollywood, with its own advantages, has got the first place in the market of world movie and influences world cinema greatly.

To study its influence, it is necessary to find the reason why it gets such power to impact other countries. Actually there are two major factors. One is the healthy development of American cinema; the other one is the unique opinion on films in Hollywood. Due to these two factors, Hollywood could lead world cinema in culture as well as economy for a long time. Now the influence is even more serious because of its incomparable advantages. They are the support from the powerful economy of the United States, its mature movie industrial system, its huge transnational media groups and rich experience in distribution.

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There are two major factors that made Hollywood the center of world movie. The first factor is the healthy development of American cinema. In 1889, the great inventor Thomas Edison invented phonograph. But the movie made at that time can only be seen by one person through a hole. On December 28, 1895, the Lumiere brothers showed their own short movies Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, The Sprinkler Sprinkled, Exiting the Factory for the first time in the world. From this day, cinema, as a new form of art began its rapid development.

The period between 1895 and 1927 is called the “silent period” because there is no sound in movies. But they became longer and more complex. Montage was invited and used by some pioneering directors like Gorge Melies from France, David Griffith from the US and Sergei M.Eisenstein from the USSR. It was during this period that movies came to America. Cinema at first was a low budget form. Movies were hardly publicized, ran for less than a minute, with no special effects, lighting, camera movement or even editing. They could be exhibited by anyone with a projector, a sheet, and perhaps some shelter for the audience.

From the 1900s, the movie industry began to thrive. Small cinemas emerged in large numbers. By 1908, there were already 10,000. In 1925, the number of cinema in America rose to 20,000. Some could hold at most 7,000 people. There was a massive domestic market for American filmmakers which includes not only the domestic market of the United States, but also those of Canada and the other American countries in the eyes of Americans. Once the industry was established, this could virtually ensure profitability. Major costs were involved in producing the “master copy” but thereafter prints were relatively cheap to make and distribute. Indeed it is often suggested that the relatively late entry of American films into world competition is due to the amount of profit, which was still busily being made in the huge home market. Once that overseas entry was made, canny differential pricing adjustments for the consumer capacities of different markets enabled maximum overall profitability, along with the application of standardized business practices, especially in the field of production and distribution. In the thriving time, the center of American cinema moved to Hollywood, Los Angeles. Hollywood was founded in 1888 by Horvey Henderson Wilcox and his wife, Daeida Hartell Wilcox. It was Daeida who selected the name after she met a lady on a train whose summer residence in Illinois was called Hollywood. It was during that year that Hollywood saw its first train. Years ago the land was originally inhabited by the friendly Cahuenga Indians.

Hollywood is located in the west coast of the United States, southern Los Angeles, California. Before World War I, movies were made in several U.S. cities, but filmmakers gravitated to southern California as the industry developed. Since the ideal climate is good for year-round film-making. With advantages of plenty of sunlight, a huge variety of locations with mountains, sea, desert, cities available, less expensive land for studio space and a cheap labor force, Hollywood attracted many filmmakers and had a magical development in the following years.

From this we can see that the healthy development of American cinema set a good basis for the following success of Hollywood. This is the first factor of the worldwide influence of Hollywood movies on the film industry of the other countries.

The second factor that made Hollywood the capital of world movie is its unique opinion on movies. There is a classical line in Pretty Woman: “welcome to Hollywood¼What’s your dream? Everybody comes here. This is Hollywood, the land of dream. Some dreams come true, some don’t. But keep on dreaming. This is Hollywood, always time to dream. So keep on dreaming.”

To Americans Hollywood is a dream factory, a movie is a dream to them, making a movie is like realizing a dream. But the top officers in Hollywood now consider it more like a product. Economics has had theorized cinema. The studio system does strongly resemble other capitalist industries. The studio processes can be seen as the equivalent of factory assembly lines, with workers dedicated to specialized tasks, the distribution of film prints as the equivalent of wholesale arrangements, and exhibition of the product in cinemas as the final, “retail” level.

The audiences for early cinema in the U.S. were largely made up of low-income urban workers. These people had won for themselves in the latter part of the nineteenth century a reduction of working hours, without a fall in real income, and consequently an increase in leisure hours and at least a minimal amount of money to spend on them. By about 1900, cinema’s appeal for them was as part of the city landscape, as brief respite for the laborer on his way home, as release from household drudgery for women. So early films were mainly made to entertain ordinary people.

