Miramax, Life is Beautiful, and the Indiewoodization of the foreign-language film market in the USA

P. McDonald

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In the decades following the Second World War, foreign-language film distribution in North America operated as a distinct market sector. Foreign-language was a small market niche, outside the control of Hollywood, where independent distributors acted as the main suppliers. From the early 1990s, however, the major Hollywood studios either acquired successful independent distributors or formed their own in-house specialty distribution division, blurring the distinction between independents and the modern studio system, and giving rise to the sector of the film business which became known as 'Indiewood'. As part of this trend, Miramax and Sony Pictures Classics became the leading players in the foreign-language market. The two companies not only released the most commercially successful foreign-language imports but also dominated the foreign-language award categories of the Golden Globes and Oscars. Tracing these developments, this paper therefore outlines the Indiewoodization of the foreign-language film market in North America. One sign of Miramax's supremacy in this market was the box office success of the Italian import, Life is Beautiful, which in 1999 became the highest grossing foreign-language film to that date. The paper therefore looks at how strategic releasing and marketing made the film into a foreign-language hit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-375
Number of pages23
JournalNew Review of Film and Television Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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