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"Is Foreign Film the New Endangered Species?" - NYTimes, 1/22/06

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Michael Reuben, Jan 22, 2006.

  1. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Well-Known Member

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/22/movies/22kauf.html (registration required for access)

    Some interesting figures:
    • In 2004, 18 foreign films did more than $1 million at the U.S. box office; in 2005, the number dropped to 10.
    • Sony Pictures Classics, whose annual release list used to be about two-thirds foreign films, has cut its percentage of foreign offerings almost in half.
    • While a record 91 countries submitted contenders for this years' foreign-language Oscar, only 7 have secured U.S. distribution -- the lowest number in years.
    High on the list of reasons for this fall-off is the fact that most of the specialty distributors that typically handled foreign-language films are now owned by major studios, and they're focusing their attention on what the head of Wellspring Media calls "mini-major pseudo-indie productions". If you look at the recent releases by, e.g., Focus Features or Warner Independent, you can see what she means.

    Subtitled movies have always been a tough sell in the U.S., but when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did $128 million in U.S. box office and was nominated for major awards, some hoped that would change. But the economics appear to be pushing the other way.

    Another ironic point noted in the article: As soon as a foreign-language filmmaker attracts attention, Hollywood comes calling and they start working in English (the most recent example being Fernando Meirelles).

    M.
     
  2. ThomasC

    ThomasC Well-Known Member

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    "Why release a foreign film when we can remake it in English?"

    I may have seen "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" in the list of trailers at Apple's website, but I didn't see any exposure anywhere else. The closest theater that showed it is back in my hometown, which is a 2 hour drive away.
     
  3. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Well-Known Member

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    I didn't see any either, except for the trailer (which played at local arthouses) and reviews, generally favorable, in publications like Entertainment Weekly.

    M.
     
  4. ThomasC

    ThomasC Well-Known Member

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    I think independent studios may be relying too much on reviews. It's in the paper for one day, and they expect a take for $2 million or more. Who will go see a movie they've never heard of? Most people won't without some outside influence. I didn't see a single banner ad for "The Beat That My Heart Skipped". Air some TV commercials in the middle in the night for a cheap price. It'll catch someone's attention and curiosity. Who knows what will happen. There has to be *some* marketing effort.
     
  5. Tino

    Tino Premium
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    This is unfortunate news. Foreign films to me have always been a welcome relief when the Hollywood big budget films dominate the marketplace and I'm in the mood for something different.
     
  6. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Well-Known Member

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    Bad news indeed Michael, although I mostly now only watch foreign films via DVD or IFC as my local theater mostly shows only mainstream Hollywood movies. There are a couple of theaters in the nearby big city (Guadalajara) that show a few non-English language films, but I don’t go very often as my wife’s Spanish is not good enough to either keep up with subtitles or speech.

    But regardless of my circumstances, this can only hurt the downstream outlets, no matter the location.
     
  7. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Well-Known Member

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    That's my concern as well. If non-English-language films don't get U.S. theatrical distribution, then they're also unlikely to get region 1 DVD releases or to be shown on cable.

    M.
     
  8. Kain_C

    Kain_C Well-Known Member

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    Wow, my exposure and interest to foreign films has spiked dramatically recently. I hate to see the inverse happening in reality. There's already a huge gap between foreign films' theatrical runs and when they finally come to R1 DVD, and that's not mentioning their oftentimes poor DVD presentations (Twilight Samurai for example).

    Our little city never shows foreign films, but I try and go to the next county over if I know they're showing one.

    This news is deeply disheartening because many foreign films put the majority of Hollywood dreck to shame. I'd gladly trade Michael Bay, PWS Anderson, and Stephen Sommers for one Chan-wook Park anyday. As someone else mentioned, foreign films are a very welcome relief.
     
  9. Holadem

    Holadem Well-Known Member

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    Ah... the evils of imperialism.

    The article has not provided any satisfactory explanation for this unfortunate trend, other than the "faux indie" phenomenon, lower budget flicks typically produced and distributed by "artsy" subsidiaries of major studios. Such productions often push the envelop of sex and violence, among other staples suchs as hand held camera, grainy picture and the occasional big name star's attempt to garner critical praise and Award notice for a paltry salary. These movies have become as cliche as the next Jerry Bruckheimer production [​IMG].