Since a movie is regarded as a product, the audience is the consumer and the whole process of making and selling a movie is a business. Filmmakers make all kinds of movies to entertain people of different ages and from different social class. Everyone is able to select the film he is willing to see in the cinema like selecting a bottle of beer in a supermarket or a coat in a shopping center. This magical factory produces and sells entertainment which provides a refuge or Utopia for people to forget their burdens and trivials.

However, people in other countries think differently of movies. 1912, Richiodo Canudo, an Italian poet and pioneer of film, declared in his Le Septieme Art that the film was an art-form as well as architecture, music, painting, sculpture, poetry and dancing for the first time. Actually, art films are considered real films. With the purpose of raising the taste of films as other forms of art, a party of outstanding playwrights, directors and actors had worked together and created a great number of splendid movies in the movie history, such as Le Voyage Dan La Lune, Chapajev, The Bicycle Thief, Les Quature Cents Coups. Distinctive from the west, films in the east are used to display and export its profound culture to the world. For instance, our impression of a typical Indian film is invariably one star, six songs and three dances. If you want to know something about India, then go and see some Indian movies! Weather being regarded as an art-form or a way of displaying and exporting culture, cinema outside America has never genuinely drawn the attention of the mass.

Owing to its good basis and unique ideology, Hollywood could lead and influence world cinema for years.

II. The influence of Hollywood to world cinema in culture and economy

The influence of Hollywood to world cinema is mainly in two aspects: culture and economy.

In culture, Hollywood, which plays an important role in the cultural imperialism of the U.S., tries to expand American model and values through exporting movies. Imperialism means the policy of extending a nation’s authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations. It is the practice of promoting, distinguishing, separating, or artificially injecting the culture or language of one nation into another. In other words, it is the domination of one culture on another. In relation to developing countries, cultural imperialism can be defined as the systematic penetration and domination of the cultural life of the popular classes by the ruling class of the West in order to reorder the values, behavior, institutions and identity of the oppressed peoples to conform with the interests of the imperial classes.

U.S cultural imperialism has two major goals, one is economic and the other political, i.e. to capture markets for its cultural commodities and to establish hegemony by shaping popular consciousness. The export of entertainment is one of the most important sources of capital accumulation and global profits displacing manufacturing exports. In the political sphere, cultural imperialism plays a major role in dissociating people from their cultural roots and traditions of solidarity, replacing them with media created needs which change with every publicity campaign. The political effect is to alienate people from traditional class and community bonds, atomizing and separating individuals from each other. Here I would like to talk about its first goal.

The principle target of cultural imperialism is the political and economic exploitation of youth. Imperial entertainment and advertisement target young people who are most vulnerable to U.S. commercial propaganda. Youth represent a major market for U.S. cultural export and they are most susceptible to the consumerist-individualist propaganda. The mass media manipulates adolescent rebelliousness and channeling discontent into consumer extravagances. Cultural domination is an integral dimension to any sustained system of global exploitation.

Cultural imperialism has taken both traditional and modern forms. In the past centuries, the Church, educational system, and public authorities played a major role in inculcating native peoples with ideas of submission and loyalty in the name of divine or absolutist principles. While these “traditional” mechanisms of cultural imperialism still operate, new modern instrumentalities rooted in contemporary institutions have become increasingly central to imperial domination. The mass media, publicity, advertisement and secular entertainers and intellectuals play a major role today. In the contemporary world, Hollywood, CNN and Disneyland are more influential than the Vatican, or the Bible.

Cultural penetration is closely linked to politico-military domination and economic exploitation. U.S. military interventions in support of the genocidal regimes in Central America which protect its economic interests are accompanied by intense cultural penetration. U.S. financed evangelicals invade Indian villages to inculcate messages of submission among the peasant-Indian victims. International conferences are sponsored for domesticated intellectuals to discuss “democracy and market”. Escapist television programs and movies sow illusions from “another world”. Cultural penetration is the extension of counter-insurgency warfare by non-military means.

Cultural imperialism can be found anywhere in Hollywood movies, for instance, Mission Impossible III. Its plot is very simple. Ethen Hunt was assigned a new mission just after his engagement. He had to rescue someone in Berlin, then arrest others in Vatican and at last find his bride in Shanghai. The last step was the most important plot in the movie. According to our opinion, as the most influential modern city in China, Shanghai should have lots of skyscrapers and fashionable people. We wish to take advantage of Hollywood movie to tell the world that China has made great progress in the past years. To our disappointment, the city in the film is just like what it is in the 1930s:shabby houses, narrow lanes and old people in ragged clothes whispering folk songs. On the one hand, the whole film was full of high technology and advanced weapons suggesting the strong economy and powerful military force of the US. The hero ran through the bullets fearlessly showing personalism advocated in the west. On the other hand, there was nothing new and attractive in Shanghai, but several rediculed Chinese public security. This is a typical example of cultural imperialism. Actually such phenomenon in western movies, especially in Hollywood movies is not rear.

