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Movie business goes global with Oscar wins for 'Parasite'

Chicago Tribune • Feb 12, 2020 at 5:00 AM

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, criticized for a lack of diversity in Oscar nominations, helped change that narrative Sunday by celebrating the South Korean comedy-thriller "Parasite." The film took home four awards, including best picture — a first for a non-English-language film.

As in movies, real-life redemption is a wonderful thing.

But there was something else notable about the big night for "Parasite": Hollywood's growing embrace of globalization. Entertainment is a worldwide industry. Just look at how important the international box office has become. China is now the second-largest film market in the world after the U.S., with about $10 billion in revenue in 2018. Soon it likely will surpass the U.S.

As "Parasite" and other notable films have shown, the international film business is more than a source of box office for Hollywood. Talent and storytelling come from many corners of the planet. Foreign films are no longer just relegated to art-house releases.

"Parasite" was released in major movie houses and cineplexes across North America. The result? Since it came out in October, the film has taken in $35.5 million in North America. Around the world, its box office take has reached $165 million. There's a universality to the class-struggle dynamic portrayed in "Parasite" that resonates far beyond South Korea. And there's a universality to good filmmaking. "We never write to represent our countries," writer-director Bong Joon Ho said after winning the Oscar for original screenplay.

What's another lesson of "Parasite"? That industries flourish when they expand their reach beyond borders. The NBA is a prime example. Players from Europe, Latin America, China and elsewhere have made the NBA better, and consequently made the NBA more money. When the NBA All-Star Game takes place in Chicago on Feb. 16, one of the two captains will be Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was born in Greece to Nigerian parents. A while back, the NFL began playing games in London, and more recently, Mexico City.

Businesses that don't think global risk becoming irrelevant. The same is true, by the way, for cities such as Chicago.

Until now, Hollywood's relationship with the rest of the world has been largely one-way. Distributing "Star Wars" or "Titanic" to markets in Asia, Europe and the rest of the globe meant more revenue for U.S.-based studios.

Here's hoping "Parasite" is a sign that Hollywood's thinking has forever changed — because great movies can come from anywhere.


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