    Does the downward trend of foreign film releases reflect a diminishing interest in foreign movies from the public at large? Could this be related to the current neo-conservative socio/political climate sweeping the country? Has the recent resurgence of "American values" in the public consiousness affected interest in foreign artforms? I think these are questions worth asking.

    Also, this is as good a place as any to ask Michael, Edwin et al.:

    Is there gonna be an Indie/Foreign film thread this year? It's been a valuable resource over the years.

    --
    H
     
  10. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Well-Known Member

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    I have no idea. It's always been Edwin's baby. But looking at the reduced activity in the 2005 thread, compared to previous years, one has to wonder if there's enough interest to justify the effort.

    M.
     
  11. Haggai

    Haggai Well-Known Member

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    I doubt that any social trends one could point to have much to do with it, Holadem. Very few foreign films ever play on more than 100 screens, at the most, so we're talking about movies that are competing for niche audiences who don't overlap very much with mainstream tastes. Almodovar's last two movies grossed a combined $15 million in the US, according to IMDB, and without getting too political here, his thematic material isn't exactly in tune with any possible social conservative trends in the US.
     
  12. Brook K

    Brook K Well-Known Member

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    I've been frustrated by this trend and have certainly noticed it. Atlanta has 23 "art-house" screens and for pretty much the whole fall and winter they've been showing the same movies as the multiplexes with a small sprinkling of US indies like Jesus is Magic and Matador.

    I don't think there have been 5 foreign films that have opened here since the summer - and two of those were re-releases (The Passenger and The Conformist). Often when they do open, the foreign film will be here for a week while Jesus is Magic or whatever will stick around for 2 months.

    I used to see a good portion of the Sony Pictures Classics releases. Sad to see them cutting back. The other studio art divisions have never show the support for foreign cinema that SPC did.

    At least Cache is opening next week.

    I've just been putting all my reviews in the 2005/2006 thread and the "track the movies you watch" thread. I could cross post into the indie thread, I just figured it was dead since it hadn't been bumped up in ages.
     
  13. Holadem

    Holadem Well-Known Member

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    That's unfortunate. I thought the topic woud be fair game as it relates to movies.

    Haggai, you're pro'ly right.

    --
    H
     
  14. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Well-Known Member

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    How do multi-region DVD players, or Region-0 discs out of Asia, fit into this? It's not something I've dipped my toe into much, but especially for Japanese/Korean/Chinese film fans, it's not terribly difficult to import a DVD from another region these days. Considering that there's a good chance that Miramax/The Weinstein Company will buy the rights, sit on it, edit it, sit on it some more, release it on three NY/LA screens during the off-season, and then later release it on a decidedly unloaded DVD whose cover features a scantily-clad girl with a gun despite the fact that no such character appears in the movie... Well, as much as the foreign film audience is likely to be among those who eally appreciate the theatrical experience, there's ample motivation to cut out the middleman.
     
  15. Holadem

    Holadem Well-Known Member

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    That was my first thougths as well when concerns about downstream distribution were aired. Region free players are a dime a dozen nowadays. But how many non-R1 DVDs offer english subtitles? (No idea).

    --
    H
     
  16. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Well-Known Member

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    I'm also wondering how the "remake" craze is affecting foreign releases. I mean, when you can just buy the rights to the film and remake it for an american audience (The Ring, Insomnia, Dark Water, Infernal Affairs), what is the incentive to releasing the original?

    Jason
     
  17. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Well-Known Member

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    Not spending $50M to make not much more?
     
  18. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Well-Known Member

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    Indeed. Even the so-called "regulars" who have already posted above have stopped posting in the 2005 indie thread. Yes, you know who you are. [​IMG]

    But that shouldn't stop someone from picking it up, start the 2006 thread and have a go at it. Holadem, if you would like to take this up, it's all yours.

    ~Edwin
     
  19. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure the studios would be happy to "double-dip" by releasing the original now and remaking it for a future release, if they thought they could make money from both releases.

    M.
     
  20. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Well-Known Member

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    They already have; they were taking the scissors to Chen Kaige's The Promise before eventually giving up the rights. From what I gather, The Promise isn't a good film, but as far as I know, this is their first Asian acquisition under their new banner and already they're reverting to form. Honestly, I'm shocked anyone in Asia still considers dealing with them; even with Sony Pictures Classics apparently not as foreign-friendly as they have been, anyone with something resembling an Asian genre film would likely be better off going to Lion's Gate or Tartan.
     

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