Cultural imperialism in Hollywood movies does not only shape the overlook of China, but also movies related to China. Hollywood has made a model for China, i.e. an old and poor country. Any movie in which there is a modern China is doomed to fail. That is why films like Not One Less, The Story of Qiu Ju had won worldwide acknowledgement around the world.

Besides, the American is often a “hero” on screens. In Patriot, which tells a story happened during the Civil War, the protagonist is an American white “hero”. He is honest, wise and brave. But in fact, the archetype of this “hero” killed lots of American Indians. Even some American scholars had criticized the propaganda of white American history. Such movies are not rear. The greatest harm caused by them is making teenagers around the world confused about the history of their own country. They prevent other countries from developing cultural identities for themselves. American expanism simply reinforces America’s own powerful, yet provincial cinematic myths about itself, structured around terrifying misrecognitions and appallingly narcissistic fantasies harmful to everyone else in the global market. The worry about cultural imperialism of the United States dispersed in both developing and developed countries. The US of course will deny its expanism. It has been advocating “free market” and “Freedom of information” aiming to protect its own profit in politics, economy and culture. In fact, it was successful.

Relying on its powerful economy, Hollywood not only expands its model and values but also exploit the box office of other countries through selling and spreading cultural products in the world movie market.

From 1920 onwards Hollywood could depend on at least 35% of its gross income rising from foreign sources. Europe used to share equal status with America in world movie market. Between 1950 and 1975, the income of movies from America was $180 million, Britain, $80 million, France, $100 million, Italia, $120 million, other countries, $70 million. In resent years, the condition is quite different. In 1995¼Œthe income of movies from America was $280 million, Britain, $60 million, France, $100 million, other countries, $20 million. The box office of Hollywood took up almost 75% of that in Europe. With the development of satellite and cable channel, at least 70% of films shown on TV in Europe were from America. The situation is similar in Canada, Latin America, Australia and Asia. According to the report of Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in 2000, American cinema attained $76.6 billion at home and $60 billion abroad every year. In the 4000 feature films produced in 1990s, Hollywood movies amounted to at most 1/10 while securing 70% of the world’s box office. A recent survey showed that overseas grosses on major hit pictures now consistently dwarf the domestic grosses.

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With the development of digital technology, which can shorten the time difference between the premieres in two cities, Hollywood movies are worldwide spread by the explosive growth in the great number of digital-cinema screens. As a scholar said, it does not seem that American mass culture was imported. Hollywood has conquered the world and the earth is becoming a planet of Hollywood.

World cinema has been changing since its birth. Each country has its own way of developing. But they have something in common, i.e. all of them have been impacted by Hollywood to some extent.

France is the cradle of world cinema. More than one hundred years passed, a unique movie system, which is also its backbone of film industry has been formed. The “New wave” swept across France in 1985, bringing great changes in France and world movie. It was in the same year, Hollywood films began to plunder French audience. Hollywood attracted both the audience and movie talents in France. Many of them gave way to the temptation for Hollywood when they had risen to fame in Europe. Actors that cannot speak English are considered as “futureless”. Luc Besson, the representitive director of the new generation, is regarded as the hope of French cinema. But he at the same time is the most Americanized director. According to French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier, “the Americans want to treat us like they treated the Indians! If we are good they will give us a reservation, they will give us the Dakota hills. And if we stay quite, they will give us another hill.” (Branston, 2006: 89) In order to deal with the serious situation, the government was forced to introduce the “Cultural exception”, which stated that cultural exports should be treated differently than other goods in trade negotiations in the GATT negotiations in 1993 and put it into practice later.

The condition in another European country, Russia, is more serious. Russian movies had won an important place in the history of world movie by their artistry and deep thought. However, in resent years, they are full of murders, pornography and violence. Learning from Hollywood brought energy to Russian cinema, but depart itself from the audience at the same time.

Now let us look at the other sphere of the earth.

