Due to the development of communication technologies, the processes related to globalization have been happening at a high pace recently, affecting almost all areas of human life. According to Pieterse (2020), globalization is defined as “the trend of growing worldwide interconnectedness”. Media companies utilize this trend to gain extensive commercial revenues by reaching a global audience. Successful broadcasting corporations, music recording studios, film, and entertainment production studios compete for the consumers’ attention on the largest scale than ever before.
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The film industry has always been intended for a broad audience, so it is vital today to create the product recognized internationally to maximize box office revenue. It is evident that the success of a commercial product is tied to the number of its consumers, so large corporations build their marketing strategies to reach as many people in as many countries as possible. Although such films as the first Star Wars or Titanic were popular worldwide several decades ago, recent years have seen an incomparable development of global franchise in the movie industry. Filmmakers employ a wide range of marketing strategies to attract an international audience. However, the most successful production studios understand that promotion strategies are not enough for global success. In the early stages of development, film producers have to decide what the content should be like to be successful internationally. Basically, the question is not only how to promote films, but mostly it is about how to create content that can be popular among the worldwide audience.
Globalization in the Media Industry
Today, globalization is reflected in multiple and intensive connections across the world, including migrations, global communication technology, the international reach of commercial products, and cultural and media processes. Although such a state of things has significant advantages to the development of the world, it has caused serious concern due to the danger of imperialism. Cultural and media imperialism is the domination of one culture supported by political and economic power over the others. Branston and Stafford (2010) claim that when imperialism takes place, “traditional, local cultures are destroyed by the external pressure of more powerful countries, especially media and other cultural exports”. Due to the development of Hollywood, US-based broadcasting companies, and brands, the term ‘American media imperialism’ has become popular during the last decades.
In the 21st century, the trends have noticeably shifted to be less American and more transnational. This happened not only due to the development of other cultures but also because of the change in the US production culture. American media products reveal a connection to other cultures showing their cultural hybridity. The peculiarity of modern globalization is that it is more inclusive of different cultures. McDougall (2012) argues that “there is a more positive account of cultural hybridity and ‘‘localized’’ media, whereby we ‘‘mash-up’’ cultural styles, mixing the local and the global and thus becoming more cosmopolitan”.The media influence over the world still belongs to large corporations, but their strategies have changed significantly. While trying to reach commercial success, they decide to please the audience by showing culturally diverse or neutral content instead of imposing a particular ideology. Still, Crothers (2018) believes that “American audiovisual products will continue to be a major force in global trade and entertainment well into the future”. The only difference is that the content has been adapted to satisfy the audience in other countries, while the production remains American.
Global Film Production
The film industry directly depends on the trends in media consumption, so it has been substantially affected by globalization. Such an influence can be observed in two scopes of movie production – the process itself, namely how the movies are made, and the content, meaning what they are about. It is necessary to identify the essential elements of media production for further understanding of the role of this trend in filmmaking. Kothari and Pearson (2010) define four stages of production – development (scriptwriting and the development of the main idea), pre-production (casting, scheduling, hiring staff, developing the set), production (the process of filming and recording), post-production (editing video and audio materials, adding special effects, music, and subtitles).
Each of the stages involves international teams during the creation of transnational movies. The ideas for the story can be borrowed from the literature, history, or folklore of other countries, the cast can consist of actors representing multiple nationalities, and video and sound editing can be done by companies located in other countries. Sullivan (2009) suggests that film studios tend to employ multinational teams “to take advantage of low-cost, non-unionized labor in other parts of the world”. However, it is often made for the sake of diversity and employment of the best human resource available worldwide.
The promotion of films across the world is the process that takes place alongside the production. Mirrlees (2013) states that transnational movies that are created with a vast budget require a global marketing campaign to collect sufficient box office revenues. Marketing strategies of large film studios involve modern technology and multiple sources of media. Caldwell (2008) claims that cross-promotion, or, in other words, utilization of other types of media and cooperation with different corporations plays a crucial function in these campaigns. Social media and television help to promote the interest of the audience before the global release, which grants rapid revenues.
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A marketing campaign, however, is not sufficient for international success. The content of movies should be created in such a way that it “targets a global as opposed to a national audience” (Mirrlees, 2013, p. 184). That is why the main strategy of such filmmaking is to make it less culture-specific. Song (2018) claims that in the pursuit of the global market, “Hollywood studios develop this type of transnational films, which reduce or eliminate cultural complexity”. Another way to create a globally successful blockbuster is to enhance cultural variety by incorporating international casts, involving stories from other cultures and references to different places in the world.
