Are Foreign Films Poisoning Our Theaters?

Are Foreign Films Poisoning Our Theaters?

Baylee Krulewitz, Staff Writer

I’m not here to tell you to watch the movie Parasite, although you should. Nor am I here to break down the movie, although there’s tons of content to break down. What I am here to do is investigate its impact, and tell you what’s really going on with international films in the US. And let me just say, a lot is going on.

Many citizens in the US fall into a category of people called ethnocentrists. This is basically when you think your culture is the best. I’m not trying to point any fingers here, but we Americans tend to think many other cultures are weird or simply just not as good. In any event, this belief of ethnocentrism causes us to exclusively focus on elements of our culture, such as TV, music, art, politics, movies, and more. This ignorant perspective can blind us to many gems of cosmopolitan arts (including the film industry), and that’s exactly what it’s done.

Some may say that I’m embellishing the scenario a little bit. They might argue that in general, us Americans are cultured. After all, there have been 11 international films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars in its 92-year history. Even though only one of those won (Parasite), that’s a 12% rate. That sounds good, even to me, regardless of my negative outlook on this. However, I think we should take the issue away from numbers for a quick second. The Oscar winners are decided by something called the Academy, which is a group of almost 9,000 actors, directors, and other film industry executives. In other words, the Academy doesn’t truly represent the average Jane and John Does of society. Think about yourself. Or even better, we can use me as an example. Before Parasite, I don’t remember ever watching a movie that wasn’t in English or made in the US. That’s to be expected because international films only make up for .2% of US box office revenue for movies that bring in over $5 million. 

In October 2018, Parasite was obtained by a small indie production company called NEON. It then premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 2019, where it won the Palme D’Or (the highest award). The film made its US theater debut in October 2019. It quickly gained traction, with rave reviews and record-breaking box office numbers. As of recently, Parasite has an international box office grossing of almost $260 million, and a domestic grossing of over $50 million. At the 2020 Oscars, Parasite, with four awards, took home the most hardware out of any movie. The film won Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film, and Best Original Screenplay. 

As for the future of international films, I’m not totally sure. Even though this is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s hard to change the fundamental mindset of an entire nation. For the moment, it absolutely makes a big impact. Parasite is currently the fourth highest-grossing non-English film in US history. Its Oscar success certainly helped boost its popularity, and maybe it helped convince people that subtitles really aren’t the enemy after all.