Hong Kong has another name-Eastern Hollywood. Its movies have been very popular in Asian countries, especially in southeastern Asia and Taiwan since 1950s. But from the Mid 1990s, its market began to shrink as Hollywood movies came in great numbers. Take Jurassic Park (1993) for example, its box office in Hong Kong was 60 million yuan while the box office of Flirting Scholar, which got the first place among Hong Kong movies, only exceeded 20 million yuan.

Hollywood not only exploited the box office, but also pressed its globalization in Hong Kong. As the symbol of Hong Kong spirit, Jackie Chan’s films have shown more and more Hollywood style from Red Corner, Police Story IV-First Strike, Mr. Nice Guy and Who Am I. The success of Rush Hour in 1998 stablized his status in the west. After that his films became more westernized. Jackie Chan is not the representitive of Hong Kong any more. Maybe what he asked in Who Am I is the question Hong Kong should ask itself. When Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat and John Woo achieved fame in Hollywood, do they still belong to Hong Kong any more? Are they one part of Hollywood movie industry?

There is a country that produces more films than America every year yet still being threatened by Hollywood. This country is India. Located in Bomboy, the second city in India, Bollywood is the biggest movie production base in this country. In 2006, the movies produced in India amounted to 1091, more than 400 of them were made in Bollywood. Under the influence of Hollywood, many Bollywood films were criticized for copying those of Hollywood. Investors, producers, filmmakers and distributors are all in a hurry to get returns, thinking that any film that sells well is a good film.

China’s import of Hollywood movies dates back to the early days of the twentieth century. In 1946, more than 200 Hollywood movies could be seen in China. MGM and other seven giant movie companies even seek to take advantage of the Trade Contracts of Sino-U.S.A and monopolize China cinema. The occupation of Hollywood in Chinese market stopped after the foundation of People’s Republic of China. Hollywood movies were completely rejected until the end of 1970s because of the reform and open policy. Although the government restricted the time for projecting imported films, ten foreign films (most of them were from America), could obtain 60% of the box office in China by 1/3 of the projecting time. After the entry into the WTO, American movies swarmed in, regarding China as the second Europe. Weather Hollywood movies could depart China from local consciousness and responsibility, Hollywood is really a threat to the movie market in China.

Our neighbors Japan and Korea had been facing with similar problems. In 1980s, 80% of the Korea movie market in Korea was seized by Hollywood. The proportion in Japan once even reached 90%.

III. The advantages of Hollywood

The influence of Hollywood to world cinema is continuing because of its incomparable advantages.

First of all, relying on the powerful economy of the United States, Hollywood industry had a magical development. It has plenty of capital to invite the most famous directors and actors, apply the most advanced technology to make blockbusters. Then it brings American popular culture into other cultures, affecting the audience and the movie style they love. Annual Oscar even set the criterion for the judgment of world movie. Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences annual award, is now the most recognized award in the world. It was organized in 1927 when a dinner was held in the Crystal Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. At this dinner they discussed ways to honor outstanding achievements and to encourage higher levels of quality in all areas of motion picture production. Filmmakers from all countries wish to get an Oscar because of its influence to world cinema. If a film is acknowledged by Oscar, it will mostly be welcomed by the whole world and therefore obtain a good box office. Its success as a symbol of achievement in filmmaking would probably amaze its creators, Cedric Gibbons and George Stanley. As a matter of fact, they are so prized that in 2000, only a few weeks before the Academy Awards, the Oscars were stolen while they were being shipped from Chicago. They were recovered a week later, but not before some nerve-wracking days had passed.