Marvel Studios as the Example of Global Marketing Strategy
The connection between such media concepts as globalization and production is realized through the influence of the former idea on the latter one. The case of blockbuster movies helps to understand how globalization works in the film industry. According to Mirrlees (2013), blockbusters are “are mass-released to as many markets and as many cinemas as in as many countries as possible within a short period of time”. Recent years show that there is no better example of successful international films than the products of Marvel Studio that beat global box office records almost every year. MS is a company owned by Disney Corporation, which is known for creating content for the worldwide market. The analysis of the main approaches and strategies used by Marvel Studio to win over the international market can explain the key ideas behind global media production.
Despite the extensive production budgets for each film, Marvel Studio can break even with the domestic revenue only. With the international box office twice as large as the domestic one, their movies show enormous commercial success (Flanagan, 2017). The reason for this is the strategy developed specifically to target the global market that goes through all the levels of production. The development stage is one of the most crucial for the implementation of global trends as it is the stage when the story is created. Mirrlees (2013) notes the importance of pre-sold properties, such as novels, computer games, fairy tales, or comic books for successful and well-recognized films. These properties are mostly stories that are already familiar to the population around the world, so they eliminate the complexity of the plot. The use of these ideas is what Disney has always been doing and what Marvel does now.
Another specific feature that makes Marvel films so popular is the connection between all the characters in one coordinated universe. MCU or Marvel Cinematic Universe ties all the movies together, thus reducing the promotional effort for each separate film. Flanagan (2017) believes that this shared universe is “an essential differentiator both in Marvel’s comic book universe and later in the production philosophy of MS”. This strategy helps to keep the same audience for a long time. For example, when people liked Iron Man or Spider-Man, they will probably go to see The Avengers featuring both characters from the previous films.
It is essential to make international movies less complex to eliminate cultural borders and reach as many people as possible. That is why MS movies contain less dialogue and less dialogue-based humor that could probably cause confusion abroad. Instead, they are filled with special effects that are simple yet impressive. Epic big events of the global scale take place in such movies instead of complicated personal dilemmas. Different cultures have a different understanding of what is right and what is wrong, but anybody in the world would agree that saving the whole world is a good idea, so that is what the heroes do in The Avengers, as well as in most other MS films.
In addition to simplification, Marvel Studio producers focus on the cultural diversity of the content. They employ the ideas relating to other cultures such as Thor from the Scandinavian mythology or Wakanda, a fictional place in Africa, home of Black Panther. Additional attention has been recently paid to different locations around the world that help to attract the audience from those places. For example, the events of Spider-Man: Homecoming take place in various European countries, while Captain America: The Winter Soldier refers to Russia. Despite all these cross-cultural references, there is often the need to edit nation-specific versions to appeal to a particular audience. For example, Hollywood sees China as a vast market due to its population. For example, MS included lots of specific episodes in their Chinese adaptation of Iron Man 3, even starring local actors. Although this case was not entirely successful, such attempts show the attitude of Hollywood filmmakers to their international audience.
The example of Marvel Studio’s international strategy demonstrates how globalization affects the media production industry forcing it to transform in order to cover the needs of the audience. Apart from promotion strategies, the international market requires changes in the content of the movies to make them more appealing to other cultures. Marvel Studio films are examples of the use of familiar stories alongside the simplification and diversification that make them successful.
Branston, G. & Stafford, R. (2010). The media student’s book (5th ed.), New York, NY: Routledge.
Caldwell, J. T. (2008). Production culture: Industrial reflexivity and critical practice in film and television. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Crothers, L. (2018). Globalization and American popular culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Flanagan, M. (2017). Marvel Studios phenomenon: Inside a transmedia universe. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.
Kothari, S. & Pearson, S. (2010). Media studies in Aotearoa. In L. Goode & N. Zuberi (Eds.), Producing media: The project, the producer, the vision and the budget (pp. 1-11). Auckland, NZ: Pearson.
McDougall, J. (2012). Media studies: The basics. New York, NY: Routledge
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Pieterse, J. N. (2020). Globalization and culture: Global mélange. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
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Song, X. (2018). Hollywood movies and China: Analysis of Hollywood globalization and relationship management in China’s cinema market. Global Media and China, 3(3), 177-194. Web.
Sullivan, J. L. (2009). Production studies: Cultural studies of media industries. In V. Vicki, M. J. Banks, & J. T. Caldwell (Eds.), Leo C. Rosten’s Hollywood: Power, status, and the primacy of economic and social networks in cultural production (pp. 39–53). New York, NY: Routledge.