Perhaps it will come as no great shock to learn that of all the commercial products that the US so successfully exports around the globe, only its film industry enjoys the dominant market share in virtually every country that has opened its doors to outside trade. What may be more surprising, however, are the names of the few countries that have managed to withstand this Hollywood hegemony - India and South Korea. In those two isolated hotspots, home-cooked cinema reigns supreme at the box office in a way that the current film industry in Canada can only dream of.
Of these, India is much easier to explain away since the great producer of local feature films, annually churning hundreds of highly popular song-and-dance Bollywood melodramas that form an indelible part of Indian life.
But it is the success in their own backyards of Korean filmmakers that has made everyone in the industry, including studios in Los Angeles, truly sit up. After all, here was a once-thriving cottage industry that was so wiped out by the Japanese occupation in 1937 and then the Korean War in the 1950s that only eight films made before 1953 are known to have survived; and yet less than 50 years later its filmmakers are commanding a massive 46% share of their local marketplace.
A representative handful of the country's hottest filmmaking talents are being treated at the Toronto International Film Festival to the highest profile showcase in North America. Although these films were clearly chosen to highlight Korea's creative diversity rather than their brute commercial appeal, it is worth noting that such artistry has not come at the expense of profits. For example, The Way Home has been an unlikely hit in Korea, earning some $20m- more than the local grosses of Men In Black 2 and Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones combined.
What can Canadian, and indeed other jealous film industries, learn from Korea's triumphs' For one thing, success tends to breed more success. When local comedies started becoming blockbusters three years ago, one of the happy by-products was a flurry of low-budget art films that were then marketed by the bigger, more aggressive distributors. It helps too that cinemas are required by law to set a minimum number of days per year for local films and that Korea's flourishing star system has created local acting celebrities on a par with any household name in Hollywood.
All in all, it's a lethal combination and one that the big US studios have responded to in typical fashion - by buying that talent base wholesale. At least four films have been purchased by DreamWorks, Miramax, MGM and Warner Bros alone in the past year with a view to being remade American-style.