Arts, Culture & Media

Will Americans watch foreign films?

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(Image by Flickr user jiazi (cc:by-sa))

This story was originally reported by PRI's The World. For more, listen to the audio above.

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"It's difficult to get people to pay attention to foreign language films, even under the best circumstances," Jim hoberman, a film critic for the Village Voice alt weekly told PRI's The World. Many Americans look to Hollywood, and begin to view themselves as the center of the filmmaking universe. Getting Americans break out of that mindset, and to tune into foreign films, some with subtitles, can be a challenge.

Services like Netflix are making it easier for people to watch foreign films, but many people simply aren't taking advantage of them. The most recent of the top 10 grossing foreign films are from 2006, according to Amazon.com -- "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Hero."

"It's not as if these esoteric films are the only things that are going to be out there," Hoberman points out. "Everything's is going to be out there and it's going to be an even more clamorous marketplace."

Film producers and distributors have been forced to get more savvy in order to make themselves heard. The standard method was to release films in places like New York, and hope that film critics would review the film. Then, if it's well received, other theaters throughout the country might eventually show the film, too.

On-demand media may be changing that formula slightly. Jonathan Sehring, president of IFC Entertainment, is experimenting with a model where his studio can release the film immediately on-demand. That way, films can capitalize on the buzz produced during film openings or festivals. Sehring told The World, that his studio decided to "make these movies accessible to audiences at the same time that they're getting press coverage and they're getting critical reviews on the opening weekend."

That can get some buzz, but to get them seen, according to Sehring, "They've got to be good."

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More "The World."

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