Why Hollywood Rules the World, and Whether We Should Care

April, 2001

Cultural innovations and breakthroughs come frequently in geographic clusters. Periclean Athens, the Florentine Renaissance, Parisian culture of the nineteenth century, and the Mississippi Delta blues are just a few examples of how creativity of a particular kind, at a given time, tends to be spatially concentrated. Cultural innovations in underdeveloped regions have shown especially high clustering. The best Persian carpets or Asmat sculptures were not produced by lone geniuses, but rather arose in established creative environments. Tribal or folk art traditions typically require concentrated geographic centers.

Today it is commonly feared that too much clustering will occur in some cultural sectors. In particular, international trade has made Hollywood the world center for expensive movies with an international audience. The degree of clustering has reached such an extreme, and Hollywood movies have become so publicly visible, as to occasion charges of American cultural imperialism. Many individuals claim that global culture is a threat rather than a promise, when it comes to the world of cinema.

What lies behind these charges? To what extent is movie production clustered in Hollywood and why has such clustering taken place? Is such clustering inimical to diversity, and if so, could it be reversed? Most generally, has cross-cultural exchange damaged diversity in the realm of cinema?

Download the Working Paper