Movies in Transit: The Diversity of Globally Distributed Film Content

Jun 8, 2021
European Network for Cinema and Media Studies (NECS) Conference, University of Palermo, Italy


This paper is concerned with global film distribution in the digital age. We compare film-import profiles of 40 countries to examine the diversity of foreign content released in theatres during 2013–2015. Our primary focus is on gender and cultural diversity of feature films. We analyse the national exposure of imported films directed by women and mixed-gender teams to discuss gender diversity. Cultural diversity is addressed by examining the theatrical availability of films from different origins with a focus on productions from outside the US and the Global South.

The cultural diversity of the international cinema market has been a focus of academic attention (e.g., Masood 2019; Moreau & Peltier 2004; UNESCO 2016). However, with few exceptions (Coate et al. 2017; Coate et al. 2016), scholars have relied on the number of foreign films to determine the level of cultural diversity in the importing market. The issue of gender diversity in film, on the other hand, has been tackled mostly through national analysis of the production sector (e.g., Prommer & Loist 2015) with an exception of the recent European (Holly 2016) and global (Verhoeven et al. 2019) studies. This paper offers a global perspective on transnational film circulation and uses a granular measurement of a film’s foreign theatrical availability captured in the number of screenings it receives in each importing country to evaluate the audience access to culturally- and gender-diverse content.

Our discussion is informed by a large dataset of global film screenings from the Kinomatics Project (Kinomatics n.d.). The sample lists over 130m theatrical screening records from 40 countries comprising some of the world’s largest cinema markets including the United States, France, and Germany as well as emergent cinema markets such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and South Africa. Over 3k feature films produced in 122 origin countries are included within the dataset, amounting to over 15k film-country observations.

The findings from this paper contribute to the scholarly debate on cultural and gender diversity in the globalised cinema market and provide policy implications regarding the theatrical availability of diverse content.


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Coate, B., Verhoeven, D., Palmer, S., & Arrowsmith, C. (2016). Using big cultural data to understand diversity and reciprocity in the global flow of contemporary cinema. In International Symposium on the Measurement of Digital Cultural Products (pp. 141–151), Montreal, Canada.

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Moreau, F., & Peltier, S. (2004). Cultural diversity in the movie industry: A cross-national study. Journal of Media Economics, 17(2), 123–143.

Prommer, E. & Loist, S. (2015). Who directs German feature films? Gender report: 2009–2013. Institut für Medienforschung, Universität Rostock. UNESCO. (2016). Diversity and the film industry: An analysis of the 2014 UIS Survey on Feature Film Statistics.

Verhoeven, D., Coate, B., & Zemaityte, V. (2019). Re-distributing gender in the global film industry: Beyond #MeToo and #MeThree. Media Industries Journal, 6(1), 135–155.