Beside the good environment, Hollywood itself has a mature industrial system. The movie is a cultural production and audiences are therefore best understood as simply a mass of consumers in Hollywood. Movies are produced for the huge US domestic market as well as overseas market. As an American historian said, “in the history of Hollywood cinema, there are three key words: producing, distributing and projecting.” The development of Hollywood is not so smooth. Hollywood has gone through two world wars, the cold war, the big depression and the unprecedented challenge from television. Among the difficulties, dealing with the challenge from television accelerated the maturation of Hollywood movie industry. After WWII, most people became reluctant to go to cinemas to see something that were like that on television. So the low budget form was gradually replaced by bigger budgeted movies, i.e. blockbusters. This word originates from the city queues around the block for a movie, sign of its success in the studio era. Jaws (a watershed movie and the first blockbuster), The Godfather, Spiderman, The Lion King, Pearl Harbor, all belong to this kind. The most successful one must be Titanic, which cost more than $2 billion and secured $17 billion. It broke many records in the history of Hollywood and was really a miracle. Patrick Sakings, psychotherapist, is reported as saying that Titanic had challenged the belief that today’s all powerful consumer society is “unsinkable”. This kind of movie uses digital technology, especially FX. The development of digital special FX, at both visual and aural levels, helps determine, and its forms become determined by, the growing popularity of science fiction (SF) action movies from the 1980s. By using digital special FX, filmmakers can create tremendous, magical, and authentic scenes, giving the audience a completely different feeling from that of television. A few blockbuster films often cost as much as the gross national products of many poor countries. They can no longer be thought of as single commodities. They are the anchors to huge franchises, lying at the center of a network of commercial activities, hits which can be systematically reproduced, profitably fragmented and marketed across the parent company’s other conglomerate holdings. (Branston, 2006: 39) Some of them (such as the James Bond films and Star Wars series) are now themselves referred to as “franchises”. They are launched simultaneously on thousands of screens, with publicity campaigns almost as large as the production budgets themselves, and are re-experienced of even pre-experienced though endless tie-in merchandising, which both underwrites and links itself to the prestige of the mega-budget movie event. Faced with the challenge from television, filmmakers in Hollywood not only produced blockbusters, but also established a successful relationship with the TV companies, producing “films for TV” and serials, and releasing TV rights to their backlog of films. In 1960 the US networks started showing feature films in prime time.

Another incomparable advantage of Hollywood is the possession of eight transnational media groups. They developed from eight traditional producers that came out after WWI when Hollywood movie industry became commercialized and monopolized. The eight traditional producers included Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Bros, Universal Studios, United Artists, Radio Keith Orpheum, Columbia Picture and Twentieth Century-Fox Film. In the end of the twentieth century, the eight traditional producers in Hollywood did some adjustments and combinations. As a result, the ownership of several of them is no linger a simple “Americanism”. Twentieth Century Fox was taken over by the Australian Rupert Murdoch’s News International in 1986. Columbia was taken over by Japanese Sony in 1989. Warner Brothers became Time-Warner, the world’s largest media conglomerate in 1989, and in January 2000 entered history’s largest merger, with the AOL (America Online) Internet company and with EMI music corporation. A transformed Disney entered the new elite grouping from the late 1980s. The other new name is the powerful Dream Works Studio, founded by Spielberg, Geffen and Katzenberg though, astonishingly given its size, unable to finance the completion of its studio buildings in Los Angeles in 1999 revealing how difficult it often is to gain a foothold in that old club, the “majors”. The “Age of Behemoths” started. These behemoths own large quantity of media capital: newspapers, magazines, publishers, satellite TV nets, so on and so forth around the world, spreading their newly-made movies as quickly as possible. Producers in other countries cannot compete with them at all.

The fourth advantage is its rich experience in distributing. Distributors in Hollywood pay much attention to publicity, which is a critical segment in the distribution of a film, especially in the distribution of a blockbuster. Chaplin’s comedies, for instance, are argued to have the universal charm of America’s natural talent for entertainment. But it is crucial that Hollywood’s distribution and presentation machinery made such films universally unignorable, event movies. There is another example Jaws (1975). It was pre-sold via a best-selling novel, with the movie rights purchased even before the novel was published. Then there followed a huge promotional campaign with tie-in products such as mugs, posters, beach gear and TV advertising. Distributors usually form part of a highly publicized intention to give the audience a spectacularly visceral experience, via both sound and image, which they will not easily forget. Theme parks promise a repeat of the cinematic thrill, and are now often built with the design talents of the same people making the movies. Franchised goods, especially toys, produce other webs of attachment to the hit movie. All of these, along with corporate ownership of the press and TV channels eager for movie gossip and film clips, can help such movies become “events”. The Internet quickly became part of these processes. In the long run, most high budget films, following the Jaws prototype deal, will eventually cover their costs through their after-life in TV, cable, video, rights to toys, books, music, theme parks, computer games and so on. The steady , studio-derived structures of distribution power across many different kinds of screen will tend to almost guarantee long-term profitability to any big film, even such a publicized flop as Waterworld (1995).

Depending on these advantages, Hollywood could produce, distribute and project boffos one after another and create new box office records constantly. Movie industries in the rest of the world are prompted to struggle to live in a plight.


Many countries have recognized that Hollywood is a threat to world cinema, so they have tried to deal with Hollywood by ways of restricting their import of Hollywood movies, reorganizing their own national industries and nurturing their own movie stars. Some countries such as France, Korea and China have made some progress. But to compete with Hollywood, the rest of the world should try to get stronger through learning from the advantages of Hollywood, so most countries will have a long way to go.


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